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When the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 was passed, the DOD touted it as a progressive step forward for military families, especially highlighting a promise to expand paternity leave from 10 days to 21 days. We published our analysis of the language in the bill, which revealed that it did not quite live up to the hype.  We now offer our analysis of the parental leave policy that has come from that legislation.  This follow-up is a joint post with our sister organization, Mom2Mom Global and MomsRising.org.

Used with Permission ©Vanessa Simmons Photography

The DOD has released Department of Defense Instruction (DODI) 1327.06, which defines the new Military Parental Leave Program (MPLP), in accordance with the instructions from the NDAA17.  This encompasses three new types of non-chargeable leave:
Maternity Convalescent Leave (7.a):  MCL is block medical leave available only to the covered servicemember birthparent following a qualifying birth event.  It is limited to six weeks, which is a reduction from the previous 12 weeks of non-chargeable maternity leave, however, it may be extended if a medical provider deems it medically necessary to do so (although the USMC policy states that any additional MCL is deducted from any additional parental leave).  It must be taken in a single block immediately following childbirth, and it does not begin until the first day of discharge from a hospital/birthing facility. MCL may not be disapproved by commanders.

Primary Caregiver Leave (7.b): PCL is six weeks of non-chargeable block leave for a covered servicemember who self-designates as the primary caregiver for new child who enters the family through a qualifying birth event or adoption.  PCL may be taken consecutively after MCL, or on its own for a non-birthparent.

Secondary Caregiver Leave (7.c):  SCL is up to to 21 days of non-chargeable block leave for a covered servicemember who self-designates as the secondary caregiver for a new child who enters the family through a qualifying birth event or adoption.  SCL may be taken consecutively after MCL or on its own for a non-birthparent.

There are some really good things in the MPLP, but there are also some deeply concerning structural inequities to this new program.

1. Command discretion.  Only Maternity Convalescent Leave (6 weeks, birthparent only) is considered nondeniable.  PCL and SCL are not universally applicable, but rather left up to individual commanders to approve or disapprove.

This reduces guaranteed maternity leave for birth parents from 12 weeks to 6 weeks, which is a giant step backward.  We know that there were already many instances under the last policy when unit supervisors attempted to call in servicemembers before their 12 weeks of guaranteed maternity leave was over.  Now, servicemembers will have no recourse. We have also heard many instances where, even within the same installation, some servicemembers receive more parental leave than their neighbors, depending on the unit to which they are assigned.  Leaving caregiver leave up to command discretion means this inequity will continue.

Parental leave taken for adoption or having a child through surrogacy is now left up to command discretion, rather than guaranteed, as under the previous policy. Adoption and surrogacy are relegated to a second-class category of bringing a child into a family.  This is especially damaging to parents who wish to breastfeed a child born to a surrogate or adopted, as inducing lactation for a non birthparent often takes many weeks of close contact with the child and intense lactation support.

2. Inconsistency.  The DODI instructs each Service Branch to develop their own policy for implementation.  At the time this blog is published, only the Air Force and Marine Corps have released their policies, and we are already seeing inconsistency and inequity among service branches.  The Air Force authorizes 21 days of SCL, while Marines are only authorized 14 days.

3. Unrealistic expectations of working spouses.  The MPLP states that any servicemember may be designated as either Primary or Secondary Caregiver, and that a birthparent may take either PCL or SCL following MCL.  The Air Force and Marines Corps policies both contain language instructing that a servicemember who is not a birthparent will “normally” be considered a Secondary Caregiver.  This assumes that non-military parents’ career obligations are not as pressing as servicemembers’ when, in fact, most civilians often only have FMLA, which is unpaid.  It also may lead to discrimination against same-sex parents in which the servicemember is the Primary Caregiver.

4. Stillbirth/Infant Death.  No parental leave is authorized in the case of a stillbirth or infant death.  Even Maternity Convalescent Leave is rescinded, although “other convalescent leave” may be authorized.  This ignores the fact that the birthparent just gave birth to a child and must go through all of the physical steps to recovery, in addition to the added emotional burden of grieving a lost child.  PCL and SCL are rescinded upon the death of a child, and commands may authorize emergency leave, but this is chargeable leave, rather than non-chargeable parental leave.  This is particularly cruel and psychologically damaging to the readiness of parents who suffer an infant loss, as it erases the fact of their parental relationship to the child who died.

These issues are deeply concerning, particularly the ability of any commander to disapprove Caregiver Leave.  Although there are several strong and positive steps in these policies, the lack of consistent and equitable parental leave across all services and commands does not align with the intent of the MPLP, which was designed to increase recruitment, readiness, and retention by strengthening support for military families at one of the most vulnerable times, when they welcome a new child.

Positive actions:
Dual Military Parents

1. Inclusivity.  The new MPLP uses deliberately inclusive language to reflect the diverse demographics of military families.  The new terms “birthparent” “primary caregiver” and “secondary caregiver” reflect the realities of a military that includes dual-military parents, single parents, same-sex parents, transgender parents, unmarried parents, and male spouses of female servicemembers.

