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Infant feeding practices, workplace breastfeeding/lactation practices, and perception of unit/service support among primiparous active duty servicewomen

APA Citation:

Abbott, J., Carty, J., & Batig, A. L. (2019). Infant feeding practices, workplace breastfeeding/lactation practices, and perception of unit/service support among Primiparous Active Duty servicewomen. Military Medicine, 184(7-8), e315-e320. https://doi.org/10.1093/milmed/usy356

Abstract Created by REACH:

Breastmilk is the recommended form of infant nutrition in the United States, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for infants for the first 6 months of life when possible. Using data from 97 active duty servicewomen who had just given birth to their first child, this descriptive study investigated the experiences of breastfeeding mothers and their perceptions of the support they receive in the workplace. Participants completed an in-person survey within 48 hours of giving birth followed by a phone interview survey approximately 5-6 months postpartum. Results suggest that 61% of servicewomen pumped breastmilk at work, but only 37% of the servicewomen reported that they had adequate space and privacy to do so. Further, 53% of servicewomen felt supported in their breastfeeding practices by their Unit and 50% felt supported by the Military.


Physical health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member


Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Longitudinal Study
Quantitative Study
Secondary Analysis


Abbott, Jonathan, Carty, Jenava, Batig, Alison L.


Introduction: Successful breastfeeding provides multiple health benefits to Servicewomen and their infants and has positive indirect benefits to the military. Workplace lactation support influences breastfeeding continuation after a Servicewoman's return to work. Materials and Methods: This study evaluated the breastfeeding practices and workplace breastfeeding support among primiparous women serving in the U.S. Army. The study was a subanalysis of a non-blinded randomized controlled trial designed to determine the effect of postpartum appointment timing (either 2-3 or 6-8 weeks after delivery) on breastfeeding rates 6 months post-delivery. Subanalysis results were obtained through a telephonic follow-up survey 5-6 months after delivery; Servicewomen were queried to assess their breastfeeding/lactation practices and perception of unit and service support. Results: Eighty of the 97 (82.5%) enrolled Servicewomen participated in the survey. Among respondents, 43.8% were still breastfeeding and 93.6% of those indicated an intent to breastfeed for a duration of 6 months or longer. Among respondents who provided feedback on their workplace, unit, and Army support for breastfeeding/lactation, only 13% reported they had access to a private room, sink, and refrigerator; 53% of respondents felt "mostly" or "very" supported by their assigned unit and 50% felt "mostly" or "very" supported by the Army. Conclusion: While almost half of the respondents were still breastfeeding and planned to continue 5-6 months postpartum and the majority of respondents felt "mostly" or "very" supported in their breastfeeding by their unit and the Army, comprehensive physical support for lactation in the workplace was inconsistent. This study provides feedback to inform ongoing implementation of the existing Army breastfeeding support directive.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Oxford University Press

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Madigan Army Medical Center, JA
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Madigan Army Medical Center, JC
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Madigan Army Medical Center, ALB


breastfeeding, health benefits, servicewomen, infants, military, U.S. Army

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

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