A new proposal from lawmakers would require the Army to "develop a comprehensive policy regarding breastfeeding."
The measure, placed as an amendment to a the House draft of the annual defense spending bill, looks to ensure that breastfeeding female soldiers have access to private and clean areas with electrical outlets for breast pumping along with work breaks to do so.
"Restrooms should not be considered an appropriate location," the amendment, offered by Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Massachusetts said.
The Army is the only service that does not currently have such a policy in place. Air Force rules require a private room and pumping breaks every three to four hours, while the Marine Corps and Navy require a private room with running water, but don't mandate the timing of breaks. The Coast Guard requires a private room, but does not specify running water and does not mandate break frequency.
Federal civilian employee regulations require workers be given a private room for pumping. The military, however, is exempt from those rules.
Although Tricare was directed in a 2015 defense spending bill to cover breastfeeding supplies -- including pumps -- for all nursing mothers beginning Jan. 1, the healthcare provider has yet to issue a policy on the subject. Officials there have recommended nursing mothers save their pump receipts for potential reimbursement later.
Breastfeeding advocates have said an Army breastfeeding policy would be a welcomed change.
"I've heard the reason they haven't done anything is because of readiness issues, that they don't want to put any restrictions on women. But come on, that's not an excuse. If the Marine Corps can have one, the Army can," said Robyn Roce-Paull, who runs BreastfeedingInCombatBoots.com. "There is no excuse and to be honest I don't know why they haven't done one yet."
An Air Force wing commander at Mountain Home, Idaho, recently came under intense scrutiny for issuing a policy requiring off duty employees and civilians on base in public places to go to a private room for breastfeeding or use a cover. The rule was quickly rescinded after news of it started an internet firestorm among breastfeeding advocates.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org