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Air Force improves lactation support for nursing mothers

A nursing mother assigned to U.S. Space Command uses resources located in the private nursing mother’s room in Building 1, Sept. 11, 2020 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. An Air Force guidance memorandum signed on August 15 2020 details responsibilities and procedural steps to better enable commanders to align the needs of nursing mothers with mission requirements by supporting nursing mothers with a private, secure and clean area within unit facilities. (U.S. Space Force photo by 2nd Lt. Idalí Beltré Acevedo)

A nursing mother assigned to U.S. Space Command uses resources located in the private nursing mother’s room in Building 1, Sept. 11, 2020 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. An Air Force guidance memorandum signed on August 15 2020 details responsibilities and procedural steps to better enable commanders to align the needs of nursing mothers with mission requirements by supporting nursing mothers with a private, secure and clean area within unit facilities. (U.S. Space Force photo by 2nd Lt. Idalí Beltré Acevedo)

The nursing mother’s room located in the Hartinger building on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, also known as Building One and currently home to many U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command personnel, is one example of how the Air and Space Forces support working mothers. In August 2019, the DAF released the initial lactation policy, which required commanders to provide nursing mothers with dedicated space in the immediate vicinity of the workplace for the purpose of pumping breastmilk. (U.S. Space Force photo by 2nd Lt. Idalí Beltré Acevedo)

The nursing mother’s room located in the Hartinger building on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, also known as Building One and currently home to many U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command personnel, is one example of how the Air and Space Forces support working mothers. In August 2019, the DAF released the initial lactation policy, which required commanders to provide nursing mothers with dedicated space in the immediate vicinity of the workplace for the purpose of pumping breastmilk. (U.S. Space Force photo by 2nd Lt. Idalí Beltré Acevedo)

Capt. Ebony Godfrey, 20th Air Force nuclear command, control and communication operations chief, assembles a breast pump in the 20th Air Force headquarters lactation room, Sept. 3, 2020, at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. Lactation rooms at bases across the Air Force provide a private and comfortable environment for nursing mothers to express breastmilk, which promotes health for both the mother and baby. Enabling mothers to fulfill their motherhood responsibilities at work benefits mission readiness, both in the short and long term. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Ieva Bytautaite)

Capt. Ebony Godfrey, 20th Air Force nuclear command, control and communication operations chief, assembles a breast pump in the 20th Air Force headquarters lactation room, Sept. 3, 2020, at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. Lactation rooms at bases across the Air Force provide a private and comfortable environment for nursing mothers to express breastmilk, which promotes health for both the mother and baby. Enabling mothers to fulfill their motherhood responsibilities at work benefits mission readiness, both in the short and long term. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Ieva Bytautaite)

Tech. Sgt. Natalia Wood, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment maintenance Airman, poses in her workplace while showcasing the 20th Fighter Wing assets she maintains at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 25, 2020. In her role on the women’s initiative team, she helped champion the effort to ensure practical lactation spaces and breastmilk storage for women in the Department of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Sweeney)

Tech. Sgt. Natalia Wood, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment maintenance Airman, poses in her workplace while showcasing the 20th Fighter Wing assets she maintains at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 25, 2020. In her role on the women’s initiative team, she helped champion the effort to ensure practical lactation spaces and breastmilk storage for women in the Department of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Sweeney)

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) --

The Department of the Air Force recently announced new guidance that will improve support to nursing mothers when they return to work after having a baby.

The updated policy, which is effective immediately, increases flexibility with lactation breaks and also mandates access to a refrigerator for the purpose of storing human milk.

“Many women choose to continue breastfeeding after they return to work,” said Christy Nolta, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for reserve affairs and Airman readiness. “We should do what we can to support that choice, making it easier for nursing moms to continue to serve. Changes like these contribute to readiness, and improve quality of life for our service members and their families.”

In August 2019, the DAF released the initial lactation policy, which required commanders to provide nursing mothers with dedicated space in the immediate vicinity of the workplace for the purpose of pumping breastmilk. The policy was well-received, but feedback from the field suggested it needed some adjustments.

“We continued to receive feedback from the field, so we updated the guidance to further empower leaders across the department to establish proper lactation rooms and provide overall support for nursing mothers,” Nolta said.

The policy changes were championed by the Women’s Initiative Team, and the changes align the Air Force with public law, Office of Personnel Management guidelines, and Department of Defense guidance. The WIT consolidated feedback, consulted with experts and routed recommendations.

“Every mother and infant are unique, and so are their breastfeeding needs,” said Lt. Col. Jeanette Anderson, Air Force Surgeon General perinatal nursing consultant and women’s initiative team member. “The amount of time needed to produce breastmilk varies from woman to woman, and this updated policy recognizes that.”

The changes, which are outlined in an Air Force guidance memorandum signed Aug. 15, detail responsibilities and procedural steps to better enable commanders to align the needs of nursing mothers with mission requirements by supporting nursing mothers with a private, secure and clean area within unit facilities.

“Breastfeeding is incredibly important not only to the individual mother-baby dyad (care for the two individuals as a unit in the first three months post-partum), but also in the role it plays more broadly in the health of our women and children,” said Lt. Col. Larissa Weir, doctor of medicine and fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “Policies which support breastfeeding and promote increased duration of breastfeeding are policies which promote the overall health and readiness of our force.”

Under the new policy, unit commanders are required to meet the needs of breastfeeding women by identifying a private area as a lactation room within unit facilities. The room may be temporary or permanent, depending on needs and availability. Lactation rooms must be private, lockable from the inside, sanitary, and have access to refrigeration, hot and cold water and electrical outlets.

“Transitioning from maternity leave to work can be a difficult time,” said Tech. Sgt. Natalia Wood, aircraft maintenance Airman and Women’s Initiative Team member. “Having a dedicated, clean pumping space and a cold storage solution at work allowed me to harmoniously take care of my family and accomplish the mission. The Department of the Air Force’s continuous commitment to providing practical lactation spaces assures me the military cares about my family and my readiness.”

For more information, members may view the complete guidance; please click here.

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