Being a military family comes with unique challenges. From relocation, individual spouse deployments, and the odd hours required to train and study, military families must find individual solutions to a variety of things that many families take for granted.
For military families who are breastfeeding, there can be an even more complex series of considerations regarding feeding routines, available resources, and insurance, not to mention the overall acceptance of breastfeeding in a military environment. So, starting the conversation around normalizing breastfeeding for those living on or off base is a crucial first step.
By the nature of their jobs and lives, military men and women are tough, plus that “no complaining” nature can sometimes make it more difficult to discuss family and maternity health needs. While significant strides have been taken over the years to bring family issues and military mothers to the forefront of the conversation, there is more to do in providing education, resources, and information readily accessible to parents – especially mothers.
An informed mom is an empowered mom. Thankfully, there are many resources available that can help the entire family throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. And because about 85% of military members are male, a significant number of women will face the challenges of motherhood alone while their husbands are deployed or training.
Tools such as a lactation support directory provide moms with a convenient way to find local lactation professionals and groups who can provide support in a way that meets each family’s unique needs, and provide a community of other moms for support.
But even with all the challenges, there is undeniable research that shows breastfeeding is beneficial for both mom and baby. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services website www.womenshealth.gov, the cells, hormones, and antibodies in breastmilk help protect babies from illness. This protection is unique, and can lower the risk of asthma, obesity, ear infections, diarrhea, and vomiting and SIDS in babies.
Another useful tool is a breast pump, which can alleviate stress by allowing Mom to express breast milk at various points of the day. For military moms going back to work, this flexibility is important to allow them to train, attend meetings, and even be deployed for very short periods of time, all without significantly disrupting the child’s feeding schedule. A breast pump also allows returning fathers one-on-one bonding time with baby during feedings.
And of course, there are the nuances of insurance coverage. Many military families rely upon Tricare, which provides certain breast pumps to families at no cost. But there are still many steps to take in that process, including filling out prescription forms, understanding which pumps are available, and most importantly – identify the pump that is right for them. Breast pump suppliers such as Aeroflow Breastpumps who are familiar with Tricare and their policies can help military moms each step of the way.
For the military family, life will always be a bit different – and often more challenging – than civilian life. Since breastfeeding is new to many parents, and each body and child are so unique and different, understanding what’s available to mothers and how to find the best information and pump for you, could be a key difference maker in raising your child.
Jennifer Jordan is the Director of Mom & Baby at Aeroflow Healthcare (https://aeroflowbreastpumps.com/), a durable medical equipment provider that has provided breast pumps through insurance to hundreds of thousands of women. Jennifer and her team works directly with new and expecting moms to support their breastfeeding.