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Minnesota National Guard
Red Bull moms take care of business

Breastfeeding JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Washington - Being a mom is a big responsibility. Being a National Guard Soldier on top of that can be even more difficult. But, thanks to a new Army policy, new moms can still provide for their babies while away for training.

For two new moms from the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division headquarters, their two-week annual training period couldn't come at a more difficult time. They were nursing mothers and the Soldiers based out of Rosemount, Minnesota, were scheduled to attend the Yama Sakura command post exercise at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, beginning in early December, halfway across the country. So the new moms packed up their breast pumps and set out to take care of business.

Sgt. Kristen Jones is an information technology sergeant and mom to a six-month-old son named Brentley. She was nervous when she found out she was going to have to leave for annual training when her son was still so little. She wasn't sure whether she would have to quit breastfeeding or if she would receive the support she needed in order to pump while away.

"As soon as I had the baby and came back to drill, I knew immediately that I was going to have support," said the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, native. "Everyone in my section was so supportive. I'm in a section with a bunch of guys. I know some of them may feel a little awkward, but they still helped to find a place for me and make sure I had time to pump."

"I decided to breastfeed because it's cheaper than formula and it was convenient," said Jones. "After I started breastfeeding, I really began to bond with my baby and couldn't compare it to anything else. I'm glad I could keep up with it while we were here."

When asked what advice she would share with other new moms, Jones said to make sure to know the policy. She also said that Soldiers need to be open with leadership and not to be afraid to ask for help.

To help support new moms, the Army released a new policy effective September 2015. According to the Army's breastfeeding and lactation support policy, Soldiers who choose to breastfeed will have full support from their command to express milk during the duty day.

One of the requirements of this new policy includes designating a private space with the following criteria: It must be fully enclosed, have locking capabilities, have an electrical outlet, have access to a safe water source, and, must not be a bathroom stall.

In addition to a private space, commanders must provide time for Soldiers to express milk which can vary depending on a number of variables. Commanders and soldiers must balance lactation support with readiness, however.

Maj. Brandi DeGier, the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division protection plans officer who is also breastfeeding, said the key for successful implementation of this policy is educating leaders on why it's important. When she was a company commander, she led Soldiers who chose to breastfeed and said she always worked to get them the time and space needed. It was important to her to remain flexible for her Soldiers, to treat them fairly and recommends other commanders do the same.

Commanders who have questions about the new policy can review the policy here. DeGier said they should also research the topic in order to fully understand the needs of new mothers. One good source is the American Academy of Pediatrics that recommends mothers breastfeed for at least a year, exclusively for the first six months.

"I don't believe this policy is going to affect readiness," said DeGier, mother of 6-month-old Garrett and four-year-old Jeremy, Jr. "If anything, supporting this new policy willfully will actually increase readiness. Soldiers who feel like they are being taken care of are more likely to stay in the military."

If a commander sees this new policy as a hindrance to training, he or she is going to be perceived negatively, the Albany, Minnesota, native explained. Soldiers who feel like they have support are more likely to enjoy their time in the Guard and stay in longer.

"We are fortunate to have such supportive leaders," she said. "I've been very happy with the amount of support we've received, and I don't think the implementation of this policy is going to be an issue in the Minnesota National Guard."

December 11, 2015
by Master Sgt. Ashlee J. L. Sherrill
34th Infantry Division Public Affairs



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