Department of the Air Force Enhances Support to Nursing Mothers

The Department of the Air Force recently beefed up its support for its uniformed and civilian USAF and Space Force personnel who breastfeed. 

A recent memo, which updates USAF’s lactation policy introduced last year, immediately requires unit commanders to set aside “a private area” where nursing mothers can pump and properly store breast milk, a Sept. 17 release about the measure said.  

“The room may be temporary or permanent, depending on needs and availability,” the release stated. “Lactation rooms must be private, lockable from the inside, sanitary, and have access to refrigeration, hot and cold water, and electrical outlets.”

The nursing mother’s room located in the Hartinger building on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., also known as Building One and currently home to many U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command personnel, is one example of how USAF and the Space Force support working mothers. Photo: 2nd Lt. Idalí Beltré Acevedo/Space Force

The updated guidance also requires commanders and bosses to ensure these women are given lactation breaks that are actually long enough for them to get the job done. 

“The duration of the lactation break varies, including the time to express breast milk, (which depends on the age of the infant, the amount of milk produced, a stress-free environment, quality of pump, etc.), as well as the distance the lactation room is from the work area, the convenience of water and refrigeration sources, and cleaning supplies,” the memo states.

This is significant because, as Lt. Col. Jeanette Anderson, an Air Force Surgeon General perinatal nursing consultant and member of the Air Force Women’s Initiative Team noted in the release, “the amount of time needed to produce breastmilk varies from woman to woman.”

A nursing mother assigned to U.S. Space Command uses resources located in the private nursing mother’s room in Building 1 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on Sept. 11, 2020. Photo by 2nd Lt. Idalí Beltré Acevedo/Space Force

The Air Force release praised the team—who it said consolidated feedback from the field about last year’s policy, “consulted with experts, and routed recommendations”—for championing the update. 

“Many women choose to continue breastfeeding after they return to work,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Reserve Affairs and Airman Readiness Christy Nolta in the release. “We should do what we can to support that choice, making it easier for nursing moms to continue to serve. Changes like these contribute to readiness and improve quality of life for our service members and their families.”

The updated guidance will expire on Aug. 15, 2021, or as soon as its directives become part of an Air Force Instruction, whichever happens sooner, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs John A. Fedrigo noted in the memo.