Story by Senior Airman Ashley Maldonado-Suarez
(USAF) – Air Force mothers who choose to breastfeed their bundles of joy can wear Air Force Instruction approved undershirts in their Airman Battle Uniform or Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform.
As of July 13, AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel, states, “Airmen are authorized to purchase and wear a long or short sleeve breastfeeding t-shirt with their utility uniform. The t-shirt will be sand in color when worn with the ABU and tan in color when worn with the OCP.”
However, Airmen who choose to wear these shirts must have them tucked in and may not remove their ABU or OCP coat while wearing the shirt unless they are in designated lactation rooms.
Normal undershirts without the modification forced nursing mothers to untuck and lift the shirt, exposing most of their torso. The new design allows mothers to discreetly pump or nurse their little one by lifting the hanging fabric then moving the crossing fabric.
The movement for this Air Force-wide policy update was initiated and pushed forward by Tech. Sgt. Natalia Wood, 20th Maintenance Group unit deployment manager.
Being a mother of three and pregnant with a fourth child, Wood stated she wanted to be more comfortable pumping and breastfeeding her child while in uniform.
Wood read about the Army approving shirts designed to make breastfeeding easier and less revealing while in uniform, and decided to recommend the Air Force to approve them as well.
“I’m trying to normalize breastfeeding, not for me, but for all future generations,” said Wood. “I was thinking more about everyone behind me. I just feel like we are the leader in securing our skies, but when it comes to this, we’re lagging behind. I’m just trying to bring us up to speed, where we do support women who are breastfeeding and we do provide spaces (for nursing and pumping).”
Wood said, while modifications and more additions need to be made to the Air Force policy on accommodating breastfeeding mothers in the service, authorizing nursing undershirts, is a step in the right direction.
This article is a press release from the United States Air Force.