Being sent to school or training does not fall under the deferment from deployment, so you’ll need to know how to manage pumping while you are on the road. The good news is that you will have a building with electricity and other amenities. The bad news is you will have speak with yet another individual about your need to pump, bring out the regs for your branch of service, and deal with the hassle of pumping far away from home. But in most cases it can be done with some preparation and stick-to-it-tiveness! Need this information as a handout? Download the Deployments, Schools and Trainings handout and then go to the Handouts page for other topics.
Types of Schools and Trainings
Certain types of schools or trainings are exempt from following any regulations or polices regarding breastfeeding or pumping. Some examples are basic (boot camp) training, advanced individual training (“A” school), SERE training, Ranger/Special Forces schools. Due to the nature of training involved there simply is not the capability to allow time or place to pump, or pumping would detract from the intended goal of the training. Therefore if you are considering attending you will need to factor in delaying your attendance and/or weaning to your decision. Other schools such as ALC, JRTC, “C” school, etc. are more easily attended while breastfeeding or pumping, if this is the case for you, read on for tips to be successful.
As with anytime that you will be separated for an extended period of time you will want to pump and store extra milk ahead of time in order to leave a good supply of expressed milk for your baby. As soon as you have your orders, begin pumping as often as possible, including when you are at home, to build up a good stockpile. For a short-duration TDY or training of a few days, you should have no trouble leaving enough milk behind. If it will be a longer TDY or training, your caregiver may need to supplement your baby with formula, unless you make plans to ship your milk home. Be sure that you have introduced a bottle (if you haven’t already) and whichever formula (if needed) before you leave to be sure that your baby will tolerate it.
There are a number of items you will want to make sure that you pack, in addition to your regular pumping equipment, when leaving on TDY:
- Hand pump or attachment, in case of malfunction, lost/missing pieces, no electricity
- Pump cleaning gear – bottle brush, dish soap, ziplock bags (gallon) or steam cleaning bags
- Hand sanitizer/wipes
- Extension cord/adapter
- Milk storage bags
- Shipping supplies – if needed
At School or Training
Advise the supervisor or OIC of your pumping requirements when you check-in so that you can work out a pumping schedule and a place to pump. Finding time to pump while attending a school or training can also be difficult. Breaks are often very short (10-15 minutes) which is not enough time to set-up, pump, and break-down. Some schools require a certain number of hours of attendance in order to qualify for certification, and being even a little bit late returning from a pumping session can disqualify you. Finding a place to pump may require a little ingenuity. Inquire as to whether there is an unused classroom or instructor’s lounge that you can use. Are you (and the instructor and your classmates) comfortable pumping in the back of the room behind a curtain or under a nursing cover? Can you wear a set of Freemie pumps? You will also need to find out as to whether you will have access to a freezer in the quarters you will be staying in. If you will not, you’ll need to be creative for finding or buying a mini-fridge or other small freezer so that you can freeze your milk for storage and/or shipment. If you find that you cannot pump while attending the training or school, you have the option to temporarily wean until you return (see the Weaning page for more information).
You have a couple of options regarding what to do with your pumped breastmilk when you are sent TDY for a training or school. It all depends on the length of the training and the distance away. If your assignment is short-term and will last only few days, you can pump and dump or store the milk to bring back home. TDYs that last for weeks and months will require that you pump and ship your milk. See the Shipping Milk page for more information. If you are lucky enough to have an assignment located nearby, you can just go home in the evenings and bring your pumped milk with you, as you would at your regular workplace.
Treat these TDYs like any other training exercise. The key is preparation and a can-do attitude!