WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 17, 2015) -- New Army policy provides more prescriptive guidance to commanders pertaining to their support of Soldiers who choose to continue breastfeeding or express milk upon returning to duty.

Acting Army Secretary Eric K. Fanning signed Army Directive 2015-43, Nov. 11. The directive further explicates the earlier breastfeeding and lactation support policy, previously published this past September, by including better guidance about location conditions, scheduling and storage.

"Extensive medical research has documented that breastfeeding has significant health, nutritional, immunologic, developmental, emotional, social, and economic benefits for both mother and child," the directive reads. "In light of these benefits, commanders are responsible for notifying all Soldiers of this breastfeeding and lactation support policy during initial pregnancy counseling.

The revised policy addresses how commanders now will not only provide Soldiers with a location, even during field exercises, to express pump breast milk but also a means of storage and/or time to transport or discard.

"Soldiers who are breastfeeding or expressing milk remain eligible for field training, mobility exercises, and deployment [after completing their postpartum deployment deferment period]," the directive reads. "During field training and mobility exercises, commanders will provide private space for Soldiers to express milk. If the Soldier [or designated personnel] cannot transport expressed milk to garrison, the Soldier's commander will permit her the same time and space to express and discard her breast milk with the intent to maintain physiological capability for lactation."

Also new to the policy is the requirement for commanders to provide to Soldiers a location for expressing milk that is not in a restroom.

"Commanders will designate a private space, other than a restroom, with locking capabilities for a Soldier to breastfeed or express milk," the directive reads. "This space must include a place to sit, a flat surface [other than the floor] to place the pump on, an electrical outlet, and access to a safe water source within reasonable distance from the lactation space."

The policy also requires commanders to ensure that Soldiers have adequate time to express milk, and that they consider the unique situations of each mother. The policy also, for the first time, adds a specific example of frequency for breast milk pumping as well as duration.

"New mothers commonly express milk every two to three hours for 15 to 30 minutes, but this timeframe may change as the child ages," the directive reads. "When a child is 6 months old and begins eating solid foods, the number of breaks a Soldier needs to breastfeed or express milk may decrease."

The policy also requires commanders to provide to Soldiers "reasonable lactation breaks ... for at least one year after the child's birth."

Guidance contained in Army Directive 2015-43 will be incorporated in the next version of Army Command Policy Army Regulation 600-20.