This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.
This year’s theme for World Breastfeeding Week is that of Breastfeeding Support: Staying Close. For military moms this can be particularly difficult since much of their support (family, friends) is a long ways away. Support for military mothers from a wider circle is needed, and may be provided by lactation consultants, community leaders, friends who are also mothers, and/or from fathers/partners. But for many military mothers, that ‘Staying Close’ support comes in the form of Staying Connected via online support.
The only support some AD, Guard or Reserve breastfeeding moms have is that of a ‘voice’ at the other end of an email or text message, Tweet, FB post, Skype call or online support group. Far too often the military mom’s family is on the other side of the continent or world, their friends and co-workers work opposite shifts or weren’t successful at breastfeeding, and the local IBCLC works 9-5 and isn’t available when the AD mom finishes her 12 hour shift at 0000 hours. So she turns to the only help that is available 24/7: the internet.
Military moms who breastfeed are a distinct minority. Few AD military mothers plan to breastfeed at all, as most don’t think it is even possible (or have been actively discouraged from doing so by well-meaning friends, family, co-workers and healthcare personnel). Far fewer are successful at breastfeeding while serving in the military. Part of this can be attributed to male culture of the military, but more often it is due to the working conditions, deployments, lack of time and place to pump, and most importantly the lack of seeing or being around other breastfeeding women in the military.
Few high-ranking officers and senior enlisted breastfeed due to the need to make sacrifices required for attaining rank (which often involves not starting a family in the first place). Many job specialities/MOS’s are still heavily male-dominated, so a mother may be the only one breastfeeding at her entire command at any given time, making the lactation room a lonely place. There are very few in-person AD breastfeeding support groups due to the logistics of finding a time that most AD women can attend, personnel constantly moving in and out of the command, and a lack of command support. And finally, due to restrictions on breastfeeding in uniform, military mothers do not see other breastfeeding mothers at the Commissary, Medical or just around base/post. Attending a civilian breastfeeding support group, no matter how welcoming and open, is just not the same. Civilian breastfeeding mothers simply do not have the same concerns, issues or questions as their military counterparts. It is hard to vent about not being able to pump while out on the range for weapons qual when the only weapon a civilian mom has encountered is the one she sees in the movies….
All of the above can lead to a sense of isolation and a feeling of being the only to ever breastfeed in the military. This is where the Internet can be a boon to the military mother who is in need of support to continue breastfeeding. The online support that is available allows her to ask for help, vent, share triumphs and revel in the misery with others that understand what she is going through. Whether it is via Facebook, Twitter or this Blog…the support that the vast majority of AD military moms are looking for is online. Mothers serving in the military can log on at any time day or night to find information and read messages of support from virtual friends across the globe.
The BFinCB Facebook Page is a prime example: An Airman stationed at Elmendorf AFB in Alaska can ask a question about shipping her pumped milk home from 6 week technical school she must attend and get an answer within minutes from a Tech Sergeant stationed at Langley AFB in Virignia. A Petty Officer stationed in San Diego returning to duty at 6 weeks needing info on stockpiling her expressed milk receives feedback from other sailors stationed across the globe. A Sergeant in the Army who made it to a year of breastfeeding gets a huge round of congrats from other military mothers near and far when she posts about her accomplishment. And a Marine Captain struggling with her milk supply gets a large number of responses from moms in all branches about how to pump more effectively. Facebook, whether a Page or Group…is a virtual support group and a lifesaver for many military moms. I’ve been reduced to tears reading the Thank You’s posted on the BFinCB Page from moms who were on the brink of quitting, but found the support they so desperately needed when they reached out and posted a question or a plea for support and received it back a hundred-fold.
