Military parents foot the bill to ship breast milk to their infants. It’s about to change.
When Air Force Meteorological Officer Major Jenna Waites was preparing for Army Command and General Staff College in Kansas earlier this year, the nursing mother was faced with a dilemma: how to feed your baby while he is away for 10 days.
His solution was to ship a 45-pound case of breast milk – enough for 14 days – at a cost of almost $ 500.
In fact, many military moms have to ship milk while on temporary duty because they don’t have enough at home to feed the baby while they are away. The only way for them to make sure it stays frozen is to send it by express mail.
But that cost “just isn’t achievable for many parents new to the military,” Waites said in a press release Wednesday. “When I was a young second lieutenant, non-refundable mailings totaling hundreds of dollars would have been barely affordable for me.
Support arrives, thanks to a group of volunteers from the Air Force Department’s Women’s Initiatives team. The effort also included representatives from across the Defense Department.
The team lobbied to update military travel regulations so that parents can be reimbursed for the cost of sending breast milk while the mother is separated from her baby. A policy change is slated for January 2022, the Air Force said in the statement.
The move would be an upgrade from current policies, which provide breastfeeding parents with a safe place to express and store their breastmilk, and cover the costs of a breast pump and other breastfeeding supplies until. at three years after the birth of a child.
On average, nearly a fifth of all active duty Airmen depart on temporary duty orders within one year of their baby’s birth, according to the Women’s Initiative Team. Female officers also cited the stress of trying to constantly breastfeed their child while balancing their careers as the reason they left the military.
Stopping breastfeeding altogether can have a mental and emotional impact on new parents and can lead to a higher incidence of certain health problems like cancer and diabetes. Paying for formula or shipping breast milk also has its own costs.
“With a formal amendment to the [Joint Travel Regulations], new parents who insist on how they are going to be successful in feeding their child during formal orders can take financial costs off their list of worries, ”said Waites, whose LinkedIn page shows she has been in Fort Leavenworth for. June. “For many parents, breastfeeding is the most cost-effective and healthiest way to feed their babies, but that assumes that mother and baby are never separated.”
The Breast Milk Childbirth Reimbursement is the latest in a series of updates aimed at improving the quality of life for military parents, especially women. Women aviators make up about 20 percent of the Air Force’s uniformed service members.
Other changes include increasing maternity leave to 12 weeks and waiting a year after childbirth before requiring a new mother to be deployed or pass a physical fitness test. New mothers also have 12 months after childbirth to decide to leave the Air Force. The service now requires nursing mothers to have access to a refrigerator at work to store breast milk, as well as private, lockable breastfeeding areas with hot and cold water and electrical outlets.
“Many women choose to continue breastfeeding after they return to work,” said Christy Nolta, Assistant Under Secretary of the Air Force for Reserve Affairs and Airmen Readiness, in a press release last year. . “We need to do what we can to support this choice, which makes it easier for breastfeeding mothers to continue serving. Such changes help prepare and improve the quality of life for our military personnel and their families.
Rachel Cohen joined the Air Force Times as a senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has been featured in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), The Washington Post and others. .