Military Breastfeeding Policies

The summaries of the military policies below are provided as a service to the breastfeeding military community only.  They are updated as the information changes (latest update – May 2013).  Any questions about the policies should be directed to your command and/or JAG as required.  The policies are available as PDF downloads by clicking on the bold link in pink.  Please see the Resources page for links to other policies, a downloadable chart showing the policies of the various services, studies and other handouts that you may find useful.

Air Force

The Air Force revised its policy in 2012, making clear the need for a private room (not a restroom) and authorizing pumping breaks of 15-30 minutes every three to four hours.  The deployment deferment period is 6 months, with the recommendation to allow for 12 months. However, as an active-duty breastfeeding mother, you are not exempt from field training or mobility exercises, and you must plan your pumping needs with your supervisor.


Air Force Instruction 44-102 (Section 4.15)    AFI 44-102

4.16. Breastfeeding and Breast Pumping


Breastfeeding provides optimal health benefits for both mother and infant throughout their life spans. Exclusive breastfeeding is optimal nutrition for the first 6 months of life. Gradual introduction of solids begins in the second half of the first year and complements human milk, which remains essential to nutrition during this period. Extensive medical research has documented that breastfeeding has significant health, nutritional, immunologic, developmental, emotional, social, and economic benefits to mother and baby. The AFMS recommends that supervisors of AF members who are breastfeeding work with the member to arrange their work schedules to allow 15-30 minutes every 3-4 hours to pump breast milk in a room or an area that provides adequate privacy and cleanliness. Restrooms should not be considered an appropriate location for pumping. The AF member must supply the equipment needed to pump and store the breast milk.


AF members who are breastfeeding or pumping remain eligible for field training, mobility exercises, and deployment. However, AFI 36-2110, Assignments, supports deferment from deployment for 6 months post partum. AF commanders may consider supporting deferment of deployment for breastfeeding mothers for 12 months post partum to ensure the full medical benefits of breastfeeding.


The AFMS encourages commanders’ modifications of these activities and/or work conditions for Airmen who are breastfeeding, when possible. Nonetheless, duty requirements may not always be compatible with exclusive breastfeeding. In these cases, the AF member must decide in consultation with her medical provider whether to attempt to continue breast-feeding and/or pumping breast milk. AF Form 469 is not the mechanism for documentation that an AF member is breastfeeding.



The Army does not have a breastfeeding policy in place at this time and only offers the standard six weeks of maternity leave.  As a soldier, you will be worldwide deployable at six months postpartum. However, breastfeeding does not exempt you from going to the field. The Army does offer a sample letter to be used for educating, planning, and requesting a time and a place to pump after return to duty.  This could easily be adapted for use by members of the other services.  Within the Female Readiness Guide, there is a brief section on supporting the breastfeeding soldier.


ArmyAR 614-30 Deployment (Table 3-1 #33)      AR614_30     ALARACT 171/2008   ALARACT 171/2008

Soldiers will be considered available for worldwide deployment 6 months after giving birth.

Breastfeeding Support Plan, Sample Memorandum   Army Sample Breastfeeding Memo Commander

Provide information on breastfeeding to educate Commanders and postpartum Soldiers, and propose a support plan to assist Soldiers in breastfeeding on return to duty.

Section X of the TG281 (A Guide to Female Soldier Readiness)    Army Female Soldier Readiness Guide

It is critical that leaders support their Soldiers.  The ability to successfully continue breastfeeding after returning to work involves space, time, and support.  Leaders need to provide female Soldiers with social and administrative support if the decision is made to continue breastfeeding after returning to work.  Providing a designated space in the workplace where mothers may express breastmilk is important since many active-duty mothers do not have private offices. If a designated room cannot be provided, the use of empty conference rooms or offices may suffice.


Coast Guard

The Coast Guard breastfeeding policy specifies that a private room is required. But it does not specify length or number of breaks allotted, instead leaving it up to you and the command to determine pumping breaks on a case-by-case basis. You will be deployable six months after birth. Coast Guardsmen, enlisted and officer, male and female, also have the option of taking a one-time, two-year, unpaid separation from active duty to care for a newborn, with a return to the same pay grade and benefits.


Coast Guard COMDTINST M1000.9

Section 7  Breastfeeding.

(2)  Breastfeeding.

(a)  The Coast Guard recognizes the importance and benefits of breastfeeding and the fact that many women will return to work with the desire to continue nursing. Service members should obtain information from their health care provider relating to breastfeeding education, care, counseling and support during the pregnancy, after delivery and upon return to work. If the service woman opts to breastfeed after returning to duty, the member and the command should communicate to address any concerns or issues. Challenges in the workplace may include lack of adequate facilities and limited time during the workday for expressing milk. These challenges can be reduced with a small investment of time and flexibility.

(b)  When possible, the commanding officer or officer in charge should support service members who desire to breastfeed as follows:

1. Lactation Facility: Ensure the availability of a private, clean room for expressing breast milk during the workday. When space is limited, a multi-purpose room (i.e. duty room), stateroom, or berthing area may be used as long as privacy can be assured for the time required. The facility shall be as close as possible to a water source for washing hands and rinsing equipment and equipped with electrical outlets, a table and chair. It is preferable that this space not be a head unless the head is equipped with a lounge type of area.

