911th ASTS making room for nursing mothers

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Diana Ferree
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

You might be a nursing mother if you’re eyeing the clock during the staff meeting that is now going 30 minutes over its normal end time and you’re worried that you might not be able to pump in time. Hopefully, you don’t need to rush home for a new shirt like last week! Finally, the meeting concludes and you rush through the lingering people to the storage closet provided for your mandatory task. Be careful not to knock down that broom over there. If only you had your own office, life would be easier. Maybe in a few years with a promotion or a job opening.

Your eyes are back on the clock now. You can’t take too long in here so your boss doesn’t think you’re wasting time, but not too short because you have to express enough milk to ensure your body is physiologically ready to produce milk for your little one. At the end of the day, this is all for them.

Not everyone can relate to that, but if you have been there, you understand how important it is to express milk on schedule and to do it in a comfortable and clean environment.

The Air Force recognized that many Airmen did not have the appropriate lactation rooms and recently updated Air Force Guidance Memorandum (AFGM) Establishing Requirement of Lactation Rooms for Nursing Mothers, on August 14, 2020. The memorandum is not new, but it now put the responsibility on commanders to identify and provide lactation rooms and outlines the standards that will be met for these areas.

Maj. Brittany K. Hines, officer in charge fetal protection at the 911th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, says that the updated guidance is a step towards normalization. Hines further explains about the rooms, “This is not something that's above and beyond. This is a normal part of operations. Like how you have a male and female restroom.”

The lactation room, as detailed in the memorandum, must be private, secure, clean, in the immediate vicinity of unit facilities, and near a source of hot and cold water. Inside the room, it must have seating, a table, electrical outlets, trash can, and cleaning supplies.

It may be difficult for units to find dedicated lactation rooms in their existing buildings. The AFGM explains that the room can be temporary or flexible as long as it meets the necessary requirements. Additionally, buildings may share lactation rooms if they are in close proximity.

Capt. Michael Cilli, director of medical operations with the 911th ASTS, offers advice on flexible options. “Making a multi-functional room like a meditation, lactation, and private counseling room would also meet the intent of this requirement versus building modifications,” he said.

The 911th ASTS wanted to provide its members with a dedicated lactation room but couldn’t find the space to surrender. This is what motivated Cilli, to consider Mamava, a standalone lactation booth, for his unit and their neighboring unit, the 911th Security Forces Squadron. The Mamava Solo Pod is compact and can fit within an office or lobby area and is in compliance with the Air Force’s guidelines.

“It's important for the Air Force to have these requirements met because these are our airmen who we have invested time, money, resources, and they have job-specific knowledge. We've run into people who because these things aren't met, decide to leave. So really it turns into a recruitment and retention issue...we can potentially lose valuable personnel,” said Hines.

If members do not have a proper lactation room, Cilli encourages those Airmen to utilize their chain of command to figure out their unit’s policy as this is a mandated requirement. If nursing mothers are on the go at the 911th ASTS for appointments, they can contact Hines or Staff Sgt. Caroline M. Schmauch by email at brittany.hines.2@us.af.mil and caroline.schmauch@us.af.mil to use the lactation booth.

As the Air Force makes strides for working mothers, it is up to local leadership and work centers to continue the supportive culture. For starters? Better rooms to pump.