This post is about more than just a mother breastfeeding and pumping and providing for her child. This post shows us what motherhood in the military looks like. This post shows us a mother who wears her uniform with honor and professionalism while giving her child the very best start in life. This post is about Deanna Kerkhoff (USAF) and her daughter Claire.
BFinCB:Tell me a little bit about yourself and why you joined the military.
Deanna: As a military brat, I knew from a very young age that I was going to join the service. I honestly don’t know why, but I’m a big believer in fate; it’s what I was meant to do. My husband and I are active duty, and have already (in our first two years) experienced quite a few of the struggles associated with the dual-military life, to include separate duty stations, unpredictable assignments and deployment. Be that as it may, we’re both very blessed to have each other and our baby girl. Our small family may not be perfect, but we’re growing together every day because of the obstacles we’ve overcome (and continue to overcome).
BFinCB: Why did you decide to breastfeed?
Deanna: Who doesn’t want the best for their baby? I knew breastfeeding would be difficult, making an already-hectic schedule even more crunched and tiresome; but that’s ok, I don’t mind. I know it’s what my precious girl needs and I’m determined to do what’s best for her regardless of those obstacles.
BFinCB: What has your experience of breastfeeding in the military been like?
Deanna: So far, it’s been fantastic! My leadership has been very supportive and understanding of my choice to breastfeed. The building I work in has a room specifically for pumping! I have a good deal of control over my own schedule, so I’m able to pump when needed; I’ve chosen to feed my daughter at daycare every day at lunch as well. However, the mission must still be accomplished, which is where it gets tough. My current job is very demanding. The time I take out of the day to pump and nurse can make it difficult to accomplish what needs done within the bounds of normal duty hours, so sometimes I’ll bring my daughter to work after daycare or bring work home with me. I’ve gotten plugged ducts on several occasions because of the stress and lack of sleep. It can be frustrating at times, but to me, family will always come first. No way no how am I quitting now!
BFinCB: What are your thoughts on breastfeeding in uniform?
Deanna: Get it, girl! Nursing in public takes some guts to begin with, and doing so in uniform requires a whole new flavor of bravery and confidence. To me, it’s important that mommas feel comfortable giving their babies the very best. Nobody wants to feel ostracized or unsupported, which is all too common in a predominantly male workforce. Every uniformed mom who chooses to breastfeed her baby brings us one step closer to normalizing breastfeeding in the military. Today we’re in the process of undergoing a number of huge cultural transitions, to include the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I think that breastfeeding is going to be a part of the next big culture change. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James recently announced her endorsement for numerous measures designed to encourage women to not only join the military, but also to stay in. Some of those measures are geared towards allowing women to assume the role of mom by extending post-pregnancy deployment deferment and providing career intermission options. There will undoubtedly be some kicking and screaming from the opposition, as there always is when any major change occurs; but I’m excited to see what comes of this, and am confident that we’re on our way towards normalizing breastfeeding in the military.
BFinCB: Can you add a little bit about why and how you got started with making the nursing undershirts and what your plans are for that?
Deanna: I’ve always been a problem-solver; if there’s a will, there’s a way! I actually started making these shirts shortly after having my daughter because other brands of regular nursing shirts were so expensive ($40 for just ONE) and I wasn’t comfortable exposing myself in public. I started researching options for making my own and decided to do a bit of trial and error on my old work t-shirts. They were old and cheap, so I figured why not? After a few tries, I got the sizing right! It worked so well that I decided to make a few more, realizing that uniform nursing shirts would be incredibly helpful when I went back to work. Now, I couldn’t be happier with the end product of much trial and error! I love these shirts, because they’re so convenient and discreet. It’s always funny to see people taken aback when, after several minutes of chatting with me, they realize that my daughter’s been eating all along! Life doesn’t have to stop because your baby’s hungry – I love taking her with us on lunch dates.
For now, I’m planning on only making military nursing shirts. Balancing owning a business, active duty and mommahood – among other things – is time-consuming enough for this Mil’k Momma! It’s a lot of work, but my hope is to help make life easier (at an affordable price) for as many military moms as possible. What little profit I do make is going towards my daughter’s college fund; I’m just grateful for the blessing of being able to help others.
*Editor’s note- Deanna sent me a shirt to try and it fits very well, and is very easy to use with either a baby or a breast pump. The colors she has available (sand and navy) are suitable for use under your uniform and no one can tell that it has slits in place for breastfeeding or pumping. No more hiking up your shirt and baring your midriff! I give them a thumbs up!
Thank you Deanna for sharing your thoughts on breastfeeding, motherhood and the military, and for letting us know about your efforts to provide military nursing shirts to your sisters in arms. Above all, thank you for Giving the Breast for Baby and Country!
This is the second in a series of posts highlighting mothers in the military who are breastfeeding in combat boots. If you would like to be a part of this series, please send an email to BFinCB@icloud.com with your story and photo(s). Did you like this post? Leave a comment below.