By U.S. ArmyFebruary 19, 2016
Honolulu - Breastfeeding on Active Duty, or in any workplace, can be stressful.
The Army has implemented a policy to be incorporated into AR 600-20, the "Army Command Policy", supporting Active Duty Soldiers who are breastfeeding.
For Active Duty Soldiers, the mission always comes first, but this new policy means Soldiers do not have to sacrifice breastfeeding as part of their infant care.
Army Directive 2015-43, 10 November 2015, (Breastfeeding and Lactation Support) includes new guidance on workplace lactation support for postpartum Soldiers.
To develop the new policy, Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1 leveraged the clinical support and expertise of Army Medicine subject matter experts to conduct a comprehensive review of current Army guidance, Services' policies/best practices, and current civilian healthcare postpartum literature to develop the Army Breastfeeding and Lactation Support policy for Commanders to implement.
The directive will be incorporated into the next revision of AR 600-20 "Army Command Policy".
Breastfeeding is already law under the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has specific provisions requiring businesses to implement basic lactation support.
This support includes reasonable break time and a private place, other than a bathroom, for nursing mothers.
I exclusively used the pump method which means I didn't have to find a place to breast-feed my daughter.
Although it is time consuming and exhausting, the benefits for me and my daughter are apparent every day.
One of the main benefits that I observe is that my daughter is almost 10 months old and is rarely sick.
She also has put on weight at an appropriate level.
Extensive medical research has shown that breastfeeding has significant health, nutritional, immunologic, developmental, emotional, social, and economic benefits for both mother and child.
It is important for Soldiers to understand their options when they become pregnant.
Make yourself familiar with Army Regulation 635-200, Active Duty Enlisted Administrative
Commanders also have responsibilities to breastfeeding Soldiers.
Commanders are responsible for notifying all Soldiers of the breastfeeding and lactation support policy within the regulation.
The commander will counsel all pregnant Soldiers as required by AR 635--200 to in-clude information regarding the TRICARE policy that covers breast pumps.
Commanders will also provide information to Soldiers about breastfeeding and lactation support via the work plan memorandum during the initial pregnancy counseling.
That counseling will address the command providing a private, designated space, with locking capabilities that includes an electrical outlet, access to a safe water source and a sink for breastfeeding Soldiers.
My command is as supportive as they can be when it comes to breastfeeding.
The real is-sues I have faced are old military buildings and operational taskings that do not account for breastfeeding Soldiers.
When that happens, I keep the current mission in mind, do what I can, and drive on.
There are many mothers who have breastfed while on Active Duty, and the Army is beginning to understand that breastfeeding Soldiers have improved postpartum weight loss and miss work less often.
One-day absences to care for sick children occur more than twice as often for mothers of formula feeding infants.
Therefore, Soldiers will be available for duty more often.
I encourage new mothers to seek support from their command, read the regulations and the law and make an informed decision if you choose to breastfeed your infant.
(Sgt. Alexandria Adkins is a 68W Healthcare Specialist stationed at Tripler Army Medical Center and has worked in the OB/GYN clinic and Bravo Company of Tripler's Troop Command. She recently gave birth to a daughter at Tripler Army Medical Center and has experienced first-hand breast-feeding while serving on Active Duty. Sgt. Adkins wants to apply for medical school in the next year and plans to continue her military career. Jim Goose Guzior, Tripler PAO, contributed to this article.)