2. Storage: Ensure access to cool storage for express breast milk. Access to refrigeration is ideal, however if no refrigerator space is available, the service member will supply cold packs for storing milk. Access to a freezer compartment is necessary if the workday extends beyond 12 hours. Breast milk should be contained and labeled by the service member to avoid contamination by other items located in the vicinity.

3. Lactation Breaks: Through communication between the supervisor and member, most assignments can accommodate creative use of time to accomplish mission and accommodate the service member‟s desire to breastfeed. Lactating service members should be allowed a flexible schedule for pumping, within the limits of mission requirements. Arrangements should be discussed/negotiated between the service member and her supervisor.

(c)  Requests to breastfeed infants during duty hours should be handled on a case-by-case basis; however, breastfeeding an infant is not a reason for granting excessive time for meals or away from work.

Section 7 Deployment

Servicewomen… will not normally be transferred to afloat units, aviation units, or OCONUS that are deploying during the period from the 20th week of pregnancy through six months after the servicewoman’s date of delivery unless the servicewoman is medically fit and requests a waiver for an earlier resumption of duties.

Separation for the Care of a Newborn Policy

Under this policy, career oriented officers and enlisted members are allowed a onetime separation from Active Duty for up to two years to discharge parental responsibilities to care for newborn children (CNC). This policy allows a member to separate with a guarantee of reenlistment or a new officer appointment upon return to Active Duty on meeting physical and other qualifying standards.


Marine Corps

The USMC has probably one of the better breastfeeding policies of all the services, with a 6-month deferment from deployment and the requirement of a clean, secluded space with running water for pumping.  Break times are not specified, but instead are left to you and your supervisor on a case-by-case basis.  Breastfeeding does not exempt you from going to the field for training or other TDY assignments.


Marine Corps Order 5000.12E  (Revised by MARADMIN 358/07)    MCO 5000.12E     MARADMIN 358/07

Section 15 – Support of Servicewomen with Nursing Infants

a. Servicewomen who desire to continue breastfeeding upon return to duty will notify their chain of command at the earliest possible time to allow the command to determine how best to support them and facilitate the prompt evaluation of the workplace for potential hazards.

b. When possible, the servicewoman who continues to provide breastmilk to her infant upon return to duty shall be, at a minimum, afforded the availability of a clean, secluded space (not a toilet space) with ready access to a water source for the purpose of pumping breastmilk.

c. The time required for breastmilk expression varies and is highly dependent upon several factors including the age of the infant, amount of milk produced, pump quality, the distance the pumping location is from the workplace, as well as how conveniently located the water source is from the pump location. Supervisors and lactating servicewomen will collaborate to keep to a minimum the amount of time required for milk expression. Lactation consultants are available at the MTF to assist in this endeavor.

Section 8d. Deployment

Servicewomen will not normally be transferred to deploying units from the time of pregnancy confirmation up to 6 months from the date of delivery. The Marine may, however, waive the deployment deferment period.



The Navy policy is very similar to the Marine Corps policy, with a 12 month deferment from deployment and the requirement of a clean, secluded space with running water and refrigeration for pumping.  You will not be exempt from TAD assignments for training or schools.  Break times are not specified, but are left to you and your supervisor on a case-by-case basis, and you are required to have access to breastfeeding help and education if you need it.


Navy OPNAVINST 6000.1C     OPNAVINST 6000.1C

Section 103 -Deployment Policy

Servicewomen may… not be transferred to units that are deploying during the period from the 20th week of pregnancy through 12 months after the servicewoman’s expected date of delivery.

Section 106 – Breastfeeding

a. Servicewomen should be provided access to educational information from didactic materials, a lactation consultant for breast care, breastfeeding education, counseling, and support during the pregnancy, after delivery, and on return to work.

b. When possible, CO shall ensure the availability of a private, clean room for expressing breastmilk. There should be ready access to running water and refrigeration for safe storage of breastmilk.

c. Requests to breast feed infants during duty hours should be handled on a case-by-case basis; however, breastfeeding an infant is not a reason for granting excessive time for meals or from work.

Navy BUMEDINST 6000.14     BUMEDINST 6000.14

Provides guidelines and resources for policy development to support commands with servicewomen with nursing infants.   Directs medical personnel to assist and educate fleet and shore workplace supervisors, COs and OICs that have servicewomen who are breastfeeding, and directs workplaces to incorporate breastfeeding support into local policies.  A focus on active duty workplace concerns, such as hazardous materials, a place and time to pump and resources for purchasing or renting a breastpump are highlighted.  This instruction also directs medical personnel to consult with and address the needs of breastfeeding servicewomen with infants in military child development centers (CDC). Finally this instruction makes clear the need for qualified lactation consultants to provide education and support, and prohibits the provision of free formula samples to patients in MTFs.


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