Servicewomen’s decision to breastfeed aligns with Department of Defense policy “to ensure the physical and emotional well-being of servicewomen and their families, reduce absence from work due to illness, and improve operational readiness.” 1 Commanders who enable active duty women to nurse their babies by establishing workplace lactation programs reduce costs for health care, improve morale, and increase service member retention.
A United Call to Action: Support Breastfeeding
The Association of Military Surgeons joins the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 and Healthy People 2010 initiative to advise servicewomen to breastfeed for the first six months and encourages them to provide breast milk for their infants the remainder of the first year.
Mothers and babies make up the largest population in the Military Health System, with more than 2,000 babies born each week. –TRICARE
Commander support for nursing servicewomen: Why it’s best for the unit
Healthy families are good for the unit. When servicewomen choose to breastfeed their babies at work commanding officers can realize significant savings. When commanding officers support a servicewoman’s choice to breastfeed, they will increase productivity, retention, and engagement, and will lower their health care costs.
- Read about the business benefits of breastfeeding (download)
- Access breastfeeding resources and information for employers (download)
How will lactation support impact your command?
- Decreased sick leave Healthier babies can mean fewer missed workdays for parents. In one survey, working mothers missed a day of work due to their babies being sick with one of 40 common illnesses. Of those illnesses, only 25 percent occurred in exclusively breastfed infants while 75 percent occurred in all other infants in the survey. (ftnt: Cohen, Rona, Mrtek MB, Mrtek RG Comparison of Maternal Absenteeism and Infant Illness Rates Among Breast-feeding and Formula-feeding Women in Two Corporations. American Journal of Health Promotion www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10160049 )
- Reduced health care costsHealthy babies lower costs for TRICARE. The additional cost of prescriptions and medical services in the first year of life for infants who have never been breastfed is estimated to be more than $400 per infant. Women who breastfeed enjoy a quicker return to physical fitness following birth, and a life time of increased protection against multiple cancers and osteoporosis. After instituting a workplace lactation program, one large corporation saw a 62 percent drop in prescriptions written for infants of employees. Research in the private sector shows that employers who support nursing mothers at work enjoy cost savings of $3 for every $1 invested in breastfeeding support.(The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Work-Family Information for State Legislators: Breastfeeding and the Workplace, 2008, Issue 14, Available at http://wfnetwork.bc.edu/pdfs/policy_makers14.pdf )
- Improved morale and increased retention of servicewomen Healthier babies can mean happier and more stable military families. Conflict between active duty requirements and family responsibilities has been linked to lower morale and decreased re-enlistments. Workplace lactation programs can increase retention of skilled servicewomen, leading to new guidelines and instructions for COs in all branches of the Armed Services.
How do I set up a lactation room or program?
- Access a Privacy Room Checklist (download) to make sure your lactation room has everything it needs
- Download a Privacy Room Logbook (download)
- Read and learn about best-practice employer examples in the “Success Story” sections in each branch’s page
How do I measure the success of my program?
- Access the Measuring Success Worksheet (download) to monitor participation in your program
- Access a template Employee Satisfaction Survey (download)