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Does Breastfeeding in Uniform Violate Article 133?

Written by: Federal Practice Group
Written by: Federal Practice Group

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Guest Blog

Recent photographs have caused a stir regarding breastfeeding and military uniforms. The pictures depicts moms breastfeeding babies while in military uniforms and are considered "unbecoming" by critics. Article 133, Conduct unbecoming an officer and gentlemanaddresses the issue of unbecoming conduct. Despite the term "gentlemen," Article 133 applies to men and women in military uniform. In order to be convicted of unbecoming behavior, prosecution must demonstrate that the defendant did (or failed to do) acts that constituted behavior unbecoming of an officer. Generally speaking, unbecoming behavior is an act that compromises the officer's standing as a gentleman.

Traditional unbecoming behavior includes cruelty, false statements, cheating on a test, lawlessness and injustice. Military personnel are expected to live up to high standards. Article 133 acknowledges the fact that not everyone will live up to these standards all the time. However, critics of the breastfeeding pictures say that the photos depict unbecoming actions. In reality, breastfeeding does not cross this line. Why? As Active Duty Servicemembers, the women in the photographs may meet the first criteria of Article 133. However, breastfeeding is in no way comparable to lawlessness, cruelty or cheating. Additionally, it is possible that the women in the photographs are not actually on duty.

Their uniforms indicate that they could be non-commissioned officers as well. Thus, Article 133 does not apply to the photographs. If the women's chain of command prohibits them from take similar picture isn't he future, the women would be in violation of Article 92, Failure to obey a lawful order – but only if they had similar pictures taken again. It is hard to imagine why an Armed Forces commander would consider the pictures offense. They do not violate Article 133 depict nothing more than mothers who are also successful Active Duty Service members.

This is not legal advice. This opinion and analysis is aimed to inform general public. It does not form an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact an attorney.

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