We can't believe this is still happening. Renowned photographer and Navy spouse Shannon O'Hara is no stranger to managing travel while lactating. But yesterday, Delta Airlinesviolated their own policy and forced her to gate-check her personal item bag, even after she informed the gate agent at San Diego International Airport that her pump and expressed milk were in the bag. Then, her connecting flight was delayed for hours in Detroit, meaning that Shannon had to wait over 14 hours between pumping her milk and breastfeeding when she was reunited with her baby.
In Shannon's own words, she was booked on Delta flight 1648 from San Diego International Airport to Detroit, and flight 2044 from Detroit to Reagan National with a 45-minute scheduled layover in Detroit. Passengers were asked to voluntarily check their bags for free, and not enough passengers checked their bags. I was told by the gate agent responsible for boarding the flight that the flight was full and based on my zone, I would likely end up having to check it because none of the higher priority zones had volunteered. I told the gate agent that I had my breast pump and some pumped milk in the bag they're asking to check.
He asked if I wanted to take the milk out, but I didn't have anything to carry it since my carryon was my purse for this trip. I asked if they had smaller totes he could give me to use to carry my pump in and he said no, and didn't offer for me to carry the pump separately. The flight was boarding, but I ran back to see if I could buy an inexpensive bag in the airport shops. We all know buying anything in the airport inexpensively is a damn joke, so I went and looked to say I looked, but I knew what the deal was. So I just had to grab my wallet and headphones - pretty much anything I could fit in my pockets. I boarded the plane last and left my bag on the jetway. The gate agent ended up being right about the mandatory checking because by the time I boarded in zone 9 with the economy passengers, it was required that everyone boarding with overhead bags check them on the jetway. I'd last pumped at nine am. By the time we took off, it had been three hours since I'd pumped. The flight length was four hours and twenty-five minutes. So, I knew when I landed I'd have to find a way to express my milk. I had a clogged duct and a bad fever a few months ago, and did not want to go back to that. I pumped before leaving for the airport that morning at 9:45am.
According to TSA regulations and Delta's own policy, breastpumps are allowed on board--because they are medical devices. When a lactating person is unable to express milk for an extended period of time, it puts them at risk for a number of painful and potentially dangerous breast health issues, including clogged ducts and mastitis. And despite the gate agent's insistence that even personal items like purses had to be checked, Shannon noticed that nearly everyone in her zone on the flight had their purses with them and were able to stow them under the seat in front of her. Her pump bag could have fit easily under the seat in front of her. But wait--things got even worse when she arrived at Detroit.
I was notified of a flight delay when I arrived - The flight time for my next flight, Delta 2044, was pushed back from 8:30pm to 9:33pm. A few minutes later the flight was pushed back to 10:30pm. We were initially told that another flight to DCA would be available, but that flight was delayed too, so we were advised to go back to our original flight. At this time, 9:23pm, I received a text that my original flight was delayed until 12:28am. When we finally took off at 12:28am, we were rerouted on the runway due to concerns from air traffic control in Detroit.
During the hours in the terminal, I was able to access the mother's room in the concourse. But, when my last delay was announced it was after 11pm. I called the number on the door to gain access to the mother's room because for some reason it was locked, but no one answered at all from 11pm until my flight left. I had to express my milk into a toilet in the bathroom at one point because I was in pain due to how engorged I was. I told the gate agent that my pump was in my luggage. She pointed me to the mother's room, but noted that without the pump, it wouldn't be much more than a nice place to relax. She apologized for the flight delay.
When the flight landed, I received my baggage. I was able to nurse my baby at the airport pick up outside of baggage claim when my husband picked me up. It was 3am.
Where do we even begin? Delayed for four hours in the Detroit terminal, Shannon was denied access to her pump, even though it was in the bag that had been gate-checked at her departure terminal, and therefore should have been easily accessible. Although she initially was able to access the mother's room (and thanks DTW, we appreciate that you have a mother's room, in compliance with the FAM Act), it was locked at 11pm, an hour and a half before her flight took off. Because, evidently, Detroit airport staff believe that milk stops flowing after 11pm--despite the fact that babies famously wake to feed throughout the night. With a history of clogged ducts and infection, Shannon knew she couldn't risk waiting out her engorgement, and she was forced to hand-express into a public toilet at the Detroit airport.
We are outraged at the way Delta employees repeatedly ignored her biological needs and their own policy. Military spouses are seasoned travelers. Working military spouses, even more so--we know how to pack efficiently in order to comply with all regulations and avoid situations just like this one. We call on Delta to make this right for Shannon and compensate her for the time and physical and emotional pain to which she was subjected. But more importantly, we want Delta--and ALL airlines--to train their employees to STOP treating breastpumps and expressed milk as anything other than what they are--valuable cargo and a medical necessity for the lactating parents and breastfed babies who rely on them.
Milk N Mamas Baby provides new mothers, military spouses, and female servicemembers with breastpumps and accessories that are 100% covered by your insurance provider.
Being a modern parent is tough. We feel incredible pressure to have it all and do it all. We want to nurture our infants, and we want to cultivate our careers. We want to ensure our children have all the resources they need to have healthy bodies and sharp minds, and we want to make sure our own bodies and minds are in peak condition. Usually, we want to take care of it all at the same time.
