(Reuters) - Two members of the U.S. National Guard photographed breastfeeding in uniform are not expected to face discipline in spite of rules forbidding the use of uniforms to promote a cause, a military spokesman said on Saturday.
Instead, the incident will be used as a "teachable moment" to make clear the U.S. military is not opposed to breastfeeding, Washington National Guard spokesman Keith Kosik said.
"I believe recent events are being viewed as an educational opportunity and I do not anticipate the citizen-airmen in question will receive formal disciplinary action," Kosik said.
National Guardswomen Terran Echegoyen-McCabe and Christina Luna were photographed breastfeeding their babies at Fairchild Air Force in Washington State, by Mom2Mom, a breastfeeding support group.
The images, which show the women in camouflage uniforms, were intended to promote August's World Breastfeeding Week. They went viral on the Internet, stirring up a seemingly endless debate in the United States about the propriety of women breastfeeding in public.
Breastfeeding is promoted by several agencies in the U.S. government, but Kosik said military regulations prohibited the use of uniforms to promote a cause.
"Our issue is not, and has never been about breastfeeding," Kosik said. "Our issue is that the uniform was used by an outside entity to further their cause - and with all of the attention this has received, it appears that they succeeded."
On its Facebook page, Mom2Mom (www.facebook.com/Mom2MomBreastfeedingCampaign) said it supported the military "110 percent," and added:
"The military photographs were NEVER meant to exploit, promote or to use the uniform to help our group. These were for our local community to raise awareness for World Breastfeeding Week in August."
One of the women was contacted by a local newspaper but said she had been ordered by her superiors not to talk to the media.
Comments on the Mom2Mom Facebook page were largely supportive, although there were some negative comments.
Francisco A. Cappas wrote, "This is an inappropriate display while wearing the military uniform on-duty and in public," while Karen Noble said: "Breastfeeding is not a public spectator sport."
Most comments, however, were similar to one posted by Stephanie Vogel, who wrote: "What a beautiful image! ... I think it's utterly inspiring to see women dedicated to their careers and their babies!"
(Reporting By Andrew Stern; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and David Brunnstrom)