I couldn’t have done it without this Facebook page! It got me through many struggles and moments of wanting to give up. While pumping I would go to this Facebook page and communicate with other military moms going through the same struggles. Thank you! ~ Jennifer
Online support absolutely enabled me to successfully bf my daughter for 20 months. ~ Alyssa
Online support groups are so necessary because we nursing mothers are up at all hours and do need support and information at crazy hours. Even if we don’t connect directly with someone during those crazy hours, someone was there a few hours earlier or the night before asking a similar question so we can find answers we need. These kind of groups were absolutely instrumental to my breastfeeding success, especially as a working mother. ~ Kim
I am a first time, active duty Army, breastfeeding mother of a 9 month old who found this page early on in the breastfeeding experience. This page/resource has contributed greatly to my continued success at breastfeeding. Knowing that I’m not alone in the challenges I face and the support that is given by all the participants of this page is amazing. Thank you! ~ Denise
Informative posts on this Blog (and website) can pave the way for a mother to make the decision to breastfeed in the first place, or continue when she thought she might have to quit. Answers to such topics as HAZMAT exposure or the instructions for packaging expressed breastmilk to ship home from overseas are invaluable and found nowhere else. In addition, issues that are specific to the military are explored and awareness is raised as well. In one of the now more (in)famous posts, the issue of breastfeeding in uniform was discussed. For most civilians, the issue of what a mom is wearing while she breastfeeds would never even cross their minds….for military mothers it is an issue they deal with every single day when they pick their baby up from the Child Development Center or have a Well Baby exam at the clinic on base. This Blog has been a platform for demanding that the Department of Defense increase it’s support of breastfeeding when a grassroots campaign was launched (via this post) to support Senator Gillibrand’s effort to have a DOD-wide breastfeeding policy put into place. The number of letters and phone calls to the Senator would never have been possible without the use of the internet. Talk about online support!!
Everyone is on Twitter these days and Tweets are another way that military moms can stay on top of breastfeeding in the military news and updates or trumpet their success. BFinCB on Twitter adds one more layer of virtual support for our often far-flung military personnel (use the hashtags #BFinCB, #breastfeeding, #military). Email, texting and Skype round out the other ways that military mothers can find online support for breastfeeding while serving their country. Whether through traditional email or Private Message via Facebook, many mothers in the military can get a private answer from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Occasionally a problem presents itself that requires a visual medium and Skype fits the bill. A mother stationed in Guam can have a Skype consult with an IBCLC in Virginia and receive the help and she requires, meaning she won’t quit and her baby continues to receive her breastmilk which is so vitally important his health and well-being.
Support is integral to making breastfeeding successful, especially while on active duty, and online support is a critical part of that success. One way we can remain Close to our Military Mothers, and provide the breastfeeding support they need, is by helping them to Stay Connected. Staying Connected for military mothers might mean emailing family back home, staying in touch with co-workers from previous duty stations via Facebook, Skyping with an LC. It might mean emailing an LC, posting a question to the BFinCB Facebook Page, finding answers on this Blog, or Tweeting their 12 month anniversary of breastfeeding while serving in the military. Online support means providing the help our military mothers need, when they need it, and how they need it so that they are successful at breastfeeding.
How has online support been helpful to your success at breastfeeding? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Breastfeeding in Combat Boots is the only website and blog devoted entirely to supporting breastfeeding mothers who are currently serving in the military. It is run by Robyn Roche-Paull, BSN, RN, IBCLC and USN Veteran who successfully breastfed while on active duty. The mission of Breastfeeding in Combat Boots is to support AD, Reserve, Guard breastfeeding military moms by providing accurate, evidence-based information regarding breastfeeding while serving in the military. The vision of Breastfeeding in Combat Boots is for every military mother who desires to breastfeed or provide human milk to her child to have the resources necessary to meet her goals.
Breastfeeding in Combat Boots provides information and support via this Blog, on Twitter at BFinCB, through Facebook (which has nearly 5000 Fans around the world) and an award-winning book. Come join BFinCB and find the support YOU need to be successful or offer your encouragement to the military mothers who are Giving the Breast for Baby and Country.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:
(This list will be updated by afternoon August 1 with all the carnival links.)
- If You’re Worried About Your Kid Seeing Me Breastfeeding, You’re Doing It Wrong — Dionna at Code Name: Mama is living the breastfeeding-as-a-cultural-norm dream. She has first-hand experience that kids, teens & adults who see breastfeeding accept breastfeeding.
