Breastfeeding in the Coast Guard

The Coast Guard recognizes the importance and benefits of breastfeeding and the fact that many women will return to work with the desire to continue nursing. There are policies in place to support new parents and allow for an easy transition back to the workforce.

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Lt. Kelley Berry and Petty Officer 1st Class Meredith Manning breastfeed their babies during World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, 2019. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Crystalynn Kneen
Lt. Kelley Berry and Petty Officer 1st Class Meredith Manning breastfeed their babies during World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, 2019. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Crystalynn Kneen

The Coast Guard recognizes the importance and benefits of breastfeeding and the fact that many women will return to work with the desire to continue nursing. There are policies in place to support new parents and allow for an easy transition back to the workforce.

Quick facts:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding alongside introduction of complementary foods for at least 1 year.
  • Most active duty moms return to work when their baby is less than 3 months old, making pumping during the work day a priority for those who breastfeed.
  • Infants who are breastfed have reduced risks of asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breastfeeding can also help lower a mother’s risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and ovarian and breast cancer.

In the Coast Guard members should be allowed a flexible schedule for pumping, within the limits of mission requirements. Requests to breastfeed infants during duty hours should be handled on a case-by-case basis.

According to the Business Case for Breastfeedingit usually takes around 15-20 minutes to pump breast milk, plus prep and breakdown time, for a total of about 30 minutes every 2-3 hours. Although uncommon, some women may need additional time.

ACN 056/19states that for one year immediately following the birth or adoption of a child, all service members are permitted to use a flexible work schedule at the discretion of the Commanding Officer/Officer-in-Charge.

The FWS program allows civilian and military members to determine their own schedule within management designated core hours and flexible hour time periods.

Refer to Alternative Work Schedule AWS for Coast Guard Civilian and Military Members, COMDTINST 5330.10for additional guidance on and examples of flexible work schedules.

In addition to appropriate schedule flexibility, mothers need access to an adequate lactation room during work hours.

Commands should provide a lactation facility with:

  • appropriate privacy- when space is limited, a multi-purpose room (i.e. duty room), stateroom, or berthing area may be used as long as privacy can be assured for the time required.
  • a comfortable place to sit
  • a table
  • an electrical outlet
  • close proximity to a water source for washing hands and rinsing equipment
  • cool storage- access to refrigeration is ideal, however if no refrigerator space is available, the service member will supply cold packs for storing milk. Access to a freezer compartment is necessary if the workday extends beyond 12 hours. Breast milk should be contained and labeled by the service member to avoid contamination by other items located in the vicinity.

Members who travel frequently for work, should be provided the location of lactation facilities at visiting units prior to travel. Members at units that do not have a designated lactation facility should discuss this with their supervisor.

Traveling members can also utilize the newly developedBreast Milk Shipment Expensereimbursement program. Coast Guard Mutual Assistancecreated the to provide financial assistance to members who are faced with out of pocket costs for the shipment of breast milk while TDY, underway or traveling on government business or permissive orders. Active Duty, Reservists, Spouses of Active Duty, Reservists and CG Civilian Employees traveling in support of their job, are all eligible for this reim­bursement up to $750 per calendar year per family. There is no limit on the number of shipments.

The stress and time consumption of a new baby can be a lot on a member. When you add the adjustment period of returning to work and having to pump to keep milk supply up, having an informed command is necessary.

The recent Women’s Retention Study and Holistic Analysisprovided recommendations to assist in communicating initiatives that are intended to address concerns that affect the total workforce. This includes concerns for the member’s personal life when starting and/or expanding a family.

To assist Coast Guard members who are new parents or expanding their family, the Health, Safety and Work-Life Directorate (CG-11) teamed with the Office of Diversity & Inclusion (CG-127) created the Coast Guard Pregnancy & New Parent Resource Guide.

This guide can be found under “Family Support” at: https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Human-Resources-CG-1/Health-Safety-and-Work-Life-CG-11/Office-of-Work-Life-CG-111/Parent-Resources/ 

While not all-inclusive, this guide will serve as a reference for the entire Coast Guard workforce and their families. The policies and resources described in this guide, for Commands and members, are designed to ensure the health and well-being of expectant and new parents as they navigate pregnancy and parenting. It is our duty to ensure our members are taken care of before, during, and after the birth or adoption of a child and ensure they return to work fully mission capable and prepared.

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