2. Non-chargeable.  All three types of MPLP leave are non-chargeable leave, and they specifically do NOT incur an Additional Service Obligation (ADSO).

3. Clarity.  The MPLP clearly defines the 3 types of leave that comprise this program.  It also clearly defines that a servicemember may only take ONE type of caregiver leave (PCL or SCL), not both, that this leave may not be transferred or combined, and that if it is not taken (or not taken in full) within a year of a qualifying birth or adoption, it is forfeited.  Use it or lose it.

4. Choice.  A servicemember may elect to take less than the full amount of MCL, PCL, or SCL.  In addition, PCL and SCL must be taken in one block increment, but may be taken any time within one year of the qualifying birth or adoption.  This flexibility allows servicemembers to balance trainings and career advancement without sacrificing time to bond with their new children.

5. Surrogacy.  The new MPLP clearly defines what types of leave are and are not allowed in situations when a military servicemember or spouse acts as a surrogate, or when a military family has a child through surrogacy.

6. Deferable.  Parents who are deployed or within 3 months of a deployment may defer PCL or SCL until after the deployment is completed.  SCL ONLY may be authorized within 3 months before a deployment.

7. Retroactive.  The new MPLP is effective as of 23 Dec 2016, and servicemembers who received paternity or adoption leave under the old policy may take the remaining PCL or SCL leave to which they are entitled within 18 months of a qualifying birth or adoption that occurred since 23 Dec 2016.

Servicemember breastfeeding her baby

We applaud the DOD for these positive steps toward supporting military families, but we fear that the intent of this Instruction may be sabotaged by the inconsistencies which do not align with the intent of the NDAA 2017 or the Force of the Future initiative.

We also call upon the legislators in both the Senate and the House to consider re-introducing the Military Parental Leave Modernization Act as this language is very clear, straightforward, and universally applies to all servicemembers and families.  Overall, we believe the MPLP is a step in the right direction, but it just doesn’t go far enough to ensure that all military families are afforded the same benefits.

What are your thoughts on the new Military Parental Leave Program?  Is your service branch providing the leave you expected? Are you happy with the changes or disappointed?  Leave a comment below.  

The post Military Parental Leave Program–Not exactly as promised appeared first on Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

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Guest blogger Ashley Baker, RN, BSN
Note: Military Child Development Centers (CDCs) are a big part of life for many military families.  Many CDCs are extremely supportive of breastfeeding families, but there is a lack of consistency in understanding and implementing childcare practices to support breastfeeding families. Mom2Mom Global and Breastfeeding in Combat Boots strongly urge the DOD to implement the Ten Steps to Baby-Friendly Childcare Centers for all CDCs.  
I am the mother of four little ones. I am also a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and seven years of clinical experience. Of that experience, I have spent almost six years dedicated to units such as mother/baby and labor and delivery. Over the course of my professional life, I have become passionate about patient advocacy, as I have witnessed many families receive care that was certainly not evidence-based, nor in any way empowering. I have observed families accepting whatever diagnoses, treatments, interventions and rationales that were given to them by their healthcare teams–often without realizing that they were being given outdated care or, even worse, false information. These experiences have inspired me to pursue a master’s degree in nursing, specializing in nurse-midwifery. My driving force is the promise of educating and empowering women and their families so that they have a voice in their evidence-based care.
I have had a wide range of infant feeding experiences with my four little ones. With my oldest, I was convinced by my son’s family that breastfeeding was gross, so I shouldn’t even try. When he arrived prematurely, a lactation consultant shared valuable information that led me to pump for him. I pumped for two weeks, but then contracted mastitis and ceased my efforts. With my second child, I was remarried and had completed my nursing degree. After that, there was no question: I planned to breastfeed. Six weeks into that breastfeeding journey, I could not find the source of excruciating pain that plagued our nursing efforts, despite seeking ongoing help and support. I ultimately stressed myself dry and mourned the loss of that breastfeeding relationship for quite some time. With my third child, I refused to let anything stand in our way; I was going to breastfeed, come hell or high water! Despite many, many bumps in the road, we made it until three weeks shy of my daughter’s third birthday. We only stopped then because I was pregnant, and breastfeeding was causing significant contractions. I now have a four month old little lady named Locklyn who will hopefully nurse as long as her heart is content.

 We are a military family. In January of this year, we were assigned to a new (and slightly remote) area in northern Virginia. Because I was to scheduled to begin a new labor and delivery nursing job rather quickly, we rushed to acclimate our daughter to taking a bottle in preparation for her attending daycare at the Child Development Center (CDC) on base. Luckily, she was able to stay home with her dad for my first week of orientation and he was eventually able to get her to take a bottle. It took him three days to achieve a successful bottle feeding, and only by keeping a shirt of mine close to his chest and positioning her in such a way to mimic nursing did he succeed. On the fourth and fifth days, he was able to get a better feel of her feeding pattern, and she was taking two ounces every two hours or so.

