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NEWS | Aug. 29, 2018

Breastfeeding Awareness Month: Pumping up mothers’ rights

By Senior Airman Tenley Long 628th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In addition to serving in the military, some women in uniform have a second job as a full-time mother. Becoming a new mother can add new obstacles to those who work away from their baby, one of those being breastfeeding.

August marks National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. This month serves as an avenue to get conversations going and information out about breastfeeding.

“For mothers, the immediate effects of breastfeeding include reduced risk of hemorrhage after delivery, stress reduction, delay in ovulation, reduced blood pressure, reduced risk of postpartum depression and greater postpartum weight loss,” explained Nikki Conley, Joint Base Charleston’s Health and Wellness Center manager. “Long term effects include reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers, as well as reduced risk of hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.”

While it may not be easy to be a nursing mother serving, fortunately, the military supports and accommodates those to best of their abilities.

“The military has progressed a lot with breastfeeding in the workplace,” said Master Sgt. Mareshah Dickens, a nursing mother stationed at Joint Base Charleston. “I see more in the news about trying to support moms who make this choice. It’s progressing fast, and I’m seeing it in a lot of military facilities with mom pods or nursing rooms.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private place where a mother can express breast milk. Many squadrons here have designated breastfeeding rooms, and Dickens helped enhance the breastfeeding environment in her workplace by establishing a room for the mothers in her building.

“I feel you shouldn’t have to choose between your job and how you choose to feed your child,” Dickens explained. “You should be able to do both, if that’s what you want to do. I wanted to support people in doing that by providing options. I wanted a place that was comfortable where mothers felt they could go pump.”

Whether a mother chooses to breastfeed her child or feed by formula, having a supportive workforce is key.

“You have to try to balance your work duties with the responsibilities you have to your kids,” Dickens said. “I would encourage coworkers who have nursing mothers to try to learn as much as they can about it and support that mother in the way they need. Mothers can do both, and do it well, they just need the support of their team.”

One of those support resources is a “Mother to Mother” support group run by Cesta Ford and Trisha Bennett, both 628th Medical Group new parent support and family advocacy nurses. The group meets the second and fourth Thursday of every month for the Air Force base and the first and third Thursday of every month for the Weapons Station. For more information please call (843) 963-6615.

“The Mother to Mother support group is a great avenue for moms to connect with each other and get the help they need for the obstacles that comes along with being a parent,” explained Ford. “Although we do support mothers who choose not to breastfeed, we provide a lactation specialist for our nursing moms. In addition, we introduce different things available to them like a postpartum depression counselling, nutrients, and mommy and me yoga.”

In addition to this group, Tricare provides breastfeeding counseling and breast pumps. New or expectant mothers can contact their doctor for more information on prescriptions and reimbursements. 

“Breastfeeding support in the workplace makes a difference to working parents,” Conley added. “Be supportive of the mother who needs time and flexibility to breastfeed. Encourage new mothers with a positive accepting attitude and recognize that the months after having a baby are special. We can all help make society breastfeeding friendly.”