Is breastfeeding possible for active duty servicewomen?
Solutions that work for military moms
Breastfeeding is possible for servicewomen! While nursing mothers in the Armed Services may face special challenges, many have found practical, creative solutions that enable them to perform their duties while continuing to ensure that their babies receive the important benefits only breast milk can provide.
This Military Lactation Toolkit contains essential facts and resources to help you succeed in breastfeeding or pumping breast milk while on active duty, including:
- Working with your commanding officer to plan and manage lactation while performing your responsibilities in your unit.
- Creating and maintaining positive attitudes within your unit regarding lactation.
- Scheduling and locating pumping sessions while on duty, and how to pump your milk in 20 minutes or less.
- Storing and transporting breast milk safely in all field conditions.
- Highlighting practical tips for successful pumping and breastfeeding for servicewomen.
- Finding help for breastfeeding that understands the demands of active duty, including successful lactation programs already in use in all branches of the armed services.
Breastfeeding is ideal for babies
Making a well-informed choice for feeding a new baby is one of the first important decisions a new parent will make and a very personal one.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other leading medical and health organizations agree that breastfeeding is the ideal form of infant nutrition. Breast milk is natural, healthy and uniquely able to adapt to the immune and nutrition needs of infants.
AAP recommends that moms:
- Exclusively breastfeed for the first four to six months
- Continue breastfeeding up to 12 months (or longer, if desired)
- Offer supplemental Vitamin D
- Ensure that infants receive a source of iron after six months
Moms breastfeed their babies to help protect their babies from ear infections, colic, and diarrheal infections. When illnesses do occur, breastfed babies recover faster and the effects may be milder than for babies who are not breastfed.
Breastfeeding offers other important benefits:
- Nursing mothers may feel physically fit sooner postpartum–a benefit that is especially important for active duty servicewomen.
- Nursing mothers report that pumping milk at work helps them to feel close to their babies during separations.
- Nursing mothers know that they are giving their babies an essential ingredient to a healthy start in life.
Nutrition during the first year of life
“No mother should be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed.”
— Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General
Whether mothers choose to — breastfeed exclusively, use donor milk, formula feed exclusively, breastfeed and supplement with breast milk, donor milk, and/or infant formula — mothers need a fully supportive workplace and nutritional counseling.
About this Toolkit
Successful breastfeeding requires a community-wide effort. That is why this toolkit also provides resources to help community leaders, military leaders and health professionals be effective advocates for breastfeeding in their communities.
This online toolkit was developed in consultation with the Corporate Voices for Working Families Military Lactation Task Force, a select group of individuals with extensive experience in the military and in the health policy arena. Corporate Voices would like to acknowledge their insight and critical input, as well as the valuable input of peer reviewers that contributed to this toolkit:
Military Lactation Task Force:
- Patricia C. Adams — Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy for Civilian Human Resources
- Cecilia Pozo Fileti, MS, RD, FADA — President, Latino Health Communications
- Marla Heller, MS, RD — Author and former dietician with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Kelly Hruska — Deputy Director, National Military Families Association
- Amanda Jordan — Consultant, military spouse and former breastfeeding mother
- Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, PhD — Director, Military Family Research Institute, Purdue University
- Pamela Kelly Phillips — Outreach Chief, Office of Strategic Initiatives, Partnerships, and Outreach, USDA Food and Nutrition Service
- Belinda Pinckney — Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Retired), Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command
- Cassandra Roberts — Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired), Roberts Logistics Enterprise, LLC
In addition, this toolkit builds on our earlier Workplace Lactation Programs toolkit, developed to help employers support their hourly and lower-wage employees. For this work, we thank the following peer reviewers for their valuable input.
Beverly W. Henry, PhD, RD, LDN
Bridget Swinney, MS, RD
Marriott International, Inc.
PNC Financial Services Group
Susan J. May, MD
The TJX Companies, Inc.
This military lactation toolkit was made possible with the generous support of Abbott.