Daycare at the CDC began on January 29th. Locklyn had never been away from both Dad and mom for more than a couple of hours. We knew she would have some adjusting to do, and we specifically spoke to her teachers about our concerns at the daycare’s required orientation class. We also explained that she also was not yet using a pacifier and I explained the need to keep working on this, especially since she was an exclusively breastfed infant. We also discussed the concept of paced feeding, which her surprised teacher said she had never heard of in her 20 years of childcare experience.

As expected, Locklyn was still struggling to adjust at the end of first week and she was fussing quite often. The CDC’s resolution for this was to feed her more at each sitting. I brought in articles from KellyMom with linked professional peer-reviewed sources that explained why Locklyn may have trouble adjusting and why it was perfectly okay to eat smaller volumes, and at a slower pace. I also brought in an article explaining responsive feeding. We also pointed out in the articles that helping her adjust to pacifiers to would meet her instinct for non-nutritive suckling and that it may require spending a little extra time attempting to soothe her, since it was all so new to her little self. We were told by the classroom providers that “we can’t pace feed, it’s against policy. We can’t spend more time with her, we’re short staffed. If she cries and we can’t fix it, we must feed her more. Send more milk.”
Surprised by such adamant resistance, we attempted to explain that more milk could be detrimental to breastfeeding, and that larger volumes weren’t the answer–especially given that she was taking two ounces every two hours at home without issue.  The response? “Well, some moms just have to supplement with formula.  I have a baby younger than yours that takes almost 5oz per feeding.  Your child is hungry.”  We decided to present another possible solution, based on the flow speed of her bottle.  We had been sending two different kinds of bottles, one with a slower flow than the other.  I suggested that I would send the one with the slower flow.  We were told our baby was not tolerating the new bottles and would only cry with them, even though all of the reports sent home state she took the full bottles.  I later learned that other staff confirmed she took the bottles just fine.  At this point, I realized that it was a matter of convenience for the staff–slower flow meant more time required with my baby, and they didn’t want to spare that time.
I was flabbergasted and requested a meeting with the director. We sent 2.5 ounce bottles with instructions that she should still not be eating more than every two to three hours. We encouraged the staff to try more soothing techniques before solving every problem with forced feedings. At home on the weekend, Locklyn easily adapted to taking a preemie bottle, which she consumed slowly. After using this bottle for many feedings, including a feeding by a babysitter, we were excited to see that this bottle was working wonderfully for her. We sent those bottles to the CDC on Monday and awaited our Wednesday morning meeting.
By Tuesday afternoon, the director had left a message on my phone informing me that the bottles we sent were not acceptable because our child was not actually premature. I was told that I had to send age-appropriate nipples for a four-to-five-month old, despite the fact that my daughter was barely three months old. She claimed that Locklyn was struggling with the bottles and not receiving sufficient nutrition with the nipples and that I was going against their standards and regulations. I didn’t actually hear this message until after our Wednesday meeting, thanks to a phone malfunction. Had I heard it, I would have been prepared for the continued resistance to supporting the needs of our breastfeeding child.
The meeting on Wednesday was an absolute disaster. The director was determined to convince us to back down from our requests to feed our daughter based on research-driven evidence and situational appropriateness. We were told that the CDC staff had to feed infants based on U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines that suggest that infants should eat 4-6oz at every meal. We were instructed that a doctor’s note would be required to continue using the preemie nipples and a special inclusion panel would then be held to determine if the facility accommodate our daughter’s special requirements. It was implied that the likely result would be that the facility would not be able to accommodate her needs. While the director didn’t provide copies of any of the policies she cited, she did print out and highlight a document that claimed that failing to provide the bottles, nipples, and milk that she requested constituted abuse and neglect, and that we would be reported to Child Protective Services for starving our child. Instead of coming to our meeting ready to listen, learn, and exchange ideas, she seemed to have come prepared to tell us that if we didn’t stop advocating for feeding our daughter in a way that facilitates continued breastfeeding, then we would either be kicked out of the center or reported for child abuse and neglect!!
Through online support and encouragement, I filed an online complaint using the military’s Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) system, found out who her supervisor was, and obtained the actual USDA updated recommendations. As it turns out, the USDA information that the director provided was not current or accurate. The newest guidelines state
“Fill the bottles with the amount of breastmilk the baby usually drinks at one feeding. Some babies may consume less than 4 ounces at a feeding. The mother can freeze some bottles with 1 to 2 ounces of breastmilk for times when the baby wants some extra breastmilk.”
The director later admitted, “I knew you would eventually find that. I was just hoping you wouldn’t.” By the next morning, the director’s supervisor had contacted me and brought me in for a meeting. He was horrified by what he heard and confirmed there was not a specific policy on requiring specific bottles or nipple flows. to be used. He also reassured us that even if a doctor’s note was required, that it was an easy accommodation and we would not be kicked out. He was insistent that flexibility from his staff was, and will always be, essential to quality childcare. He expressed interest in learning more about how he could help meet the needs of breastfeeding babies so that they could continue to be exclusively breastfed.

The supervisor begged me to wait it out and promised that  he’d be making drastic changes at that CDC. For several weeks, there was an air of tension every time we dropped off or picked up our daughter.  But we are happy to report that the supervisor was true to his word.  The CDC director is no longer employed at our facility, the staff has become extremely supportive, and Locklyn is thriving!