Military parents face even bigger challenges. You’re tasked with staying in tiptop physical condition and honing razor-sharp mental focus. You’ve got round the clock duties and a constant call to improve your skills and abilities. You’re managing relationships and proving your capabilities to people who don’t always appreciate what you’re up against and how far you have to go every day to fulfill all of your responsibilities. And you’re still driven to breastfeed your newborn so that they can benefit from the most nutrient-rich food source available to them.
Unfortunately, sometimes stress and hormonal shifts created by these overwhelming demands may negatively impact your milk supply. The cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine produced by your body to help you cope with stress can wear you down physically and emotionally, or demanding shifts may mean you skip pumping sessions. Less milk removed sends your body a message to slow down production, and you may struggle to keep up with your infant’s milk demands.
How can military parents relieve some of the stress of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding offers many rewards. When you’ve got plenty of time on your hands and you can enjoy the experience, it’s a powerful bonding experience. It offers your infant exactly what they need to grow healthy and strong. However, many military parents rely on pumping to meet their babies’ nutritional needs. While pumping is handy, it’s definitely not as relaxing as nursing, and it requires planning and special equipment. Choosing the right pump can help to reduce the stress of breastfeeding and simplify the process.
An innovative new breastpump that makes breastfeeding easy for time-strapped parents
At Milk N Mamas Baby, we’ve rounded out our inventory of best-selling breast pumps like Spectra and Medela with the innovative BabyBuddha line of breast pumps. As the name suggests, BabyBuddha breast pumps give new moms peace of mind. It’s as close to a Zen experience as you can get while pumping milk.
The BabyBuddha design is streamlined, eliminating the crazy cords and cables that can make pumping a tactical nightmare. The rechargeable, portable pump is operated by an intuitive trackball control that hangs comfortably around your neck via a lanyard, and it’s quiet, too, which makes pumping more discreet. It’s also safe for your baby. It’s a closed system with 100% BPA-free construction, so you don’t have to worry about contamination or backflow. With ingenious detachable tubing ports and breast shields, it’s even easy to clean.
Military parents qualify for a FREE Breast Pump!
If you’re a military servicemember or spouse, you can receive a zero cost breast pump through Tricare. You’ll save hundreds of dollars while enjoying the health and wellness benefits for you and your baby.
Breastfeeding in Combat Boots is a tough calling. Make it a little easier with a time-saving, no-hassle breast pump from Milk N Mamas Baby.
Like many moms, Krisi LaMont divides her time between nurturing her family and providing for them. As the founder of the breastfeeding supply company Milk N Mamas Baby, Krisi provides military moms, milspouses, and other nursing moms with products that optimize breastfeeding success. She understands the stresses and strains of balancing family and work, so she works extra hard at making breastfeeding easier through a streamlined online ordering process and compassionate, expert guidance.
We are so excited to share the backstory on this wonderful photo project. Mom2Mom KMC Finance Director Ashley Baum told us how this all came about. "Franzis generously donated her time and skills to a photography fundraiser we held in the fall. She contacted me recently with her idea to document the “behind the scenes” realities of working and pumping mothers and their babies and asked if I would share her idea with our group to help her find volunteers for her photos."
Franzis herself became involved with Mom2Mom KMC when she attended a Big Latch On event while still breastfeeding her younger daughter. Born and raised in Germany, she attended university in Heidelberg to become a high school teacher, but after teaching for a short time, she met her husband and moved to the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) area. They have two daughters, Ellen (10), and Philippa (Pippa), age 2. Becoming a mother inspired her in several ways to take up photography. "Since having my first daughter 10 years ago, I’ve taken dozens of pictures of her every week (I’m sure any mom can relate). When I discovered my husband’s DSLR camera a few years ago it really sparked an interest in me to actually study manual settings, but then it took another few years until I started to feel less intimidated not just by comparing my work to others, but also by the camera itself and the editing process."
Franzis has a deep appreciation for other photographers' work, and has also been on the other side of the camera. "I had beautiful pictures taken by a photographer at the Big Latch On when I was still nursing my younger daughter, and pictures of nursing moms just capture the bond between mother and baby in such a beautiful way. I have friends with children my daughter’s age who either work from home or are active duty who pumped during work, and I’ve always admired their dedication and commitment to it.
I was looking for a way to honor these moms, and at the same time share their stories so that other moms can relate to and feel empowered by them, but also see the progress the military has made and hopefully continues to make in terms of supporting pumping mothers." She draws inspiration and energy from showcasing the lives of working moms in an overseas military community.
"Whether the mothers are self-employed or active duty, they are all rockstars. They’re juggling husbands on TDYs or evening classes without complaints, and I think it’s because they’re all in the same boat - being away from home, the military community has become their substitute family and there’s always someone in the same or in a similar situation. It’s a really tight
knit group of people, and the ability to move and adapt to new surroundings every few years is a trait you don’t really find anywhere else." Her favorite part about working with Mom2Mom KMC is the opportunity to meet the parents and babies who are supported in her community, and hear their stories.
Mom2Mom Globaland Breastfeeding in Combat Boots are excited to introduce our sponsor, veteran-owned business TricareMoms! In the coming months, we'll be sharing more information about how TricareMoms supports breastfeeding military families in a number of ways. Today, guest-bloggers Natoscha McKinnon and Jessie Lipscomb from TricareMoms share with you how they take the guesswork out of obtaining your Tricare-covered breastfeeding supplies.
DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN...
Obtain your breastpump at little to no cost?
Choose the pump that best fits your lifestyle?
Work with a TricareMoms representative who will file all the paperwork for you in the convenience of your home or community?
We know you may be thinking, "Why have I been doing all the work myself?" Let us introduce you to TricareMoms (TCM). At TricareMoms, we work with military spouses and active duty members. Our goal is to assure our customers the highest-quality breastfeeding products, along with helpful tips and information, in order to make breastfeeding easier and more enjoyable!
There are only a few steps to get you started: just visit us at tricaremoms.com, reach out to a TricareMoms rep in your area, and obtain a prescription from your doctor. It's that simple! During your visit, the TCM rep will be able to showcase and answer questions about Breastpumps, Compression Therapy, Postpartum Therapy, Enteral Feeding, and our Resupply Program.
We mentioned convenience, and there is no easier way to pick out your breastpump than in the comfort of your own home. TricareMoms reps arrive with several demo pumps and a demo breast.
This will allow you to interact with the latest pumps on the market and assess the pump suction of each breastpump. They will also fill out all the paperwork needed for the insurance company and verify your coverage. That's right - we do it all! You never have to leave your home, fax/mail in forms, pay upfront and wait for reimbursement. All you have to do is pick out your pump and review the following forms and policies with our rep: Financial Responsibility, HIPAA, and our return policy. After reviewing the forms and policies, your final step is providing your signature. It's that easy! We even provide you with monthly resupplies until you contact us and cancel your shipment.
That's right - TricareMoms offers a resupply program where you can receive insurance-covered breastpump accessories! No more running to the store to pick up storage bags when you realize you are about to use your last one; we ship direct to your home. We take care of everything for you. Every month we verify your insurance coverage and ship your resupplies. Accessories can also be included in your resupplies as needed upon request. To assure you are receiving your resupply items, please obtain a prescription from your physician. Our TCM reps will be able to assist with the process and answer any questions you may have regarding our resupply program.
Our resupply program typically starts the month after your expected due date. If you deliver early, please reach out to our customer service team so that we can update your r records and begin shipping your resupplies. You can cancel this program at any time by sending an email to email@example.com, please put Cancel My Services in the subject line.
We look forward to assisting you on this new chapter of life! We're here for you so you're here for them.
Jessie Lipscomb has been a Media Consultant/Graphic Artist for TricareMoms for the last 2 years and pulls from her personal experiences as a Mom. She lives in Charleston, SC with her husband who is an instructor in the Navy Pipeline, her 2 sons (Jackson & Miles) and her 2 dogs. For fun, she goes on runs with her boys, blogs about her oldest sons Autism diagnosis and enjoys being on the water.
Natoscha McKinnon is a dependent of an Air Force Veteran and the Vice President of Business Development at TricareMoms. She currently oversees the day to day operation of the Media Team and assist's with the development of companies policies and procedures. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two (2) sons (Nathan & Logan) and their dog, Coco. For fun, Natoscha enjoys spending time with her family, reading and doing art projects with her youngest son.
This guest post is authored by a Lieutenant in the United States Navy, whose name Mom2Mom Global and Breastfeeding in Combat Boots have withheld. The views expressed are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Defense or the Department of the Navy. Mom2Mom Global and Breastfeeding in Combat Boots are deeply concerned at the lack of adequate childcare and the added stress this places on breastfeeding military servicemembers and families. We are pleased to share this “boots on the ground” perspective.
As a young Ensign, I was taught that childcare was a “parent issue.” In other words – you better figure it out. There was little to no room for slippage, and if you did, be prepared for the onslaught of opinions – even by your leaders. After a situation where a sailor had to come in a little late because her childcare did not open until a specific time, I saw firsthand the cutthroat environment the Navy had for parents – in this case, a single mother. “She should have figured it out.” “It’s not our problem her daycare doesn’t open on time – she should have made alternate arrangements.” “CDC opens at 0530, there’s no excuse for her not to be here on time.” Those comments stuck with me. I was not a mother at the time and the childcare issue did not touch me personally – Ship, shipmate, self – it made sense. That self-portion means your family too, or so I was taught. We all were.
One Navy study in 2015 found that average wait times in the Greater Washington, DC area alone was 89 days for infants.Fast-forward a few years, my dual-military family was going to become a family of three. I was told I needed to sign up for the CDC immediately as the wait list was extremely long – we ended up waiting 11 months. Fortunately, I listened to the advice and the slot was available right as I came off maternity leave. 11 months is not uncommon – and many installations have wait times that may last up to a year. Some are luckier than others, and priority always plays a role. I saw families scramble during PCS season, families losing their slot when it was time for their child to move up into the next class because there was no room, and breastfeeding undermined because of lack of support and training by the staff.
How are we supposed to focus on ship and shipmate when these are the issues our families are facing? How, as a leader do I support my sailors when we write off parents who have to leave early to pick up their sick child from daycare because the children can’t stay there according to CDC policy? My next batch of OJT on the subject of parenting and childcare was on exactly that. “I don’t understand why they always have to leave early when their kid is sick. I don’t get to do that. My wife is able to handle that.” Shipmate, not everyone has the privilege of having a parent stay home. There are dual-military families, single parents, dual-income homes, full time students, the list goes on. We preach that the focus is on women’s integration, diversity and inclusion – yet we ignore the fact that women also bear far more of the domestic workload than men, even in dual-income families.
