Are you a military mom and want to keep breastfeeding your baby after you return to duty? Be encouraged by the fact that breastfeeding is the natural way to feed your baby. It advances your baby's physical and mental growth and development, and also benefits your health. In fact, Aug. 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, a combined effort recognized every year in more than 120 countries to bring awareness to the benefits of breastfeeding. The focus of the week is to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months because of the many health benefits linked to breastfeeding. Many highly respected organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Public Health Association, United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund and the World Health Organization recognize breastfeeding as the best choice for a mother and her baby's health. By breastfeeding until your baby is six months old, you:

• Give your baby the best nutrition possible--your milk!
• Save money. The average cost for baby formula is $100-$120 a month, about $30/can.
• May miss less work. Breast milk provides natural immunities so that breastfed infants are less likely to get sick early in life.
• Provide a bond that only you and your baby share, even when you are apart.
• Get back in shape and lose weight faster. You burn calories when you produce milk. Exclusive breastfeeding burns an extra 300-500 calories a day!

Many military moms find breastfeeding difficult when they return to work and some active duty mothers do not think it is even possible. Part of this is credited to the working conditions, deployments, lack of time and place to pump breast milk, and not being around other breastfeeding women in the military. It is clear why military and active duty moms may view breastfeeding as tough. Suggestions passed on by military moms that have been successful are:

• Make breastfeeding plans before you deliver, i.e. where you are going to pump during the day and how you are going to store the milk.
• Provide your supervisor with a memorandum before you have the baby explaining your breastfeeding plan for their approval. If you are going to need extra time over lunch to go feed your baby, ask for your command's approval and support before you go on leave upon delivery of your baby.
• Enlist the support of unit and community leaders, friends who are also mothers, fathers/partners, lactation consultants, pregnancy educators and online support groups.
• Research your installation and community for lactation rooms and electric pumps that you can use.

Healthy People 2020, a federal agency that sets and tracks national health goals, states that breastfeeding is important to public health since our children's health affects the condition of families, communities and the health care system. Human breast milk is widely accepted as the most complete nutrition for most infants, with a range of benefits for their health, growth and development. Human milk is made up of many nutrients that work together for the healthy, full-term, human infant.
The federal government and many states have laws that protect a woman's right to breastfeed. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women's Health is strongly promoting breastfeeding through promotional campaigns and policy statements. Breastfeeding in public may be challenging at times, even with the growing awareness, but stay encouraged! Here are some tips for breastfeeding in public:

• Slip into a women's lounge or dressing room to breastfeed.
• Use a special breastfeeding blanket around your shoulders.
• Wear tops that allow easy access to your breasts.
• Breastfeed your baby in a sling to make it easier to keep your baby close to you.
• Practice at home so you can maintain your own personal level of privacy.
• Breastfeed your baby before he or she becomes fussy so you have time to get into a comfortable place or position to feed.

You can celebrate World Breastfeeding Week this year by joining an event in your local area. There are also many online resources to support your choice to breastfeed.