5 Useful Tips to Help Active Duty Moms Step Back Into Work.
Thank you to our contributors Sarah and Simone. They are both first time Active Duty moms who, not too long ago, returned to work and found their new normal.
Whether you are choosing a CDC (Child Development Center), a nanny, on-base in home daycare or a family member for childcare; towards the end of your maternity leave do a few test runs with your chosen provider. That way you and your child can both ease into the new situation a few hours at a time rather than going cold turkey. This can give everyone time to adjust with the new people and routines.
You've decided to stick through with breastfeeding. Being prepared will help you be successful. Sarah, an active duty Air Force mom, recommends mothers to talk with a lactation consultant ahead of time about when to begin pumping. You will need to know how to "build up your stash" and how often you should be pumping at work.
"You don't want to create an oversupply or wait too long and struggle to have enough milk for your first week." says Sarah.
Research and think though how you are going to pump throughout the day given your work center logistics. Bring multiple sets of flanges, sink to clean them in after each use, personal refrigerator to store them in until next use.
Sarah also mentions that some women find it helpful to go at lunchtime and nurse their baby. "If this is possible, instead of viewing it as a full day away from your baby, view it as four hours away from them, and then four more hours away."
When introducing a bottle, talk to LC or pediatrician about when and how to introduce one as this can be a learning curve for your baby.
Simone, an active duty Army mother says, “The support is subjective I am luckily in a position that breastfeeding does not interfere with my job. I am also lucky to have leadership that understands my wishes and respects them, not everyone is. I plan my day around my pumping sessions to minimize schedule issues and also have a stockpile as a back up to alleviate stress. I built the stockpile while in maternity leave, once you get to work and your supply levels out it is difficult to increase your supply without messing up your schedule."
3. Conceal and Carry Supplies
Get a military regulation bag to carry your pumping supplies in that doesn't look so obvious. They make back pack and lap top style bags that fit breast pumps in a concealed area of the bag. Put snacks and extra water in this bag too. Keep an extra set of flanges AND extra milk storage bags in your office or car. There will be one day that you forget these things and it will be the day that you are slammed and can't run home to grab them.
4. Plan for a Larger Uniform (Breastfeeding boobs are distracting when uniform is too tight)
Simone says she only needed one but planned for being a lot bigger when she bought it. "The maternity uniform lacks a lot of the versatility of the original ABU the pockets are removed for the maternity gear. The maternity gear is paid for and all active duty women are authorized to get the extra pay."
5. Know your rights
The services branches have slightly different regulations, but they each should have a policy on pumping time/space, TDY/deployment postpartum deferments, and physical fitness test postpartum deferments. Learn your Tricare benefits. Did you know Tricare covers breast pumps and provides milk storage bags for 36 months!
Food for Thought.
*Think about when you want to go back to work. Can you take regular leave after your maternity leave ends? Some women find it easier to go back to work for a day and then take leave the next day. If your maternity leave ends so that you begin on a Monday could you take leave Tuesday and Thursday of that week? If that is something you are interested in doing talk to your command about it. The worse that they can say is no.
*If you are dual military, purchasing two car seat holders can helpful to avoid changing out cars and switching over one car seat holder to another vehicle.
*If you think you are struggling with PPD or PPA reach out to get help. If you think you are physically not recovering. Go to your PCM. Listen to your body.
Check out these great resources that can support you: