Regulation allows breastmilk storage in field

By Ms. Gail ParsonsJanuary 6, 2020

By Gail Parsons

1st Inf. Div. Post

A Department of the Army memorandum dated Nov. 10, 2015 outlined the right for Soldiers who are breastfeeding to pump their milk when they return to work -- including during field deployments. However, concerns about storing the breastmilk resulted in another memorandum dated Oct. 16.

Because the 2015 regulation did not address how a woman was to store pumped breast milk, meal prep personnel in the field balked at allowing it to be stored with food, said Sondra Redvay, lactation specialist at Irwin Army Community Hospital.

"What the (Center for Disease Control) says is that it's not a biohazard and it can be stored with food," she said. "It is a food; it can be stored with other food."

According to the memorandum, during field training and mobility exercises, the only location available to store expressed breastmilk is in a food-establishment refrigerator.

"Current guidance within (Technical Bulletin -- Medical 530) does not specifically address the is-sue, but implies the practice is prohibited based on provisions 6-305.11 (B) and 3-307.11, which require a separate location for storing personal items away from food preparation and storage areas," the memorandum states. "Food service personnel often refuse to store expressed breastmilk; citing that it is not permitted under the provisions for storage of medicines and personal items."

Redvay said mothers often had to "pump and dump" if they were to continue to produce breastmilk.

"Now they're able to either keep it cold, or freeze it depending on how long they're going to be out there, and bring that milk back rather than wasting that precious liquid gold," she said.

The data shows allowing a Soldier to continue breastfeeding their child aids, not only the baby but the mother and father and her unit as well, Redvay said.

"It helps your mission readiness because moms are able to train up and remain mission ready rather than missing training because (mom or dad) is home with a sick child," she said.

When she speaks with pregnant Soldiers and new moms, she tells them, if they know they are going to the field while the baby is still breastfeeding, they should start pumping and freezing as soon as possible.

"If she starts early, she can store up enough for her baby to have breast milk the whole time she's gone," she said. "Breast milk is so amazing. It has so many antimicrobial properties that it can stay at room temperature for three to five hours. It can stay in the refrigerator for three to five days. It can stay in the freezer with your refrigerator for up to six months. And if you have a separate freezer, because it stays so much colder, it could stay for up to a year."

A deployed Soldier can now make arrangements for the milk to be picked up when someone from the unit returns to post or, if feasible, store it and bring it back at the end of deployment.

"If somebody is bringing in supplies every day, that person can take that milk back home," she said. "If there's absolutely no way to either store or transport the milk, what she should do is pump and dump to keep ... from getting mastitis."

Redvay said mothers were often left with the choice of breastfeeding their child or getting out of the Army. With the new direction, mothers have increased options to continue breastfeeding while deployed, which will help retention and the health of baby and mother.