Childcare issues have been addressed, awareness has been made, and there are efforts in place to start addressing the shortfalls. These are good things, however to continue to call this a “women’s issue” doesn’t even begin to describe it. A military family has a chance of moving every two to four years – this means new childcare hardships every single time, in a childcare market that is already strained to capacity. A civilian household waits for childcare, gets it, and generally stays put for a long period of time before needing to uproot and start over. Our families are facing a different hardship, and it’s constant; we need to acknowledge that. There are many spouses that give up their careers because of lack of childcare. There are also service members that leave the service because there is no peace of mind when it comes to the care of their children. Not all families can afford care on the economy, or a nanny, but we often times have to turn to these options as they are the only option. This leads to economic stress as families must live outside their means in order to pay for childcare, which, in turn compromises both servicemembers’ careers and national security by placing military families in financial insecurity.
We have unveiled, as an organization, an extreme bias on this issue. Childcare is, according to Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations in the most recent CNO/MCPON call streamed on Facebook Live, a “female issue, female officer issue, the whole crowd.” With this public statement, our Naval leaders have validated the sentiments that I have witnessed throughout my career: that this burden belongs only to women and specifically to mothers. Ship, shipmate, self, but only for mothers, the self-portion includes childcare along with the various other struggles working motherhood brings with it. What about our fathers? What about our working spouses? How does this impact our “Navy Family” when the underlying message is clearly that women are solely responsible for ensuring adequate childcare for Navy dependents? When I left for the first time after my son was born, the care of my child fell to my husband. He depended on our childcare provider to care for our son while he was at work so he could focus on his mission. Not all of our sailors are able to do that.
The issue of CDC shortfall is not limited to the Navy, and different service branches are approaching the problem in a variety of strategic action steps. The Army has just ended subsidies for civilian employees enrolling their children in childcare, in order to shift those resources to Army families. Their priority is ensuring that their soldiers can focus on the mission, meanwhile we are making childcare a “female issue.”
This is a sailor issue. This is an operational readiness issue. This is a retention issue. We must take care of our families so we can take care of the mission. Where do we start? As many comments on the Facebook Live stream began, by bringing awareness and understanding at the leadership level, acknowledging that this is a sailor issue and that it is unique compared to our civilian counterparts, and continue and further the efforts in place for finding a solution. Adm. Richardson released a statement in response to those comments, but we need our leaders to truly understand and value the stress placed on sailors and families by inadequate and inaccessible childcare. As sailors, the burden of the Country’s business is placed on us – the least we can expect is that the future of the nation is cared for appropriately. As leaders, be mindful of the hardship the service of parenthood may be on your sailors and do your best to support and act, responsibly. Male and female service members and spouses have to come together and bring awareness to the hardships placed on ALL of us due to childcare – this burden does not fall on one group alone. Stand up. Mission first. People always.
Military families see mass emergencies from both sides: military medical personnel, National Guard, and other components may be activated to provide humanitarian aid and response domestically or internationally at any time. And, as we have seen this year with Hurricane Florence in North Carolina and Hurricane Michael in Florida, military families may also be evacuated, displaced, or otherwise impacted by natural disasters or other large-scale emergencies. We are very pleased to share this guest post by Lourdes Santaballa, IBCLC, IYCFS, and Executive Director of Alimentacion Segura Infantil (ASI). Lourdes founded ASI in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, when she realized the tremendous impact that can be made by providing accurate information and respectful counseling on Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies (IYCF-E).
For those of us who live in the United States, or for US citizens living overseas, including military families, infant feeding is presented as a choice. In fact, it is a choice what we give to our babies, just as we choose what we ourselves eat. Infant feeding is also a health issue, because the choices about what we put into our babies and our own bodies affect our health.
It is October of 2018 and Hurricanes Florence and Michael are fresh on our minds, people still living under water and struggling to find refuge, protection of their property, and food stability with new winds and rains arriving daily. This year and last year, around the world, there were floods, earthquakes, mudslides, monsoons, hurricanes, heavy rains and tsunamis. We have survived or lost loved ones to war, riots, bombings, terrorism, uprisings, massacres, gang fights, and immigration raids. We have witnessed bridges collapse, buildings topple, highways buckle, and nuclear reactors fail.
Imagine being a mother, a parent, a caregiver of a baby or small child, with all this planetary and global unrest around you. Whether you think that the systems are getting worse because of global warming, or that these are natural occurrences on a planet that’s in constant motion, whether you fear that international relations are more strained or that history always has wars and civil unrest, and whether you think that engineering keeps improving or that the quality of aging infrastructure is just getting worse, you still love your baby. You still want your baby to grow and be healthy. You still want to be prepared.
Some babies breastfeed. This is the biologically normal way of feeding babies, uniquely designed for their bodies and containing all the nutrients, water, and immunological factors that they need to grow and be healthy. Some babies drink expressed human milk in bottles or cups, providing the perfect nutrition in a different package. Many babies drink formula, sometimes because their parents chose not to breastfeed, but usually because it’s hard and they weren’t provided the help to make it work or experienced great social pressure to stop.
