Pumping in Combat Boots
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Decisions after maternity leave
My last article went over pregnancy in the Army, you can find it here: pregnant-in-boots. We all know that once the baby is born, you are committed to a lifetime of care, love and yes, discipline. I wrote that I have a 13 year old, which means 13 years ago, I had to return to work after maternity leave. Now here is the interesting part, what if you decide to breastfeed your baby? Now this leads to a whole level of craziness because 13 years ago, we didn’t have the facilities that we have now. There were many times I would pump, while sitting on a chair in the bathroom, because dedicated rooms were simply not a thing. I would then put the bottles in the fridge and listen to the dumb ass comments about it being gross and so on, which I truly just brushed off my shoulder like whatever. People are idiotic when it comes to breastmilk and it being near their food, like it’s going to grow legs and infect their food, seriously, grow up. Breastfeeding and pumping obviously were not new, but the military had not truly accepted it as a commonplace thing. They couldn’t tell me that I couldn’t pump for my baby, but you sure as hell better believe that they didn’t help me either. It was a constant struggle for explaining why I would be in the bathroom for a half hour, every 3 hours. After a while, I would just get graphic and then they would leave me alone, just food for thought.
Some babies are naturals…
Fast-forward 10 years or so, to now. When I had my son Wyatt, I was dedicated to pumping and continuing breastfeeding. Luckily I was able to do it for 18 months, which is a major accomplishment for me, and I will tell you it is absolutely a lot of work. If you read my last article, you know that I worked in an office. I made sure that my battle buddies as well as my leadership knew my intentions. They all knew that I was still breastfeeding and would need to pump. I had a great team of people who worked with me and supported me all the way. Hell sometimes I would sit in the office, and pump while they worked, it just didn’t faze us. I guess that means we are grownups around here.
The Army, and military as a whole, has a new policy regarding this now. You can find the link here, lactaction memo. This policy has drastically changed the way the Army views female Soldiers who choose to breastfeed after maternity leave. Oh and let me begin by saying, you now get 12 weeks of maternity leave. What, hell yea it’s a thing now, so enjoy that baby bonding time. Anyhoo, I was afforded the opportunity to use the office whenever necessary, or to use my boss’s office for privacy while pumping, because Army policy now states that “the gross bathroom is no longer an option for pumping”, oh thank god. Finally, they have realized that not only is this milk for my baby, but this area is simply not appropriate for this. I am an oddball though, and I would pump in my car, because I have the DVD screen, so I got to watch movies while I pumped. With that being said, I think I may have every single line of the TROLLS movie memorized now. I would pump, and then eat whatever snack I had brought out and go back to work after about 20 minutes or so. I will say that for the first month or so after maternity leave, people would come up to my car to talk to me, and then realize what I was doing, and get all embarrassed. It didn’t take long for people to realize that when I am in my car, don’t walk near it. Literally people would walk two cars down and then wave when they walked in front, it was hilarious. What I want and need you to realize is, that sometimes pumping may take more than the 10 minutes and cannot be rushed, so while I am not advocating for abusing this, what I am saying is that don’t rush baby milk. A lot of women get frustrated with pumping because they are rushed and quit when really they should just relax and let nature take its course. If you have leadership that does not understand this, I will tell you that the link above is your saving grace, use it sparingly though, because you don’t want to be the one who abuses the system and ruins it for the next person.
Cold milk, anyone?
So not only do you need a clean, quiet space, now you must have somewhere to put it. This means there had better be a fridge that can handle it. I love it when leadership says there isn’t one, which I find funny because that monster they are drinking sure seems cold. Regardless, talk to your chain of command, because I can promise you, they have the ability to buy a fridge with unit funds if they don’t already have one.
Oh and I forgot, one of the most important things that is required for pumping is a pump. Well ladies, TRICARE will cover the purchase of a pump. Shut the front door, seriously, yep, I sure am. As long as you get a prescription from your doctor for one, TRICARE will cover it. All you have to do is express to your provider that you want to pump and they can put it in for you.
Now for the tough news, you do have the ability to continue to breastfeed, however, you are still eligible for field exercises, and deployment. During the field exercise, they must be afforded the time and space to pump if they wish to do so. Here is the sad part though, if you cannot get the milk back to your baby, you will have to discard it. Yes I know, you must dump liquid gold, something that has proven to help sick babies all over the world, but sometimes we must do whatever we have to do to continue this journey and ladies it is a journey.
The military has come a looooong way in regards to breastfeeding while in combat boots, and because I have utilized it, I know it works. If you have another story or theory by all means let me know in the comments. I truly do look forward to reading the comments.
When I began this journey into mom-dom, I had no clue what to expect, all I know is that I had to keep this tiny human alive. Here I am, 13 years later knowing more than I did, and a few more gray hairs. Even with saying that, I would love to share with you what I have learned along the way. I would like to show you what over a decade of experience and phone calls at 2am will teach you. You can check out my book here at the low price of $5.99. Before you go, let me ask you, how much is piece of mind worth?