Updated: May 30, 2019
NOTE: This was a private event that was neither sponsored nor sanctioned by JBMDL, the Department of Defense, or any branch of the Armed Forces.
Just in time for #WorldBreastfeedingWeek 2018, the United States can finally say that all 50 states protect a woman's right to breastfeed in public without being discriminated against. While these laws still need to be improved and American women need much more breastfeeding support, this is a huge step forward! While you can read my opinions on these laws over at Little Bear Lactation Blog, I do want to say how excited I am that we are supporting mothers to nurse freely.
Anyway, this exciting step forward is what inspired me to set these photos at the #JBMDL flag circle inside the McGuire gate. Each state and US Territory is represented here.
In celebration of #WorldBreastfeedingWeek and #BreastfeedingAwarenessMonth, I gathered some moms from Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst to help raise money for Mom2MomGlobal, an international #breastfeedingsupport group for military families!
Military families often face unique circumstances that make breastfeeding especially challenging. Active Duty mothers, in particular, deal with a lot of challenges reaching their breastfeeding goals. The military is making strides in supporting these mothers. Each branch has special policies in place to protect Breastfeeding mothers. The Air Force, in particular, has very progressive policies to support mothers. You can learn more about support for Active Duty Breastfeeders at Breastfeeding In Combat Boots. Unfortunately, despite the amazing steps forward, many mothers still face disparities and dare I say, discrimination. Some of the personal stories that have been shared with me privately are heartbreaking. Thankfully, with advocacy and support we are moving forward and taking huge steps toward changing the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, I did not have any Active Duty mothers participate in today's session, so I don't have any challenges or triumph stories to share with you.
Furthermore, Active Duty mothers aren't the only ones in the military community struggling with breastfeeding. Mothers who are civilian dependents also have unique circumstances... While many of these issues do apply to the general public, I have seen them amplified in military communities I have been a part of.
1. Lack of Familial Support
Many families in the military are miles, states, or even a hemisphere away from their family and friends. They lack that intimate support network that can be so important for transitioning to motherhood, healing from birth, and establishing breastfeeding.
Additionally, some families welcome their baby while one parent is deployed or otherwise assigned away from the family. We all know how vital partner support is in reaching breastfeeding goals. Without her partner present, and depending on the rest of her support network, a mother may face some serious challenges in the early days with a newborn.
Military-affiliated mothers who face these circumstances but press on are the epitome of military family resilience.
2. Lack of Professional Support
Breastfeeding isn't the priority of the military. While our leaders are learning how important it is to support breastfeeding and families, the bottom line is the mission comes first. This means money is allocated to the mission before it is allocated to breastfeeding support.
There are some IBCLCs that are employed by our government to serve military families. There are also programs through Family Advocacy centers that provide breastfeeding education and support for families. But it's rarely enough. We have one nurse who specializes in breastfeeding (among other things) at our base.... a large joint base with all 4 military branches, and I have no idea how many families that are welcoming babies year round... but I can tell you it is a lot. There is no way she can single handedly service all of these families with all of their needs.
Sure, there are pediatricians on base. But pediatricians are not always up to date on the most recent research regarding lactation. Pediatricians are knowledgable and often a wonderful resource, but most simply are not lactation specialists.
So in an area like ours, that might be okay. We live in New Jersey where there are many hospitals with lactation consultants. There are even a few private practice IBCLCs.
But what about areas like our last duty station? There was no specific lactation support on base that I was aware of, and our town only had one IBCLC... for the entire TOWN. And she wore many hats. No way she can possibly serve every mother of that city! The next closest IBCLC was at least an hour drive away, if not more.
There are many, many remote locations in the military where families lack adequate breastfeeding support resources. While lactation support and supplies are covered by Tricare, they just might not be reasonably accessible .
We need to do better for our babies, our mothers, and our country. I can't expect the government to allocate money specifically for better breastfeeding support for military families, but it sure would be nice, wouldn't!? But this is why it is so important to educate families... because each other is all we have. We need mothers to be able to support other mothers with accurate information (which is why education and support encouraged and advocated for by World Breastfeeding Week/Breastfeeding Awareness Month is so important). We need programs like Mom2MomGlobal to expand and be able to supplement the support that our mothers and babies and.. well... families so desperately need.
If you have personally benefited from support while navigating breastfeeding, whether it was from a family member, friend, professional, volunteer... whoever... Please consider donating to a support network that helps families like mine.
My location does not currently have a Mom2MomGlobal chapter that I am aware of, and hopefully, after the New Year, once we welcome our new Little Bear, I will be able to facilitate starting such a chapter... but until then, I want to help Mom2MomGlobal grow and reach #militaryfamilies around the world.
Click Here to donate to Mom2MomGlobal.
If you would like to participate in a group future group session, contact me to be added to an email list for updates on Breastfeeding Sessions!
Now serving the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst area, Moorestown, Cherry Hill, Burlington, Bordentown, Princeton, Tom's River, and other areas in Central Jersey and South Jersey!