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LANDSTUHL, Germany — With the Army recently extending its deployment deferral from four to six months for Army mothers of newborns and those adopting, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center has done one better.

Landstuhl commander Col. Brian Lein signed a policy this summer that encourages a deployment deferment of 12 months for active-duty soldier mothers who are assigned to Landstuhl and its affiliated Army health clinics and breast-feed.

The policy includes other measures to support and empower women who choose to breast-feed, according to the Landstuhl memo.

"From a mom perspective, that policy empowers a woman to say, ‘Hey look, this is important. This is from the top down. This is a priority. When I ask for time and space to pump, this is not going above and beyond. This is something that’s reasonable and expected,’ " said Army Maj. (Dr.) Renee Pazdan, a Landstuhl neurologist and mother of two who spearheaded the effort to change the policy.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies receive breast milk exclusively in their first six months. Breast-fed babies have decreased incidences of health problems. In addition, breast-feeding, among other benefits, helps mothers return to their prepregnancy weight quicker.

"The long-term disconnection of mother and baby — a week away, two weeks away — interrupts that breast-feeding relationship," said Donna Ellis, lactation consultant at Landstuhl. "Yes, mom can still pump, but it’s so much easier when you pump a couple of times during the day and then you’re putting baby to breast in the evening."

The Landstuhl breast-feeding policy puts the hospital on par with the other military branches. Currently, the Navy has a 12-month, non-deployment policy for all post-partum women with support for lactation in the work environment. The Air Force has a policy that encourages commanders to modify activities such as field training, mobility exercises and deployment for airmen who are breast-feeding.

Described as an information tool for commanders of women who breast-feed, the Landstuhl policy on breast-feeding and deployment deferment is the most generous in the Army.

"As far as I’m aware, this is the best the Army has out there, the most progressive," Pazdan said. "Actually, I’ve been working with folks at the office of the surgeon general who want to make this Armywide, who are looking at us as ‘Let’s see how things work there.’ "

The Army policy of a deployment deferment of six months for new mothers was welcome news for 1st Lt. April Baccinelli with the 212th Combat Support Hospital in Miesau, Germany. Baccinelli breast-feeds her 6-month-old daughter, Valentina. Her unit is supportive of her breast-feeding efforts, and during a recent field exercise, Baccinelli was able to go to her car and pump.

"It’s definitely a worry about being deployed and being a mother, and when you’re breastfeeding, it’s a double worry," she said.


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