LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona. --
With changes occurring throughout the Department of Defense in regards to physical fitness postpartum and maternity leave, Luke took a bold step forward and held its first Breastfeeding Awareness Luncheon on August 21.
The luncheon was open to all active duty members, spouses and fathers were in attendance at the event to show their support for breastfeeding.
"Breastfeeding is such an important topic right now," said Capt. Sonja Raciti, 56th Medical Group family advocacy officer. "The military as a whole is looking at how to keep new mothers in the service. The Navy and Marine Corps is now granting 18 weeks maternity leave and the Air Force is also looking at different ways to help new mothers continue to serve their country while supporting their new role as mothers. We know breast feeding is what is best for the infant nutritionally and having events like this show mothers that they can feel comfortable and confident in their choice to breastfeed. "
Prizes and food were donated to the event with a volunteer photographer available to highlight moments for the families in attendance. Certificates were presented to women at the event who were part of the breastfeeding support group for their time and commitment to breastfeeding.
"The goal was to honor those active duty members and spouses who have breastfed this year and look at ways to increase their sense of community and support," said Raciti. "This was an awesome place to meet like-minded individuals and for those mothers new to the base or those who live off base.
Brand new mothers not only have to balance all the new needs of having an infant depend on them, they have to cope with sleep deprivation, changing hormones and any medical complications themselves. Many mothers have postpartum symptoms following the birth of the child and they really benefit from having a sense of community and learning from other mothers. Luke's Nature to Nurture Breastfeeding Group was set up to give new mothers that sense of community and to have both an online forum via Facebook and different events and groups to meet up in."
The push to change the perspective about breastfeeding is bigger than ever and the Air Force is taking steps in the right direction to show their support for mothers who choose to breastfeed.
"More and more military installations and commanders are showing support by having appropriate break times and rooms available for breastfeeding mothers," Raciti said. "It is a natural process which for many of us new mothers can be just plain scary. More emphasis is being placed now on looking at how we can help new mothers be successful with their new babies."
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding provides a protective effect against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies including asthma, eczema and atopic dermatitis. The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced by over a third in breastfed babies, and there is a 15 to 30 percent reduction in adolescent and adult obesity in breastfed versus non-breastfed infants.
With support of the Air Force, commanders and supervisors, mothers have the opportunity to care for their infants and to have the choice to breastfeed and still serve their country.
"As a mother and an officer on active duty, it was challenging to find locations and time that was conducive to breastfeeding," said Lt. Col. Lauren H. Byrd, 56th Medical Support Squadron commander. "I understood the importance of nursing my daughter for her health and I was committed to it. I think it is great that the Air Force is looking at ways to help women to have the choice to feed or pump because there are so many long term benefits for the mother and baby. It is just one more way that the Air Force is showing support for mothers and families by creating an environment that is conducive to the health and well-being of everyone."
For more information on Air Force policies and programs supporting breastfeeding visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/782039621850367/
and Air Force Instruction 44-102 (Section 4.15)