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.”