Looking back, I could have turned tail and run from the situation. I could have given up and removed my child from that center to avoid these struggles. Instead, I stood my ground and I fought for change. That change is not only for my daughter and our family. It is for all of the other families who don’t know when they are being given bad information or who feel as if they have no other choice in how they advocate for themselves and their little ones. Advocacy is stressful, heartbreaking at times, and is often difficult uphill battle. But it’s necessary for inciting change and progress, and I, for one, will remain committed to continuing to advocate for better care for all of our families.

 Ashley Baker is originally from central Arkansas. She is a mother to four tiny humans, a fur baby and a beta fish. She’s married to an active duty Navy cryptologic technician (whatever that means since he can’t talk about it). In between the many moves across country every three years, Ashley and her family greatly enjoy outdoor adventures. A licensed registered nurse since 2011, Ashley later obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a nursing specialty of women’s services. She is passionate about evidence-based practice and advocating for patients to receive the kind of care they desire, delivered without judgement or reservations. Ashley is currently enrolled in graduate school to become a certified nurse midwife. 

The post Mama Bear: Ashley’s Story appeared first on Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

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On April 16th the Army released a Memorandum Maternity Tshirt approval memo with enclosures” (PDF file) authorizing the wear of commercially purchased breastfeeding/pumping shirts during the postpartum period under the Class C Utility Uniform. This is another step forward for the military, and the Army specifically, as they continue to support breastfeeding mothers.  Read on to find out how the authorization was obtained and how you too can make this happen in your branch of the military.

MAJ Kelly Bell, USAR

MAJ Bell (USAR) is the driving force behind this memo.  She has 19 years in the service as an ER Nurse and has successfully breastfed both her girls, now 5.5 years old and 28 months old (and still breastfeeding!), while serving in the military.  Her husband is currently on Active Duty in the Army.  This is her account of how the “nursing t-shirt” came to be an authorized item for wear in the US Army.

It all started with a post on the BFinCB Facebook Page back in October 2017 from an Airman wondering if the Miss Military Mom undershirts were authorized for wear with ABUs.  One of the admins posted that although they are not officially authorized, the undershirts do comply with the Air Force uniform policy.  I was curious to know what the Army’s regulation stated so I looked it up in AR 670-1 and DA PAM 670-1.  The verbiage in the regulations is a bit vague and noted only material and color and stated that commercially obtained t-shirts were authorized.  To me this meant the undershirts also complied with Army regulation but again, were not specifically authorized.  And I thought to myself…what if we could get them officially authorized?!?

Miss Military Mom

So I did some more research in the regulations about how to request updates to the regulation.  I followed the guidance provided and filled out the appropriate form (DA FORM 2028) and attempted to email the general uniform inbox listed in AR 670-1 and on the Army G1 Uniform webpage.  The email was invalid so I began to search S1NET for the most recent uniform memos in hopes of finding a current point of contact.  That POC was SGG Anthony Moore (Uniform Policy Branch SGM, HQDA, Pentagon).  I emailed him directly asking for the updated email address for uniform policy change requests and he said I could sent the request directly to him…so I did! I sent a DD FORM 2028 along with a photo of the Miss Military Mom undershirt (this is only breastfeeding undershirt that is currently being manufactured).  That was 24 October 2017.  Many emails and a couple phone calls later the approval packet was ready to go before the Sergeant Major of the Army and the Vice Chief of Staff for review and approval.  After that, the packet went before the Chief of Staff of the Army for his approval.  After the Chief of Staff approved it, the authorization memo was sent to the Deputy Chief of Staff, G1 for his approval and signature.  The memo was signed on 12 April 2018 by LTG Seamands and sent out on 16 April 2018.  Right now the wear of the t-shirt is an exception policy but I hope to continue to work with SMG Moore and BFinCB in order to ensure proper and appropriate wording for the actual policy update.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Memo –

  1. Why does this memo say “nursing” instead of breastfeeding or pumping?  The original wording DID say breastfeeding and pumping but was changed before it was released to the public.  This is one of the fixes that will be incorporated (hopefully) in the final policy.
  2. What is the defined length of time for the “postpartum period”?  This memo was specifically written WITHOUT a defined length of time in order to follow the Army’s AD-201543 Breastfeeding and Lactation Support Policy which states that women are authorized a time and place to pump for AT LEAST the first year of life.
  3. Why isn’t the green shirt authorized for wear with the OCPs? Because Miss Military Mom has not made one yet!  It is in the process of being made to the proper mil spec standards.

BFinCB thanks MAJ Bell for her initiative and hard work in getting these shirts authorized, and looks forward to working with her to implement this authorization into future policy updates. Please send us any concerns, changes or updates you would like to see included in the policy and we will forward them to MAJ Bell.  We will also continue to work with Kenisha Heath of Miss Military Mom as she updates her shirts to include a green shirt for the Army and Marine Corps (and Navy). You can read more about her and why she created her shirts here and a review of her shirts here.  We are also happy to support any personnel from the Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy to make these shirts authorized for wear under your uniforms as well.  Please contact us at BFinCB at gmail.com.

