5 tips for active duty moms returning to work

5 tips for active duty moms returning to work

by Sarah Rogers and Simone Scarlett
Stripes Japan

Returning to work after a baby can be an overwhelming process. From finding a good care provider to pumping. We reached out to a couple of our active duty moms for insight on their experience and tips for returning to work.

1. Daycare
Whether you are choosing a CDC (Child Development Center), nanny, on base in home day care or a family member for childcare; towards the end of your maternity leave do a few test runs with your daycare or nanny. 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 will give your little one an opportunity to adjust to the new people and surroundings.

2. Breastfeeding
If this is the route you are choosing to go, prepare yourself. Sarah, an active duty Air Force mom, recommends talking to a lactation consultant ahead of time about when to begin pumping 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. 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 and a personal refrigerator to store them in until next use.

Sarah also says, “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 the lactation consultant 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. And 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
Get a military regulation bag to carry your pumping supplies so that it doesn’t look so obvious. They make backpack and laptop-style bags that fit breast pumps in a concealed area of the bag. Put snacks and extra water in here, too. Keep an extra set of flanges AND extra milk storage bags in your office or car. There will be a 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 (Uniform can be tight and uncomfortable when breastfeeding)
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 working uniform; 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; just contact first shift for form.

5. Know your rights
The service 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.

For more information, search “Breastfeeding in Combat Boots” on Facebook.

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.

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