Children under the age of five are vulnerable and at great risk of death. Their bodies don’t have fully developed immune systems and they depend on adults to meet their basic needs. Among the leading causes of child death not related to accidents between day 2 and 5 years are disease and hunger. These are both food related issues. A baby who consumes contaminated food or whose immune system is not protected by human milk is in the greatest danger.
When a disaster strikes, food is scarce, water may be rationed or nonexistent, stress is high, and families are just looking to survive. The first 24-48 hours after a disaster are times of greatest risk to abandon breastfeeding when it is precisely a time when it is most important it be preserved. Some of the reasons breastfeeding may stop:
-A family could be evacuated from a warning zone and must travel long distances and in heavy traffic to escape the danger. Stopping to feed the baby is a hindrance. -A mother or parent goes to run an errand that they anticipate will take a few hours and is gone for much more, returning home with engorged breasts that don’t flow easily and a baby who may have consumed other milks in the parent’s absence, and a baby who may reject the breast. -Stress, which although doesn’t inhibit milk production, does cause the milk ejection or letdown to be slow and causes a fussy baby, which may lead a parent to think they’re not making enough milk. This creates a real danger for supplementation. -Shelters don’t provide separate space for feeding or food preparation for parents. It may feel uncomfortable to breast or chestfeed in front of strangers. Shelter staff are not prepared as breastfeeding counselors and don’t provide support to assure its success, regardless of their personal beliefs that breastfeeding is good. -Navigating help agencies is time consuming and often doesn’t feel like the right place to take the baby. -Formula is easily available at disaster relief areas or community based food pantries and sometimes given, or air dropped, without asking if the baby is breastfed. -Mothers and parents are hot, sweaty, or cold and scared, touched out, and maybe tired of having to feed the baby from their own body with frequency. -Parents and babies could be physically separated because of the catastrophic event.
Because disasters can strike any time, the best thing is to be prepared. Each community has its own seasons and highest risk of natural disasters (earthquakes in the Pacific and tornadoes in the Midwest, for example) but often disaster gives almost no warning. Now is the best time to plan, when things are good, or you are recovering from the last disaster but not in the midst of survival. Infant and young child feeding in emergencies only works as well as the feeding in times of greater stability.
Mom2Mom Global has some excellent links for parents and professionals to learn about what are the recommendations to help families prepare in depth.
In 2017, while living in Puerto Rico, my family survived Hurricane Maria. I was lucky because despite the high winds and destruction all around me, my children were older (9 and 11), my house was made of cement and we lived on higher ground which was not affected by flooding. After the hurricane I started an organization, Alimentacion Segura Infantil, which is focused on helping families with babies and small children feed their families in safer ways. My best advice to families is don't
let the gas get lower than a half tank, stash cash for emergencies, store food and water for the whole family, and keep together whenever possible. You will find a lot of advice on how to safeguard your home, possessions and documents.
If you are breastfeeding or chestfeeding, keep it up! It has all the nutrients that your baby needs until 6 months and then complements the nutrients with food until at least two years, and it also has special properties that no other milk can provide. It’s free and available even when the stores are closed, and water and cash are low. In the case of feeding your baby directly, you don’t need to wash anything, and if you’re pumping, you can hand express instead of using a machine and feed your baby with a cup if there’s no electricity to operate the pump or water to clean parts or bottles. It is especially important if you’re looking for help to take your baby with you or send someone else and stay home with the baby so that breastfeeding isn’t interrupted or threatened.
If you are combo feeding or exclusively formula feeding, it may still be possible to produce milk or ask another parent who is breastfeeding to feed your child or give you milk. If you need to give formula, liquid ready to feed in single 3-4 ounce bottles is the easiest and cleanest. If the only formula that’s available is another brand, read the label, usually types of formula (regular, soy, hypoallergenic, amino acid) have the same ingredients despite manufacturer differences. If powdered formula is the only formula that’s available, the World Health Organization has very specific preparationrecommendationswhich involve a lot of hand washing, bottle and cup sanitation, and preparation with freshly boiled and still hot water, whether it’s from the tap or in a bottle, to kill pathogens that may be in the powder already or picked up from the air after opening. Even if you don’t normally boil the water, after an emergency the environment is teaming with germs. The cleanest and easiest way to feed a baby is with a cup, ideally a disposable one, though reusable cups are easier to clean than bottles. You’d be amazed how adaptable babies are, even if they protest a little at the beginning, and will lap up the milk!
If you are a health or shelter worker, or military responder deployed in a humanitarian mission, encourage breastfeeding! Familiarize yourself with established operational guidance and best practices, and share with your colleagues and supervisors. Help families keep babies at the breast or feed at the breast a little more if they are combination feeding. If they have doubts about their production, don’t offer formula as a solution unless it is medically necessary, and take advantage of lactation specialists and peer counselors from your community or relief workers with those skills who may arrive to help. Support them with risk reduction when formula is being fed and remember that infant feeding is a health issue, just like other concerns that arise after a disaster. Offer separate feeding space for families with babies, privacy if they need it, and space to clean and disinfect feeding equipment, ideally with heat in the kitchen, although cold water sanitation is possible with chlorine bleach and potable water. And if you are a lactating parent yourself, remember to have a plan to express your own milk and protect your health!
Do you have a disaster plan in place for your family? Have you thought about what to do to prepare? Many people don’t because we don’t have the money, time or true belief that it could happen. Last year I thought I was ready but really wasn’t. This year I feel a lot more confident, and it didn’t take so much to get there. We hope that this article has been helpful to get you thinking about what to do, especially when there are babies involved.