What are your thoughts on this memo?  Are you pleased to see this change being made or think it is not needed?  What updates would you like to see in the policy update?  Do you want to see this implemented in the other services?  Leave a comment!

The post Army Authorizes Breastfeeding/Pumping T-Shirt appeared first on Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

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Breastfeeding in Combat Boots and Mom2Mom Global recently signed on to an open letter to Georgia state legislators requesting a delay in implementing their Licensing for Lactation Consultants law.  We share the concern of Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE) and many national organizations that this law in its current form will have unintended consequences that will increase barriers to trained lactation support and further perpetuate inequities along racial, economic, and cultural divides within the state.  A recent report demonstrates that Georgia’s maternity mortality rates are alarmingly high, and clearly higher for black families.  We are especially concerned with how this new law will impact military families–particularly black military families–stationed in Georgia, who are already struggling to receive access to the breastfeeding counseling services benefit to which they are entitled under Tricare.  The Georgia Attorney General’s Office released an opinion which explicitly prohibits a large number of lactation peer and professional supporters from continuing to offer their services.
Below is a copy of the full text of the letter that Mom2Mom Global and Breastfeeding in Combat Boots sent specifically addressing the impact of this law on military families, followed by the full text of the open letter sent by several national breastfeeding organizations.  If you are stationed in Georgia and impacted by this law, please leave us a comment and tell us your story.

28 February, 2018
The Honorable Sharon Cooper
Chair, Health and Human Services Committee
436 State Capitol
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
The Honorable Renee S. Unterman
Chair, Senate Health and Human Services Committee
121-F State Capital
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Dear Rep. Cooper and Sen. Unterman,
Mom2Mom Global and Breastfeeding in Combat Boots wholeheartedly support the request by Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere to delay implementation of the Georgia IBCLC Licensure law from July 2018 to July 2019.  We echo the concerns of unintended consequences from implementing this law in its current state.
Military families in Georgia already face tremendous barriers accessing adequate lactation support, even though they are entitled to lactation counseling services under Tricare, the military health benefit program.  Implementing this law as written in 2018 will have devastating consequences for military families stationed in Georgia, as they will no longer have access to trained lactation professionals in their communities who do not hold IBCLC credentials and will, therefore, be prohibited from providing lactation counseling services.  Additionally, military spouses who are trained lactation professionals will find themselves unemployable, widening the income gap between military and civilian households.  This law, as currently written, does not support our military troops or their families.
Our population is a just a small fraction of the overall population in the state of Georgia that will be negatively impacted, and we  fully support ROSE’s request for more time to thoroughly examine the impact of implementation, and to create a better solution for all families and lactation professionals in Georgia.
Respectfully,
Amy Barron Smolinski, MA, ALC, CLC                 Robyn Roche-Paull, BSN, RNC-MNN, IBCLC
Executive Director                                                   Author and Founder
Mom2Mom Global                                                   Breastfeeding in Combat Boots
www.mom2momglobal.org                                   www.breastfeedingincombatboots.com

The post Unintended Consequences: Lactation Licensure in Georgia appeared first on Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

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Mom2Mom Global and Breastfeeding in Combat Boots are pleased to share this Guest Post from our sponsor of the month, Sarah Wells Bags.  If you are interested in learning about our sponsorship opportunities, please contact us.

Pumping, especially in the military, means having to lug a breast pump around due to separation during the workday (or for trainings, TDYs, or deployment).  Milspouse mamas also have to juggle pump transportation into their workday, or frequent travel (like PCSing or travel to see family with a new baby).  Sarah Wells Breast Pump Bags, a company founded by Sarah Wells (mom, wife and entrepreneur) in 2011, wants to make pumping a little easier for breastfeeding and pumping moms with their stylish and uniform compliant breast pump bags.

Sarah is a 30-something mama living in the Washington-DC area with her two girls, Maddy (6) and Abby (2), and husband, Greg. Before starting her business, she led several national nonprofits working on women’s health and consumer advocacy issues. She also traveled the world over speaking to policymakers about improving the quality of health care for Americans.  Sarah became an entrepreneur due to her personal breastfeeding journey.

The idea for a stylish and functional breast pump bag came after the birth of her first daughter, Maddy. Sarah was an exclusively-pumping mom, who quickly found that carrying a breast pump (in the ugly manufacturer’s bag) plus her purse, lunch cooler, computer bag; not to mention pump accessories, keys, and cell phone brought about new and unexpected challenges. Tired of feeling like a pack mule walking down the streets of Washington, DC, and not able to find an ‘all-in-one’ bag that could separately store her breast pump and other items but not scream “I’M PUMPIMG”, she created her own breast pump bag.  And with that her business was started!

Sarah Wells Bags has many different styles of breast pump bags to match anyone’s personal style.  In particular, two models, the Kelly, and the Claire, were created specifically to meet uniform regulations for military mothers.  Click here to read Robyn’s review of the Kelly on Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.
  • With function and style, the Sarah Wells “Kelly” breast pump bag does it all! With easily-concealed backpack and shoulder straps, this pump bag is designed for ultimate on-the-go pumping convenience and is 100% USA MILITARY UNIFORM COMPLIANT.