- Supporting Breastfeeding Online — Wendy at Breastfeeding Utah reaches out to birth and breastfeeding support professionals who are interested in knowing more about supporting their clients online.
- Breast Friends — Mama Bree, guest posting at San Diego Breastfeeding Center, shares a baby’s journey to blissful breastfeeding with a little help.
- World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Online Breastfeeding Support — Other than buying and reading up on books, Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy finds that it is useful to read up on other mums’ breastfeeding experiences and how they deal with their obstacles.
- It Takes a Village… — Meredith at Thank You Ma’am talks about the support she got from her family, especially from her own mom, who is a lactation consultant.
- Community Support — Ashley at ModerationMama tells about her supportive community surrounding her breastfeeding journey, and she talks about the importance of the breastfeeding class she took while still pregnant.
- Finding a Nanny to Be Part of My Village — Before returning to work, Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen, posting at Natural Parents Network, needed to find a trusted caregiver for her daughter. Someone who supported her parenting goals and was ready to become part of a family.
- A Nursey Love Letter — When asked about her nursing support group, KassK of Get Born Tribe surprised herself with the answer: her husband!
- We are mammals. — To be a mammal . . . what does that mean? Practicing Mammal educates us.
- Building a Solid Foundation for a Successful Breastfeeding Journey — Tia at Tia’s Sweeps Go ‘Round shares how she built a strong support network to help her successfully breastfeed her newborn daughter.
- Stubbornness and Support: My Breastfeeding Journey — Diana at Munchkin’s Mommy shares her breastfeeding journey, from unhelpful nurses to a gentle guide, and her sheer stubbornness.
- Looking online for breastfeeding support — The author at “Just” A Mom has found many ways to use the internet to support her mothering and breastfeeding journey, and she has learned how to keep her online experiences positive.
- The Village that didn’t feed — Nona’s Nipples at The Touch of Life explains how our communities influence our choices. She explains how she came to breastfeed and how it was taken away.
- Nursing By Example — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births decided to nurse through a pregnancy and to try tandem nursing thanks to the support from her La Leche League leader and another mother in her community. Read about the resources that were helpful and the lessons she learned on her journey into tandem nursing.
- A Burden Shared: How my IBCLC Lightened my Load — My IBCLC rocks!! smscott at In All Things…One Step at a Time‘s journey would not be possible without a huge contribution of time and energy from her IBCLC. Her difficult times were measured in weeks and months instead of moments.
- Fathers Need Breastfeeding Support Too — Destany at They Are All of Me recalls that the biggest detriment to her breastfeeding success was her husband’s strong disapproval.
- Breastfeeding Support Over the Years — Valerie at Momma in Progress discusses the range of support she received over her seven-year breastfeeding journey.
- Uncharted Territory: Breastfeeding — Michelle at Oh, The Simple Joys describes her change of heart regarding breastfeeding and the kind souls who helped along the way. From thinking formula was the norm to extended ecological breastfeeding, this is her story. Her story also includes breastfeeding after a hospital birth, dealing with inverted nipples, and the lactation consultant who helped to name her daughter.
- Online Breastfeeding Support: Finding Success, Acceptance and Friendships — Author and CLEC Lara Audelo of Virtual Breastfeeding Culture shares how online breastfeeding support changed her entire life, and why so many mothers are drawn to it, rely upon it, and place such value on their virtual mother-to-mother connections.
- Staying Connected—Online Breastfeeding Support for AD Military Moms — Breastfeeding in Combat Boots shares how important online support is to the success of breastfeeding for mothers serving in the military.
- Breastfeeding and Community — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work discusses ways in which community affects breastfeeding dyads and makes suggestions for accepting and supporting nursing as normal and necessary.
- World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Community Support — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy has been breastfeeding NON-STOP since 4th March 2009, the day her first child Benjamin was born. Jenny shares who has been in her community of breastfeeding supporters.
- Oversupply as a Blessing in Disguise: Milk Sharing and Wet Nursing — Tooele Birth and Breastfeeding, guest posting at Code Name: Mama, tells how she ended up donating breastmilk and wet nursing several babies. She shares the benefits from both a recipient and a donor.