Lourdes Santaballa, IBCLC, IYCFS is Executive Director of Alimentacion Segura Infantil, an organization which she founded after surviving Hurricane Irma, then Hurricane Maria's devastation of Puerto Rico. Lourdes is an activist, community organizer, and leader in the field of community-driven response to infant feeding in emergencies, as well as peer lactation support. She is currently pursuing a Master's Degree from Maryland University of Integrative Health.
October 1-7 is International Babywearing Week! We are happy to celebrate babywearing as a fantastic tool to support breastfeeding, and busy moms everywhere!
My family and I are currently in the process of PCSing from Ramstein AB, Germany to Shaw AFB, South Carolina. It's been a busy time in the Livingstone household as my hubs and I pack up our house and get ready for a new adventure.
It's been stressful trying to get my two kiddos to "cooperate" long enough for me to get even a small tote organized. This PCS means my 2 year old is watching tons of tv and snacking a ton instead of eating real meals. She doesn't seem to mind, she enjoys her Paw Patrol time. My 6 month old son, however, as different plans. He's a baby who requires a different kind of attention: frequent breaks to nurse, diaper changes, getting him down for his naps and just giving him some play time. Many times I'm packing one handed as I hold him but he's a big boy and get pretty heavy after a while. Normally, it is what it is, this is the season I'm in and what I have to do to make sure our PCS is smooth. That's just life right now.
However, the past couple days have been especially stressful. It's 0945 and I have so much to do such as...finish packing up an entire house, wait for an Inspector to come do a house packing assessment, make sure I give my daughter some much needed attention, feed us at appropriate times..oh and find time to drink my 3x reheated coffee. But this just felt like the right time to take a minute and write down how much I ABSOLUTELY love baby wearing. My sweet little man is going through a very clingy, separation anxiety phase, probably teething and is cluster feeding and going through a growth spurt - a phase that means mom CANNOT put him down or be out of sight without him shrieking. This phase means sound sleep is just not going to happen even with a belly full of momma's milk, laying a nice and cozy bed with the sound of the ocean drowning out unwanted distractions; sleeping without mom is just not a thing.
This morning, we spent about an hour playing the "take a nap" game. In this game, I nurse, he cries, I nurse, he falls asleep, I sneak away, he wakes up and repeat. With so much to do, I just had to give up. He cried in the bed and I just had to sit on the stairs in frustration. Both of us know he's sleepy - he's rubbing his eyes, he's yawning - it's clearly naptime. But he just won't do it.
Then a spark!! I'll just wear him and he'll knock out instantly.
I have a lot to do and he's a big boy so wearing him on my chest wouldn't be productive. So I wear him on my back. Seriously! No joke! He was knocked out within 3 minutes. I can feel his steady breathing on my back and his litle face is visible under the hood - he just looks peaceful. Definitely loving my Ergobabyright now. I'm not sure why I hadn't thought of this before, I wear him all the time when I run errands. It just hadn't occurred to me wearing him at home could give me more options with household tasks and PCS packing.
I guess I should get back to work now. Or maybe just feed my daughter and I. We still haven't had a chance to eat breakfast and we're super hungry!!
Ohhhh love. It can lead you to some unimaginable life choices you never saw coming. Here is my story. The year is 2005, I met my soon-to-be husband two doors down from where I was living. I was 20 and still figuring out my life. This big talker, Puerto Rican honey that worked part-time at Papa John’s and attended the same community college as me, was just on the verge of going before the Coast Guard CSPI Board. The week he found out he was accepted, our sentences were already including words like “we" and "us.” So began my life as an active duty military girlfriend--and two years later, an active duty Coast Guard military spouse. I had no idea what military life entailed. I had no idea what moving my 23 year old self from the only place I had ever lived felt like, even though I was 3 hours away from home it was still 3 hours away from my community. Fast forward….Summer of 2008, I found out the best news. I was pregnant!
What-the-What? Your whole being changes the moment you find out you have a human being growing inside you. Your hormones come out in full force. This was not easy at the same time my husband was just beginning his cutter-life journey! As 2009 begins, I am learning about the whole Naval Medical system in Portsmouth, VA. My OBGYN was a midwife. I went to my monthly appointments, just another number in the Tricare system. The appointments were short and I learned to come prepared with questions beforehand. At 7 months, I was to attend New Parents Support group at the hospital. Ahhhh but of course, my husband is underway (on a Coast Guard mission) and so I find the next best thing, a close friend. Then comes another appointment for the hospital tour. This time my husband is home and accompanies me. We go into a big stadium conference room, where a nurse starts talking about the birthing process. This was my first orientation about breastfeeding, "It's ok to breastfeed, or not." I look around and see a lot of couples either looking scared, unsure, excited, and some just not interested. I look at my husband and we smile the “we got this” smirk, but deep down I didn’t like the unknown about birthing. The nurse tells us that our delivery doctor would be whoever is working that day. We start walking around the hospital with everyone else to tour the labor and delivery rooms, and we almost made it when I had the urge to cry and run. I didn’t want to be just another mom giving birth, I told myself. We left the tour without giving it a second thought. That evening my husband and I Netflix and chilled to The Business of Being Born.