  • The “Kelly” bag converts from a functional, sporty backpack to a chic shoulder bag with ease and is the only designer breast pump bag with a dedicated pump pocket large enough for various breast pumps, such as the Medela Symphony or the Spectra S1 or S2.

  • Carefully designed in consultation with a focus group of Activity Duty military mamas, the all-black “Kelly” features a uniform-compliant exterior with modern pink lining

Mama satisfaction is my #1 PRIORITY!!!  Please feel free to reach out to me anytime with your questions, comments, concerns, ideas, stories, and more. I’m here to support your breastfeeding goals. The Special Edition “Kelly” and “Claire” breast pump bags are my way of saying “thanks” to the incredible military mamas out there!

 Sarah Wells Bags is offering a special discount to breastfeeding military families during the month of March 2018!  During checkout, enter the code M2MG15 to receive 15% off all orders.  You can find Sarah Wells Bags on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Leave us a comment and let us know how your Sarah Wells Bag works for you!

The post March Sponsor: Sarah Wells Bags appeared first on Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

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​​

Introduction:
Mom2Mom Global and Breastfeeding in Combat Boots are pleased to share this Guest Post from our sponsor of the month, Ardo USA.  Guest blogger Jennifer Pitkin, IBCLC, is the Director of Customer Service and Social Media at Ardo, and shares some of the improvements Ardo has made to their Calypso breastpumps.  To read Robyn’s review of the Ardo Calypso pump from 2016, click here.

 If you are interested in learning about our sponsorship opportunities, please contact us.

What are Ardo breastpumps?

Ardo makes the Tricare-covered Ardo Calypso, an innovative double-electric, closed system, ultra-quiet breastpump.

We know that military moms have lots of choices when it comes to Tricare-covered breastpumps, and the Ardo Calypso is the right choice for many military families.  As a nursing/pumping mom, and as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant who works for and believes in Ardo, I’d like to share with you some features about the Ardo Calypso which set it apart from the others.

Why haven’t I heard of the Ardo Calypso?

Ardo has been an established pump name in the international market for years, but the Calypso is fairly new in the US market.  Now that most U.S. insurance and Tricare are covering the Ardo Calypso, and many WICs and DMEs are starting to carry it, we’re becoming a household name. We’re moving into hospitals this year too.  Ardo fulfills its requirements under the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (IC).

What sets the Ardo Calypso apart?

The Ardo Calypso has 64 settings, so mothers can have a personalized experience pumping milk.  There’s no pre-set let-down button to “dictate” to mothers how their milk should flow.  Instead, mothers using the Ardo Calypso can choose how much to increase or decrease the cycles and vacuum to find settings that work best for them; and these settings may vary day-by-day and pumping session by pumping session.  Also, mothers have multiple let-downs during their pumping session, so it’s fitting that mothers can adapt their session to fit their pumping needs.

One of the best features is that Ardo offers SEVEN flange sizes and inserts.  Why?  Because babies and mothers are certainly not “one-size-fits-all”.  We made our flanges and inserts to accommodate a smooth and relaxing pumping session.  Our Calypso-to-Go, the Tricare covered breast pump, comes with 3 flange sizes (26mm, 28mm, and 31mm), as well as a 26mm silicone massaging insert called Optiflow to further improve the pumping experience.

Another great feature of Ardo pumps is how quiet they are. An independent lab in Germany compared the Ardo Calypso with other commercially available pumps and found that the Ardo Calypso is the quietest pump on the market, while still powerful and efficient.  On YouTube you can hear how the various pumps sound.  Our mothers find that they can multi-task since they don’t need to tune out the sound of their pump, whether at work or pumping next to their sleeping baby or partner.

How is the Ardo Calypso great for military moms?

The Ardo Calypso is SUPER portable. It weighs less than a pound, even including 6 AA batteries.  No transformer is needed with the overseas adapter, so it is ideal for international travel.  And there is even a dedicated UL-approved car adapter available.

It’s a closed-system pump, so for our military moms that may occasionally need to pump in a less clean environment, the Vacuum Seal technology prevents air and milk from entering the tubing or the pump itself.  When a pump isn’t a completely closed system, germs, molds, infectious particles, etc. can enter the tubing or pump body.  You don’t have to worry about that with an Ardo Calypso pump.

How does Ardo support mothers who choose the Ardo Calypso?

We know that our moms need a reliable and durable pump with a long lifespan, so our Calypso comes with a 1-year warranty. Also, our customer service line is run by an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.  We ensure that when you have needs, we take the time 7 days/week to answer your questions.  We get that your questions don’t come up 9-5 Monday-Friday.  Our military mothers need dependability in different conditions, and we’ll be there to meet your lactation needs. Visit our website for more information or to order your Ardo Calypso.

