I’m an AD Army officer in a Brigade Combat Team. My daughter is 5.5 months old. I just completed day 17 of a 20-day field rotation in which I pumped, stored and sent my breastmilk home. I want to offer some words of encouragement and experience to my fellow military breastfeeding moms.
Needless to say, it was extremely difficult. There were days when I was operating on two hours of sleep. I prioritized pumping over showering, sleeping and sometimes eating. My supply took a hit (35+ oz a day down to 20+) but I knew it would. Some days I was only able to pump two or three times. My goal was to maintain lactation throughout the field rotation exercise. My goal now is to rebuild my supply to what it was (there’s a lot of power pumping in my future).
Here is how I did it:
- I bought an Rtic cooler. Exactly like a Yeti only significantly cheaper.
- I notified my BN CDR and CSM of what I was doing. They supported me and worked with me to move my milk home.
- I told my 1SG and XO of what I was doing so they were tracking.
- My HQ Soldiers knew and they helped set up a privacy wall in our tent for me to pump behind.
- I got ice from our field feeding team to resupply my cooler.
- I bought a water kettle and boiled water to clean/sterilize my pumping parts.
- I also brought a bottle brush and soap and would use the Medela microwave bags to wash out the parts.
- I brought as many Medela cleaning wipes as I could buy.
- I bought pre-made lactation cookies and ate at least one a day. I bought go-Lacta, fenugreek and mothers milk tea to help (hey, couldn’t hurt right?).
My biggest piece of advice to moms trying to do the same thing is don’t wait for your Commander to make things perfect for you. Take matters into your own hands and do what you have to do. We jumped locations six times during these 20 days. There were times when I pumped in the back of a HMMWV or a cab of an MTV or the middle of a tent that had just gone up (I did refuse to pump in a porta-potty because it was 100+ degrees out). I was walked in on countless times by my Soldiers even though they were told that area was off limits. No matter what branch of the military (Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, Marine or National Guard) or type of military member you are (Officer or Enlisted), I encourage you to be creative and exploit every possible resource. As a company commander, the one resource I did not have was time. I expressed my concern to my Ops CSM prior to coming out here, that operational demands wouldn’t give me any available time to pump, and his advice to me was, “if it’s important enough to you, you will find time or make time.” Those words helped get me through.
It will be hard, but you can do it!
You can find more info on how to prepare for going to the field, as well as how to ship your milk home. Dealing with supply issues after time away from baby? Take a look at this section for tips on increasing your milk supply. *This post is being shared anonymously at the request of the individual above.**
Have you pumped during a field rotation? Were you successful or not? Any other suggestions or tips you would give to a new mom? Leave a comment below!