How one soldier got the breastfeeding support she needed

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Today in honor of Veteran’s Day, we wanted to show our respect and gratitude for all active and retired military, especially the many mothers who are in the military. We are so grateful for your sacrifice and send our love to you!

Today we are highlighting Leslie Felder SSG, USAR. She is an Army Staff Sergeant and is sharing her experience breastfeeding and pumping as a soldier. Enjoy!

With my first child in 2012, the Army did not have a specific regulation addressing female soldiers’ needs for pumping.  I found that what it did have written most likely hurt more than it helped. Pumping logistics were left up to the soldier, their supervisor, and command team.  They were to come up with a specific plan that could meet the needs of the army, unit, mission, and soldier.  Most often, in that order. After my second baby, the Army created a new breastfeeding policy.

Learn how one soldier got the breastfeeding support she needed. Learn how she was able to pump and store milk while away for training.

Some of the negativity I received came from lack of understanding of how breastfeeding worked and the needs of a lactating mother. A few things that worked in my favor to get me and other females in the unit support were: I am a Staff Sergeant and Platoon Sergeant and could advocate for my subordinates, I became a certified lactation educator counselor (CLEC), and the Army later published the Army Directive 2015-43, the Revised Breastfeeding and Lactation Support Policy. These things coupled with being in a Combat Support Hospital made breastfeeding in uniform more doable. That’s not to say we did not have challenges.

Click through to learn how Leslie and another soldier pumped while away for several days at a training.

This past summer, during our annual training in Wisconsin, our unit allowed two breastfeeding soldiers to go for the first time.  I was one of them.  With wisdom from Robyn Roche-Paull’s book, Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, support from her Facebook group and from our unit, we were successful. The milk we expressed while at training survived coolers, power outages, tarmacs, and the duffel bag drag. I can only imagine what other soldiers thought, when this fridge we brought with us, moved places almost every day and sometimes two or three times. The last 36 hours were the most stressful, hoping everything would stay frozen. In the end we were able to bring over 3 gallons of breast milk home.

The LMTVs are the tan vehicles we used for pumping in.

The LMTVs are the tan vehicles we used for pumping in.

After day 4 of no showers and 16+ hour work days each day

After day 4 of no showers and 16+ hour work days each day

Gear + coolers for milk

Gear + coolers for milk

Breastfeeding tip for other breastfeeding mothers in the military: 

Have a support network. In-person or online, a support network is important for your success. Be proud of the dedication and sacrifices you have made to be a soldier and a mother.  Never apologize for your choice to give this precious gift, in any amount, to your child.

Thanks so much for being with us today Leslie! Today you can receive 15% off your total purchase at the Breastfeeding in Combats Boots online store with the code ‘VETERAN’.  Have any of you experienced breastfeeding and/or pumping as a member the military? Any friends or family who did so?  What was the experience like? Share in the comments. 

I’ve created a free e-mail course to help you get breastfeeding started on the right foot! Click the image below for more info.

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Thanks for stopping by,

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Lindsey Shipley, RN, IBCLC

Join the discussion One Comment

  • What a great story of being successful under very challenging conditions. Thank you for highlighting what our military breastfeeding moms face every day to Give the Breast for Baby and Country. And for telling people about BFinCB and our work to Advocate, Inform and Support breastfeeding mothers in the military.