*** Last Updated November 11, 2008 *** Please see the notes for each branch of the U.S. military. If you have notice of updates to military breastfeeding regulations and policies, please alert me with a comment and I will be happy to keep this information up to date!
A military new mother generally receives six weeks of maternity leave starting the day she leaves the hospital. The leave can be extended upon written request along with a physician’s recommendation.
Air Force: The Air Force offers four-month deployment deferrals after the birth of a child. On May 23, 2007, Air Force Instruction 44-102 (PDF document) was modified to state:
4.15. Breastfeeding and Breast Pumping
4.15.1. The importance of breastfeeding during the first year of life to infant nutrition and health and to family emotional support is recognized by numerous private and governmental authorities. The
AFMS recommends that supervisors of AF members who are breastfeeding work with the member to attempt to arrange their work schedules to allow 15-30 minutes every 3-4 hours to pump breastmilk in
a room or an area that provides adequate privacy and cleanliness, if available. Restrooms should not be considered an appropriate location for pumping. The AF member must supply the equipment
needed to pump and store the breast milk.
4.15.2. AF members who are breastfeeding or pumping remain eligible for field training, mobility exercises, and deployment. The Air Force Medical Service encourages commanders’ modifications of
these activities and/or work conditions for airmen who are breastfeeding, when possible. Nonetheless, duty requirements may not always be compatible with exclusive breastfeeding. In these cases, the AF
member must decide in consultation with her medical provider whether to attempt to continue breastfeeding and/or pumping breastmilk. AF 422 is not the mechanism for documentation that an AF member
4.15.3. The obstetrician, pediatrician or PCM shall annotate on an AF Form 422 a recommendation for deployment for those AF members who choose to exclusively breastfeed, i.e. the infant does not
take formula at all.
4.15.4. Breastfeeding/breast pumping AF members may participate in field training and mobility exercises. Decisions to continue to breast pump must be made by the patient, in collaboration with
obstetrician or PCM, supervisors, training instructors and the MDG/CC in regard to having a place to safely express and store breast milk.
In a study of nine women on active duty in the Air Force, several of the women talked about how breastfeeding helped them bond with their babies.
The fact that you’re in the military, hurrah, hurrah, let’s go to war, let’s do this, do that, you’re not a woman, you’re unisex, and once you’ve had the baby, you’re no longer a woman, but back to being unisex. I think the nursing keeps you thinking-I’m a mother, I’m a woman, and I’m taking care of this child. That in itself keeps you sane, you don’t lose your identity.
Army: The deferment from mobility for Army mothers following the birth of a child has been extended to six months as of August 1, 2008. The extension also applies to one parent in dual-military couple who adopt a child. The policy applies to active duty, Guard, and Reserve members. Stars and Stripes reports that for Army mothers stationed in Landstuhl, Germany:
Landstuhl commander Col. Brian Lein signed a policy this summer that encourages a deployment deferment of 12 months for active-duty soldier mothers who are assigned to Landstuhl and its affiliated Army health clinics and breast-feed.
Marine Corps: The Marine Corps allows for 6-month deferments.
Navy: Navy policy provides for 12-month non-deployment period and lactation support in the work environment.
Of course, policies may be very different from practices. La Leche League offers the following advice for mothers in the military:
While many military units are progressive and include a place to pump and even provide breast pumps, some have never been faced with the challenge of accommodating a breastfeeding service member. It may seem embarrassing and overwhelming for the new mother and her supervisors. Before her baby is born, it is important for a military mother to tell her supervisors that she intends to breastfeed. Sharing this information will prevent commanders from being caught off guard, scrambling to fit pumping into the often hectic military workday.
Breastfeed for Health notes:
Check with your local military hospital or clinic for classes on breastfeeding and for breastfeeding support through lactation consultants, nurses, physicians, and other providers. If you are not collocated with a military health facility and receive all health services through Tricare, check with your servicing Tricare office for the latest eligibility rules concerning breastfeeding support.
For a comprehensive overview of breastfeeding in the military, see Part I (Information and Resources Provided to Service Women) and Part II (Resource and Policy Considerations) of “Breastfeeding in the Military.” Military Medicine. Oct. 2003.
~ Army Extends Deployment Deferments for Mothers of Newborns About.com US Military blog.
~ “New policy gives some nursing mothers in the Army a 12 month deployment deferral.” Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog.
~ “New Landstuhl policy encourages deferred deployment of 12 months for nursing mothers.” Stars and Stripes.
~ Rebecca M. Welton, Capt, USAF.
~ Part I (Information and Resources Provided to Service Women) and Part II (Resource and Policy Considerations) of “Breastfeeding in the Military.” Military Medicine. Oct. 2003
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Any military moms out there? Let us know your experience. Thank you for your service to your country! Again, please let me know if you are aware of any changes to military regulations or policies on breastfeeding and I will update this post.