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Air Force mandates dedicated space for nursing mothers

U.S. Air Force graphic by Alexx Pons

U.S. Air Force graphic by Alexx Pons

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) -- A new lactation policy, released in an Air Force Guidance Memorandum dated Aug. 15, requires units to provide nursing mothers access to a lactation room.

The policy enables commanders to support nursing mothers by outlining procedures and requirements for establishing a private, secure (lockable from the inside) and sanitary location for the purpose of breastfeeding and/or expressing breast milk.

“This policy gap came to our attention from the grassroots level. Our job here is to do what we can to make it easier for Airmen to serve,” said Christy Nolta, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for reserve affairs and Airman readiness. “Women shouldn’t feel like they must choose between serving and being a mother. A small policy tweak can actually make a difference to our Airmen. It adds up, improves quality of life and supports retention efforts across the service. We remain really focused on breaking more barriers to make continuing to serve an easy choice.”

A lactation room, comparable to a break room, should be a comfortable and welcoming place for nursing mothers. According to the policy, lactation rooms will be located in the immediate vicinity of the workplace and will include a table, a place to sit, electrical outlets and have comfortable temperatures and adequate lighting. The rooms are also required to be near a source of hot and cold water for handwashing and sanitizing breast pumps and parts.

“We received a lot of feedback from nursing mothers about having to pump or nurse in less than ideal facilities,” said Maj. Alea Nadeem, Air Force Women’s Initiative Team chief. “They were having to pump in bathrooms, locker rooms and borrowed offices, and this sometimes discourages new mothers from continuing to express milk.”

The policy also provides guidance for lactation breaks. Supervisors will provide nursing mothers, both military and civilian, with reasonable lactation breaks for at least one year postpartum. According to AFI 44-102, Medical Care Management, supervisors should allow 15-30 minutes every 3-4 hours to pump breast milk.

“The Air Force Women’s Initiative Team works to remove barriers through policy for Airmen so they can continue to serve successfully and use common sense approaches to outdated policies,” Nadeem said.

For more information visit https://static.e-publishing.af.mil/production/1/af_a1/publication/afgm2019-36-02/afgm2019-36-02.pdf.