Time is running out: Holy Moly. What did we just watch?? Wait--this hospital birth isn’t as normal as they make it to be? Epidurals aren’t good? C-section rates are super high? Home birth is an option? The birth of your baby could affect your breastfeeding? Breastfeeding is better than formula? …All of this was running through my mind at 7 months pregnant while watching the documentary. It hits me--I don't know sh*t. What to do now? I researched local midwives, and read about Ina May Gaskin and thought, how do I get to her Farm! Obviously, that couldn’t happen. I did the next best thing. My husband and I scheduled an interview with two local midwives from the Virginia Beach area. They wanted to interview us, which I thought was a little weird. Can’t you just accept my money? But no, they needed to see not only that I was not a high-risk pregnancy but also to see if we were compatible. One evening, we met them and we talked for what seemed like forever. All my questions and uncertainties started to fade. That evening, my husband and I were at ease as we had decided on a new way for birthing our firstborn.
Midwife vs. Naval Staff: Once I had decided on a home birth, I went back to the midwife at the Naval Medical clinic to let her know my plans. She was not on board at all. She told me I was making a terrible and very dangerous decision. I remember feeling so belittled by what she said. I remembered telling her before my last visit with her, that after all this time she had not even asked me what my birth plan was or educated me on the benefits of breastfeeding. I had expressed to her how nervous I was as a first time soon-to-be mother, not even into my second year of marriage as a military spouse. Since she was my first encounter to both of these life changes that the least she could do for me was educate me and be a little more compassionate.
60-Hour Labor: That’s right, I labored forever. And no, my water did not rupture only until the last few hours before delivery. I called upon my most important resources: my sister and mother. They drove down the moment I told them I was in labor. I called my midwives, and soon my small little village came together to help in any way they could! My husband just made it in time; he was in Colombia and made a crazy flight plan to make sure to be there for the birth. He made it! To this day, that was the best birthing experience ever!
Breastfeeding and the point of this blog post: Let’s just say my midwives were the most valuable resource I had within the first 12 hours postpartum. As much as I would love to go into details about my birthing experience, that’s not what this is about! My midwives immediately helped position my newborn son onto my breast. "Just like that?" I asked. Just like that! I got lucky with him, but still I had a lot to learn about breastfeeding, pumping or not pumping and why I had an oversupply of milk. It was hard, but I was determined I would breastfeed. My son and I struggled through so many obstacles: jaundice, being told to combo feed, not knowing I didn’t have to pump. Eventually I figured it out, through many trials and lots of errors! I looked for support around my community, and found nothing. I wasn’t sure where to get that support. I searched online for Latina mom communities specific to breastfeeding, and nothing came up. I couldn’t find anything that I could relate to or caught my attention. Eventually, I found an online community of Latina moms that kept me sane.
Baby #2: We transferred to the beautiful enchanted island of Puerto Rico. What a difference! I saw mothers
constantly breastfeeding, everywhere I went, and especially at the OBGYN office. Breastfeeding is the norm here and that excited me. I had a hospital birth with my daughter, my husband was underway again and missed her birth by 11 hours. I won't get into the details of my hospital birth experience, let’s just say that it was very different. My daughter was successful in latching on. Breastfeeding the second time around was a breeze but again my determination made it so.
Becoming a CLEC: I moved to California when I decided to get certified. The best decision ever, I thought it would be great to be a postpartum doula and have a CLEC certification to better educate moms. But little did I know, how hard it was to find work. I found very few clients, but in my certification I was able to educate and inform close friends and relatives. Maybe that’s what was supposed to happen.
After a while, I found a job with a WIC clinic that caters to the Native American population in Oakland, CA. This was truly the most humbling experience I ever had. I was able to talk to moms from all sorts of backgrounds, Indigenous moms, Latina moms, African American moms, and Asian moms. I had a great network of coworkers who were just as enthusiastic as I was.
What I learned as a Peer Counselor? You need to be able to relate to this community. They will listen if you understand where they are coming from. A lot of the moms I was assigned to were immigrants. Many would go back to work in just 1-2 weeks postpartum. Combo feeding was a norm, but every drop of breastmilk matters. They just needed a safe space to come to, but they also needed to see other moms breastfeeding. My co-workers would hold support groups and our turnout was great! We made it safe and fun. The one thing we had in common was being a mother and that in of itself was fulfilling.
Mom2Mom Global: Type in “military breastfeeding” on Google and see what comes up! That is how I came across M2MG. There is a “Volunteer” tab option, and in that some volunteer positions. So began my journey with M2MG. Now, I am the Outreach Director for both Mom2Mom Global and Breastfeeding in Combat Boots. I am amazed at the type of work we do. It is not easy, nothing ever is. But one word rings true in this work: empowerment. These ladies work hard to provide and support two things we are most entrenched in: breastfeeding and the military. I continue to learn more and more each day from the work we do. My advice is always: Remember knowledge is power, where there is a will there is a way. Don’t give up, even when the odds might seem completely against you. Breastfeeding is not always easy, but meeting your goals and being part of the military breastfeeding community will empower you in ways you can't even imagine!
February 21, 2018 began a brand new breastfeeding journey for me - my son was born at 0109 and latched within an hour of birth. I thought we were golden!
