WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 6, 2015) -- Army Secretary John M. McHugh has approved Army Directive 2015-37 (Breastfeeding and Lactation Support Policy).

Soldiers who wish to continue breastfeeding upon return to duty will notify their chain of command as soon as possible to allow the command to determine how best to support them, McHugh said.

The Army recently conducted a comprehensive review of its policies governing breastfeeding and lactation support to female Soldiers. Army offices responsible for policy implementation consulted with military medical experts, commanders and Soldiers and reviewed the policies of the other services in drafting the directive.

The support that commanders should provide, McHugh states in the directive, is a designated "private space with locking capabilities, an electrical outlet and access to a safe water source for Soldiers to express milk."

If that private space is within a restroom, "it will be fully enclosed, and a separate area designated for breastfeeding and not just a bathroom stall," he said.

This policy, which took effect Sept. 29, "codifies pre-existing practices and provides a basis that Soldiers and their leadership can work from," he added.

Since each Soldier's case may be unique, the Army chose an approach that is not too prescriptive but affords commanders flexibility to accommodate varying situations for individual requests.

Army senior leaders expect commanders and Soldiers to collectively balance lactation support and readiness, McHugh said. Soldiers who are breastfeeding or expressing milk remain eligible for field training and mobility exercises. During field and mobility exercises, commanders will provide private space for Soldiers to express milk.

Additionally, the directive stipulates that Soldiers must supply their own equipment to pump and store their breast milk.

Lactation consultants are available to assist both Soldiers and commanders at their local military treatment facilities as a component to the Army's commitment to sustaining the readiness of Soldiers and the Families, he said.

Army Regulation 600-20 (Army Command Policy) is scheduled for release later this year and will incorporate the policy outlined in the directive.