If a Military Mom Can Ship Breast Milk Home From Afghanistan, You Can Pump Too


Military Mom pumpingRobyn Roche-Paull is a serious badass. That doesn’t sound like something you say about a lactation consultant, those gentle creatures encouraging calm and kvelling about endorphins, but Roche-Paull isn’t your average LC. She’s a veteran of the U.S. Navy -- where she was an aircraft mechanic -- and breastfed her son while on active duty.

She’s also the author of Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, a book intended for military moms who want information and support for their own breastfeeding efforts. If her tips help moms figure out how to breastfeed in combat zones and on military planes (like the mom to the left), surely they can be of use to any working mom.

So hup, two, three, four -- nurse your kid like you’re at war!

Robyn Roche-Paull“Let’s face it,” Roche-Paull tells me, “a lot of working moms don’t have corporate-type jobs where they can close the door of their office to pump. But that doesn’t mean they can’t breastfeed. It just means they’ve got their work cut out for them. But I’m not taking any back-talk about this -- I know a woman who shipped her milk home from a combat zone in Afghanistan. If she can do it, just about everyone can.”

See what I mean? Badass. Here are her top tips for breastfeeding success no matter what your job may be.

1. Get the right mind-set. “Too many moms have an all-or-nothing attitude,” says Roche-Paull. “Hey, I’m a lactivist, I want everyone to breastfeed -- but even if you can only do it for the six weeks of maternity leave, or on nights and weekends and you end up supplementing, that’s better than nothing.” Ditching the fear that anything less than 100 percent is failure -- that’s the first step toward being able to breastfeed while working.

2. Get your ducks in a row. “I don’t know if it’s like this outside the military, but in the male-dominated world I lived in, there was a tendency to put everything off to the last minute,” Roche-Paull says. But, she points out, no supervisor wants to be blindsided by a request, your first day back from maternity leave, for a pumping room. “It’s going to be an uncomfortable conversation, but you have to pull your bootstraps up and do it well ahead of time,” she says. “With the new federal law, you might be surprised: people do know about this, and it might not be as tough as you think.”

3. Have your resources organized and in-hand. Roche-Paull recommends the United States Breastfeeding Committee, which provides information about federal laws regarding workplace support for breastfeeding moms, and the U.S. Department of Labor, which has a section devoted to break time for nursing mothers. “The average eight-hour day should have two 20-minute pumping breaks plus lunch,” she says. “You’re entitled to running water, a door that locks from the inside, and not in a bathroom.” Knowing your rights makes it easier to stand up and demand them.

4. Stockpile your milk during your leave. “Military moms only have 42 days to get their stuff together,” Roche-Paull says. “Make your best use of that time. I don’t know a single working mom -- no matter what her job is -- that doesn’t experience a dip in supply when she goes back to work. You want to start pumping while you’re home with the baby so you have some extra for that dip, or a growth spurt, or when you have to work late.”

5. “This is my bottle! There are many like it, but this is mine!” It can be daunting to get a kid used to a bottle, and who the hell wants to bother when you’ve got the handy boob? But Roche-Paull learned the hard way, when her son refused to feed for up to 12 hours at a time after she went back to work, that early insistence on the bottle might be a necessity. “It was stressful to hear him cry when the caregiver called me,” she says. “I advise parents to offer the bottle once a day. Worry about nipple confusion later, if that happens.”

6. Do an overnight pump. If you’re not with your kid all day, and she’s sleeping through the night, your supply is going to drop. “This is a pain in the neck, and it’s hard, but even one middle-of-the-night pump -- even though your kid isn’t nursing -- will make all the difference in keeping your supply up.”

7. Get support. And she’s not talking about the right bra. “Your partner’s support is fantabulous -- I couldn’t have done as well as I did without my husband -- but if I had known other women facing the same challenges I was, I wouldn’t have felt so alone.” La Leche League was great for Roche-Paull, but she also needed her peers; find like-minded (and -breasted) women, via social networking sites, to share tips and experiences.