When I became a Certified Lactation Counselor(CLC) in October 2016, my daughter was just over a year and still nursing. We were pretty established on our journey so I didn’t feel I could really put my new CLC knowledge to use personally. Of course, I helped other new mommas within Mom2Mom KMC, but I so badly wanted to see how things would go breastfeeding a new baby now that I had all this information in my head.
When I became pregnant in May 2017, I was super EXCITED! Yes, I was having a baby and I was excited about that BUT I really just wanted to breastfeed again. It felt like a long pregnancy -- I saw so many new mommas and veteran mommas with their nurslings and I wanted to be back in that spot again…I didn't think my son would ever join the world!
Well of course it did end with a cute little nursling ready to go...or so I thought.
Not much about my labor and delivery was how I planned, so I'm not sure why I thought nursing would go the way I had it planned out in my head. My water broke on the 20th at 8 AM, I went 12 hours without a single contraction, before having to be induced. I wanted to labor at home - that didn't happen. I wanted my Doula to be in the delivery to help me labor ...my son had other plans and pretty much flew out before my husband could send her a message. Active labor was in full swing after an hour of pitocin, my sweet nurse checked me and I was 5 cm dilated. Honestly, I feel like when she checked me she encouraged things along -- I instantly felt this strong feeling and urge to push. She checked me again within minutes and said we were ready to go. Very soon after, my son was cuddling up into my arms and I was completely in love.
I had seen the breastcrawl video, and so badly wanted my little guy to do the same. He lay on my chest and I waited, but the nurses were getting a bit antsy and it was closing in on an hour so after their second offer to help me latch baby, I said I'd put him to the breast.
My new nursling took to the breast and wanted to be there often BUT he just wasn’t nursing well. The first nursing session went well enough and he knocked out soon after. But once we got to the Mother & Baby Unit it really wasn't a fantastic time. I was in pain! I could see that he’d nibble his way onto my nipple and stay there. He wouldn’t open wide or bring his head far back to get a good latch. My first thought was “I’m a CLC, I should be able to fix this. How do I fix this?” I tried a few different positions. He did better but I was still hurting. I could feel he wasn’t getting a good seal but in that moment I couldn't figure out how to fix it. We were both getting frustrated while I tried to scramble through my knowledge under the haze of exhaustion from labor, delivery, and new motherhood.
Two of my closest friends reached out once I told them my little man had arrived and we were excitedly texting each other. These two ladies are also lactation professionals and nursing mothers so one of the first questions was “How’s breastfeeding going?” My immediate response was “Great! He’s nursing like a champ.” But he wasn't. I was a bit embarrassed to say he was hurting me and I didn’t know how to fix it. I should’ve known how to make it better, right?!
After my first day of discomfort, I finally got a little nap in, woke a bit refreshed and decided I can't let my pride get the better of me. Yes, I am knowledgeable. Even if I wasn't a CLC, I had nursed successfully before -- I knew what a good latch felt like. This wasn't it. I knew I couldn't rightfully tell other new mommas to reach out without hesitation if I couldn't do it myself.
By chance, another friend and lactation professional, sent me a message about setting up a meeting. Amy Barron Smolinskididn't know I had just given birth, but I immediately thought this was the perfect opportunity to ask for help. I knew I could ask my friends but I needed "eyes on" and they had little nurslings to tend to (plus I was still a bit embarrassed to admit I needed help).
So I told Amy I'd had my little guy but that he was not breastfeeding very well. There was no judgment in her response. Deep down I knew there wouldn't be, but again...pride. Without hesitation she came to see me bright and early the next morning. She watched us nurse, gave suggestions, made some adjustments and I felt an instant sense of relief. There wasn't this 100% pain relief, I was tender and sore, but I felt a bit more confident about what I could do. She completely understood that in that moment, I was a new mother, exhausted and doing my best.
After she left, I felt ten times better. I didn't feel so frazzled or inadequate. I could actually see my baby nursing successfully at the breast. We're 6 months strong right now, but it's come with it's own set of ups and downs. That's a story for another day. But what I do know is asking for help is what I needed to do and I don't regret it at all. It guided us and helped to set us on the right breastfeeding path.
I am no longer shy about asking for help -- my friends can attest to that! Once I gave myself permission to ask for help and know it's okay to do so, I knew it was the best thing.
Mommas, if you need help - ask for help. Just because you may be a lactation professional, medical professional, veteran mother who's nursed multiple babies, etc; it doesn't make you invincible or all knowing. Sometimes we need to take a step back, let someone else be our eyes for a few minutes and take breath.
It's okay to ask for help. Give yourself permission to ask for help. Mom2Mom prides itself in providing peer support and assistance provided by Peer Mentors and lactation professionals -- take advantage of that. As a mother and CLC I want to help others so their breastfeeding journey is everything they dreamed of. Let us help you.
Is your breastfeeding journey everything you thought it would be? Do you need help? Have you asked for help? If so, how did it go and how do you feel about your experience? I want to hear from you.
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 new policy that resulted from that legislation. This is a joint post with our sister organization Breastfeeding in Combat Boots and MomsRising.org.
The DOD has released , 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.
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.
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
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.
Amy Barron Smolinski, MA, ALC, CLC is the Executive Director of Mom2Mom Global, an international breastfeeding peer support organization that seeks to address the unique needs of breastfeeding families in the U.S. military. She is the wife of an Army Reservist, and the mother of four breastfed children.