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NEWS | Aug. 17, 2016

Liquid Gold: Protecting a Mother’s Right to Breastfeed

By Ms. Brenda Edmond 628th Medical Group

As many are aware, Fort Knox is the home of the United States gold reserves.  Did you know the estimated worth of the gold housed at Fort Knox is worth 261.6 billion dollars?  It's no wonder we take such momentous precautions to ensure the safety and security of our nation's gold! 

Fort Knox is believed to be the most secure vault in the world. Four-foot thick granite encloses the walls of the depository, fire proof blackened windows, and floors are made of blast proof materials. The foundation has several layers of cement with 10 feet of solid granite on top.  At every corner, surveillance cameras monitor the depository. Security guards armed with submachine guns are located at the ground level, and if you thought that wasn't enough, the depository has several layers of internal defenses that make Fort Knox virtually impenetrable! 

Considering the amount of protection that is devoted to ensuring the safety of one of our country's most valuable resources, I pondered as a mother of four who nursed all of my children, two while in uniform, and how valuable that resource was to me. 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 77 percent of all infants start out breastfeeding and almost half of breastfeeding moms continue to do so for at least the first six months. 

These statistics are great news for the health of our country since breastfed babies have lower risks of an ear, respiratory, and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes, and obesity.  Mothers who breastfeed lose pregnancy weight faster, have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancer. 

Despite the recommendations and benefits of breastfeeding, it remains a mother's choice, but with the many challenges that a breastfeeding mother faces, how is she to protect her liquid gold? 

Breastfeeding poses several physical challenges, the need to pump and store milk, and the time demands, it can certainly be discouraging for many breastfeeding moms.  On a personal note, I recall returning to work postpartum after my third child. 

The craziness of trying to do my job, finding the time, and location to pump was frustrating, to say the least.  I often resorted to moving from one office to the next, whichever was available.   I can't tell you the number of times unknowing colleagues walked into the room causing a moment of embarrassment for us both. 

Not surprisingly a recent study shows that more than half of women who return to work postpartum and try to continue breastfeeding found it challenging.  In fact, only 40% of women had access to both break time and a private space for expressing milk, despite federal laws.

Are you aware of the guidance on this issue? August is National Breastfeeding Awareness month, so there's no better time than now to become educated on this subject.   Air Force Instruction 44-102 recommends that supervisors of AF members who are breastfeeding work with the member to arrange their work schedules to allow 15-30 minutes every 3-4 hours to pump breast milk in a room or an area that provides adequate privacy and cleanliness.  It further states that restrooms should not be considered an appropriate location for pumping. 

Navy guidance, BUMED Instruction 6000.14, is very similar.  The regulation states how servicewomen who continue to breastfeed upon return to duty will be, at a minimum, afforded the availability of a clean, secluded space with ready access to a water source and other amenities for the purpose of pumping breast milk.  A toilet area is considered unacceptable space, due to sanitation concerns. 

Navy commands must ensure breastfeeding servicewomen are afforded access to cool storage for expressed breast milk.  As a military community, we are charged to support our service members who choose to breastfeed while in uniform.  In Family Advocacy, we offer support groups and classes to help nursing mothers.  For more information about our services, or to register for a class, please call 843-963-6504 (AB) or 843-794-7435 (WS).  Let's all help protect a mother's liquid gold!