8. Gird yourself. Male (and female!) co-workers are going to make un-PC jokes. People will refer to you as a slacker for taking so many breaks. “What is fun and relaxing about pumping?” Roche-Paull wants to know. “It’s sad but true, but these attitudes still continue, and you’ve got to be strong enough to know what you’re doing is worth it.”

9. Just accept that pumping (literally) sucks. It does. It sucks. “You’re going to want to throw that thing against the wall some days,” Roche-Paull admits. “The day you hang up your ‘horns’” -- that’s her term for the flanges, ha! -- “is a day to rejoice. Again, this is about you being stronger than the people around you: what you’re doing is worth it.” Man, that does make me feel like a bit of a warrior!

10. Know that you can do it. And it’s worth it. “There were days when I’d be ready to throw in the towel,” Roche-Paull says. “And then I’d get home, and he’d latch on, and give me that milky grin, and I’d get that rush of calm and good feeling, and -- yeah. It’d just be so worth it.”

Heh. Maybe she does sound like a regular lactation consultant after all!

Do you know military moms who breastfed? Did they inspire you? What tips would you take?

Images courtesy of Robin Roche-Paull/BreastfeedingInCombatBoots.com

baby first year, breastfeeding, maternity leave, newborns, work


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nonmember avatar Zizzler

what an awesome thing! I think most women give up way too easily and refuse to educate themselves properly about pumping. With google, there's no excuse. Wilful ignorance is pretty pathetic.

halli... hallieballie

I think it's awesome she did that, but I don't think that should set a standard for all women.  Women need to do what they feel is doable for them, and if they do not have a good experience pumping at work I don't think anybody should get in her business about it.  It's her choice.

bether89 bether89

I don't know any military moms who breastfeed.  I am awed by her dedication to breastfeeding.

nonmember avatar Sara

How dare you assume to know ANYTHING about any mothers and their choices about feeding their baby! Hallieballie is exactly correct, that you should not judge any mom if she decides that pumping or breastfeeding isn't right for her family. The mother in the article is doing what is right for her. That doesn't mean it is right for anyone else. I don't feel I have to justify my choice, but I will say that as a teacher, having a regular break to pump isn't an option with a room full of kids. I can't just leave them and lock myself in a bathroom for 20-30 minutes a day. Some days, sure. But when little Johnny is sick and Susie has a scraped knee and Sally forgot her lunch money... I have other little ones who I am responsible for. My daughter was formula fed and guess what? She's just as smart and healthy as your breastfed kid.

nonmember avatar JaneEyre

That mom is a ROCK STAR!

JaneE... JaneEyre27

This mom is a ROCK STAR!

hill_... hill_star03

As a nursing mother and an Army veteran, this makes me extremely proud! 

Crystal DeJesus Merritt

I am active duty Air Force, and I am a breastfeeding mom. All three of my children were breastfed, two of them while I was in the military. My son is almost 5 months, and exclusively breastfed. I am currently reading "Breastfeeding in Combat Boots", during my pumping breaks at work, and it's awesome!! After 2 tours in Iraq, and various other overseas tours, the bond I have with my children, which started with breastfeeding, has never faltered. Kudos to Robyn for sharing her experiences with us and showing us it's not impossible.

nonmember avatar momof2

She is a rockstar. Any woman who pumps at work is a rockstar. Which means there are a lot of rockstars out there. Pumping at work is doable for any woman that wants to. It is very hard for some, but it is doable for those who are breastfeeding and want to continue. No one is telling people they have to just empowering people who want to. A great place to get support (even in the strange hours you might be working if you are active duty military is the La Leche League online forums http://forums.llli.org

Trishell Arquero

So I will go back and read the story lol but just the title got to me!! I am so impressd come on ladies you can do it breastfeed those babies!!! More to come lol.....

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