​​

Jennifer Pitkin, IBCLC

Jennifer is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Social Media and Customer Service Director with Ardo USA. She has been active in the breastfeeding community since her first child was born in 2008.  She has volunteered with La Leche League since 2011, and previously worked as a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor.  Jennifer has three children with her husband, and fellow breastfeeding advocate, Matthew.  They live in the Midwest, and love nothing more than playing outside with the kids and their wooly Siberian Husky.

The post February Sponsor: Ardo Breastpumps appeared first on Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

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Mom2Mom Global and Breastfeeding in Combat Boots are pleased to share this information about our sponsor of the month, The Breastfeeding Shop.  If you are interested in learning about our sponsorship opportunities, please contact us.
“Where do I get my breastpump?”  This is probably the most common question we hear from pregnant and new parents in Mom2Mom Chapters, at Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, and in MTFs around the world.  Since Tricare began covering one new breastpump per birth event at no cost for all beneficiaries, no one wants to miss out on this benefit.
Copyright BFinCB/M2MG
Per Tricare policy, there are basically two ways to purchase pumps: either directly from a retailer (such as the Exchange, or Amazon.com), or from a Durable Medical Equipment company, or DME.  Purchasing from a retailer gets you the pump immediately, since you go to the store and buy it, but then you have to file your claim with Tricare and wait for reimbursement.  Obtaining a pump through a DME means no out of pocket expenses for you.
The Breastfeeding Shop, our sponsor of the month, is a DME that specializes in providing breastpumps for Tricare beneficiaries.  We’re all about peer support, so we want to share with you what other military parents have to say: 
Outstanding customer service, a wide selection of pumps, and fast and reliable shipping, even to overseas duty stations make The Breastfeeding Shop the go-to recommendation for military families. And they take care of billing Tricare directly, which means NO out of pocket costs or filing for reimbursement!
For questions about Choosing a Breastpump, Breastpump Cleaning Guidelines, and other great information, make sure to check our Handouts section.  Find out more about ordering a pump at The Breastfeeding Shop website, and follow them on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.  Have you used a DME to order your Tricare-covered pump?  What was your experience?

The post January Sponsor: The Breastfeeding Shop appeared first on Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

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© 2017 Tonya Ritter Photography

This year marks the 5th Annual Black Breastfeeding Week celebration.  Breastfeeding in Combat Boots is proud to offer a glimpse into the beauty and struggle of African American women breastfeeding their babies while serving their country.  This year’s theme is #BetOnBlack and serves to underscore the need for those that love and support black women to continue supporting them to be successful at breastfeeding. This is even more important in the military community where there are many unique challenges not found in the civilian world.

Black Breastfeeding Week was created 5 years ago to highlight the specific issues that black breastfeeding moms face and to celebrate the fact that black women DO breastfeed. The need for a Black Breastfeeding Week is due to the many inequities that exist for black women when it comes to awareness, opportunities, and resources for breastfeeding. While black women are just as capable of physically breastfeeding as white women, there are racial disparities built into our society (and our military) that make breastfeeding as a black woman very difficult.  According to Kimberly Seals Allers (Co-Founder of Black Breastfeeding Week and Author of “The Big Letdown: How Medicine, Big Business, and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding“) some of these issues and inequities include:

  • Huge racial gap for breastfeeding initiation (according to a CDC report from 2008, 75% of white mothers versus 58% of black mothers)
  • Higher infant mortality rate than in all other races (twice as many black babies die as white babies) throughout the first year of life
  • Higher incidence of diet-related disease (respiratory infections, asthma, obesity, diabetes, SIDS) in African-Americans
  • Lack of diversity in the lactation field (this is even more pronounced in the military)
    • How are black women supposed to feel supported when lactation providers and breastfeeding support groups are predominantly white and do not and cannot understand the struggles black women face, no matter how much we might want and try to
  • Cultural barriers such as history of being forced to wet-nurse as slaves
    • Yes, this is real, complex, and a painful historical fact that affects breastfeeding for black women
  • Lack of breastfeeding role models (again, much more pronounced in the military)
    • How are black women supposed to successfully breastfeed if they never see another black woman successfully breastfeeding? Let alone in uniform!

Within the military, where breastfeeding rates are already low due to the many unique challenges inherent in serving ones country in a male-dominated workplace, breastfeeding rates for black women are HIGHER than their civilian counterparts, but still lower than for all other races. According to a study published in 2015, “Do Black-White Racial Disparities in Breastfeeding Persist in the Military Community“, serving in the military has been shown to mitigate some of the racial disparities that impact breastfeeding, such as socioeconomic status, employment, and marital status but not all (as outlined above).  However, there is STILL a racial gap (albeit smaller) between black women and white women. This needs to change!

Breastfeeding in Combat Boots celebrates Black Breastfeeding Week in order to support our black sisters-in-arms to be successful despite the many barriers they encounter both in and out of the military.  We hope that everyone enjoys the many beautiful photos of black moms and babies (below) that have been shared by mothers in uniform over the past 7 years with our organization. Black Breastfeeding week is always celebrated the last week of August, and this year it falls on August 25th–31st. The theme for 2017 is #BetOnBlack, and you can follow the Black Breastfeeding Week Facebook page for updates and look for #BBW17 and #BlackBreastfeedingWeek hashtags across all social media platforms.

Want to learn more about why it is so important to celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week?  Take a peek at just a few of these links:

Black Breastfeeding Week

Black Mother’s Breastfeeding Association

Mocha Manual

**As the Founder of BFinCB, a veteran, an IBCLC and yes, a white woman, I can’t begin to understand the struggles black women face to breastfeed.  I stand here to offer support and to learn.  Any cultural inaccuracies, assumptions, or mistakes are my own and I ask forgiveness as I learn.  ~Robyn Roche-Paull**

Click on any photo to start the slideshow!

Are you celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week?  Do you think it is easier or harder as a black woman to breastfeed while serving in the military?  Do you feel supported? Are the racial inequities still present even in the military? Leave a comment below.  

The post Celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week in the Military appeared first on Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

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Many people ask how the Fort Bliss Breastfeeding Policy came to fruition. I’m here to tell you that story. At the time, I was the Pregnancy and Postpartum Physical Training (P3T) Program Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) and had soldiers coming to me that were postpartum on almost a daily basis with issues pertaining to breastfeeding in their work environment. They also were voicing their concerns in a breastfeeding support group attended by an active-duty International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Knowing that this was becoming an increasing issue, I started to draft the policy.

About a month later, I saw a posting on a local breastfeeding support group social media’s page from a former soldier that I had in the P3T program who was now medically retired. She mentioned that she wished there was a policy on post regarding breastfeeding. I sent her a private message and she informed me that she was at the food court sitting with her infant and two year old eating lunch when her infant got hungry. She went out of her comfort zone and decided to breastfeed her child; that’s when soldiers verbally made comments to their peers, but not directly to her. She was so uncomfortable and started to have anxiety that she packed everything up and left. By federal law, she has the right to breastfeed in public, but the harassment she experienced was so uncomfortable, she felt her only course of action was to leave. How unfortunate not only for her and her infant, but her two year old who was enjoying a lunchtime date with mom. How unfortunate that these soldiers who were senior ranking non-commissioned officers (NCOs) didn’t have the professionalism to just look the other way, and how heartbreaking that a female NCO was the one who spearheaded the comments. As NCOs, they all had an obligation to know and follow the federal law on breastfeeding, especially if any of them had a soldier in their ranks who was actively breastfeeding.

From the moment when I read that sitting at my desk in the 1st Armored Division Surgeon Office, I knew that something had to be done and that time was not on our side. I immediately contacted the IBCLC from our support meetings and sent her my draft of the policy; she sent it to the Chief of Midwifery Services and another IBCLC who was also a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner to review. While I was drafting a policy for Fort Bliss, the hospital on post was also drafting a policy in their first initial steps towards becoming a baby-friendly accredited hospital and mother-friendly work environment. We all came together for a one hour meeting and finalized the Fort Bliss Breastfeeding Policy as well as their policy for the hospital. It was the most productive meeting that I had ever attended towards issues pertaining to not only our soldiers, but our civilian workforce as well.

After our meeting, I took the finalized copy to the Division Surgeon for review. A few grammatical errors were identified and fixed and then sent up to the Chief of Staff at Division for review and signature. The Chief had a few corrections he wanted made on the policy, however, the corrections that he wanted made weren’t in standing with Federal law. After a meeting with him and Legal, it was determined that the policy that I had was concrete and the go ahead was given for him to sign. The policy was signed with the words “big support of this program” on it.

Shortly after the policy was signed, Fort Bliss made headlines again when soldiers from the P3T Program participated in a free breastfeeding photo session that was coordinated by a local photographer and me. We were approved by the Garrison Commander as well as Public Affairs to conduct the photo session on one of the parade fields in the late afternoon. Fort Bliss’s breastfeeding policy has been labeled as a model policy and has been emulated by many other military installations. The US Army itself has modeled their current Army Directive on Breastfeeding and Lactation Support Policy on Fort Bliss’s policy almost verbatim, demonstrating the impact this policy has made for soldiers and their families.

With the inception of the Fort Bliss Policy, many have been able to openly breastfeeding their child while in uniform without repercussions during their lunchtime and after duty; lactation rooms have been created throughout the installation in support of this policy as well to include a new space at Freedom Crossing, where the original incident happened.

It is the duty of each and every soldier and officer in the United States Army to ensure that they are abreast on their local policy on breastfeeding support as well as the Army directive and federal law. This promotes better outcomes for mom and supports the mission at hand – defending our great Country.

This is a guest post by SSG Amanda Marion who is currently an instructor at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. She is a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) as well as holding certifications in prenatal/postpartum fitness and aerobics/kickboxing. She is a single mother to a six year old who she exclusively breastfed while on active-duty. She is a member of the joint social media admin team for the only two official breastfeeding support groups for military personnel, Mom2Mom Global and Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

Does your command have a breastfeeding policy? Is your command supportive of breastfeeding? Do you have lactation rooms available? Leave a comment below! 

The post Fort Bliss Leads Army with Breastfeeding Policy appeared first on Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

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