JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. – Support for breastfeeding mothers at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall recently increased with the addition of a fourth lactation room on the base for service members, family members, and Department of Defense civilian and contract employees.
The new room, located within Building 417 in room 104A on the first floor of the Education Center, is equipped with two upholstered armchairs and a table, as well as a mini refrigerator for storing pumped milk and equipment.
“No matter where mothers are on base, they will have a dedicated space to utilize,” said Jonathan Dixon, operations specialist with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, who was the garrison lead for planning and setting up the space.
Although medical research has established the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child, and the federal government and Army regulations established lactation support and accommodations for service members and DoD civilians several years ago, continuing to breastfeed after returning to work is not without its challenges.
Meghan Reyes, an administrative support assistant at the Cody Child Development Center who is also a military spouse and mother of three, said her main focus when she went back to work after having her daughter was to continue breastfeeding and pumping at least through her baby’s first birthday. At the time this edition of the Pentagram hits newsstands, with the ability to use the lactation space at the CDC, she will be close to accomplishing that goal.
“My supervisors were very open, very supportive when I came back to work,” she said. “It was very much ‘let us know if you need a break,’ and having coverage to make sure if I needed to pump I could do so. Anytime that I’ve needed anything they’ve been very supportive of that.”
Reyes’ daughter is enrolled in one of the infant rooms at the CDC, so the two can go together to the lactation space and have that closeness to breastfeed, or Reyes can go there to pump milk when she needs to.
“It’s nice because if I want to go and feed her instead I can, but I have both of those options because I’m right there with her,” she said.
Although Reyes’ experience at work has been positive, breastfeeding and pumping in and of itself can be a challenge. Once a mother returns to the office, having the space and finding the time to express milk can be difficult to sort out. That’s why JBM-HH’s lactation support rooms and the shared buy-in from all stakeholders across the organization, including supervisors, command team and colleagues, is essential for a mother’s success with her breastfeeding goals.
Without that support from her leadership, Reyes said continuing to breastfeed and pump milk for her baby would have been unsustainable. Knowing her team wanted her to be able to take those breaks to feed her baby was a relief to her as an employee, she said.
“If you haven’t done it, you don’t realize how stressful it can be; you know, I have to pump this many ounces for each day,” Reyes said. “We moms already have enough to worry about.”
Not having to stress about lunch being the only time she can pump or feeling guilty about walking away from the front desk to go and pump takes the pressure off, Reyes said.
“Giving employees that space and time to take care of themselves, to pump, and take care of their kids ultimately makes them better employees,” she said.
The CDC’s lactation space is open to employees and parents of children enrolled in the center. It is equipped with seating, shelving, cleaning supplies and breastfeeding support pillows.
The Andrew Rader U.S. Army Health Clinic also has a lactation space in Room 1045 with upholstered chairs, side tables and a mini refrigerator for storage. Also in the room is sink and countertop for hand washing and cleaning pump parts. It is available to employees and patients visiting Rader.
The lactation area on the Henderson Hall campus is similarly equipped in Room 303 in Building 29, home to Headquarters and Service Battalion, USMC.
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For more information for breastfeeding employees, visit: https://www.womenshealth.gov/supporting-nursing-moms-work/whatlaw-says-about-breastfeeding-and-work/what-breastfeeding-employees
For more information for employers who want to support, visit: https://www.womenshealth.gov/supporting-nursing-moms-work/what-law-says-about-breastfeeding-and-work/what-employers-need-know
The Army’s breastfeeding and lactation policies as well as resources and answers to frequently-asked-questions can be found here: https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/healthyliving/wh/Pages/BreastfeedingandBreastHealth.aspx