JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The 59th Medical Wing supports new mothers with access to facilities throughout Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and educational opportunities on breastfeeding their newborns.
This past May, Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Delle Donne, a former Neonatal-Perinatal fellow at Brooke Army Medical Center, and Lt. Col. Jonathan Shapiro, chief of Neonatal Medicine at BAMC and the military consultant to the surgeon general for neonatology, were among the four authors of a study called “Impact of Extended Maternity Leave on Breastfeeding in Active Duty Mothers.” They published their abstract at the Pediatric Academic Society meeting.
“The goal of the project really became a way to validate whether in the military, the increase in leave really had a benefit on breastfeeding,” Donne said. “We looked at all the moms that delivered at BAMC in 2014 and 2016.”
At the time of the study, the military allowed mothers 12 consecutive weeks of postpartum leave. After studying more than 900 patients, the doctors concluded there was a definite positive correlation between the amount of time the mothers had on leave to the increase in exclusive breastfeeding. In the abstract they published, the doctors determined “there is a significant increase in breastfeeding duration and exclusivity through nine months for active duty mothers under the 12 week policy.”
Since the doctors completed the study, the policy has changed to six weeks of consecutive postpartum leave, with up to six additional weeks of leave for primary caregivers. Beyond the time given to new active duty mothers for their recovery, the 59th MDW continues to support women who want to nurse their children.
Staff Sgt. Melishia Francis, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the wing’s Commander’s Action Group, has twins she is breastfeeding. She said the command has been behind her throughout her pregnancy.
“From day one, everyone has been very supportive and understanding of my twin pregnancy,” Francis said. “They allowed me to logistically tackle my workload and attend my appointments. Upon my return to work, I expressed my choice to continue providing breastmilk for my children and everyone was supportive of my decision. In order to ensure that I maintain an adequate supply of milk, I have to manage my day to ensure I am pumping enough throughout the day.”
The wing has lactation rooms throughout its medical campus on base. There are three in Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center. The rooms in the women’s health clinic and the pediatrics clinic each have a seating capacity of two, and the family health clinic’s lactation room seats one.
In addition, the rooms in the Reid Clinic, the Dunn Dental Clinic, and Air Force Post-Graduate Dental School each seat one. The rooms give breastfeeding mothers access to a clean, private area in which to feed their babies, and provide a location for mothers to pump breast milk during the workday.
“These rooms are easily accessible and private, so I'm able to pump without any distractions,” Francis said. “The room setup is very functional because a pump is provided inside and all I have to do is provide my own pumping parts and storage supplies.”
The wing also hosts the New Parent Support Program in the family advocacy clinic. Personnel who have a child on the way, or have questions about their babies, should talk with their provider regarding all the options available to support them.