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Thread: Military Deployment :(

  1. #1

    Default Military Deployment :(

    Hi Ladies! My baby is 7 weeks now and nursing constantly. I found out yesterday that I will be going on deployment for 4 months in January, she will be 7.5 months old. I am devastated to leave her to say the least. They want me to stop breastfeeding at the end of October so I don't get medically disqualified due to lumps in the breast. I probably will go ahead and breastfeed her until November 22 anyway when she is 6 months old. How long does it take for milk to "dry up" so I don't have to worry about lumps in the breast? I'd be leaving January 9th. Is this enough time?

    Is it possible for me to continue to breastfeed and pump enough to build a huge stock for her for when I'm gone? I really did not want her on formula at all. I have heard there are milk banks, does anyone know how this works? Would it be possible at all to return after 4 months and start breastfeeding again?

    Thanks so much!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Re: Military Deployment :(

    Wow, can the military actually order you to stop breastfeeding? Are you in a field where pumping would truly interfere with your ability to carry out your duties?

    The time if takes for milk to dry up differs widely from mom to mom. It's common for women to continue to produce some small amount of milk for weeks, months, sometimes even years after complete weaning. The "lumps in the breast" thing makes me suspicious that whoever you spoke to has absolutely no idea what a mom should reasonably expect to experience after weaning. "Lumps" sounds like, IDK, like a tumor or something!

    If a mom weans too fast, she may experience engorgement (which can feel vaguely lumpy), plugged ducts (these definitely do feel like lumps), and possibly mastitis. If you wean slowly, as recommended, you are unlikely to experience engorgement or "lumps" of any kind. If it becomes necessary for you to discontinue breastfeeding in November, you're going to want to wean slowly. This means dropping a single feeding, replacing that feeding with stored milk or formula, waiting several days for supply to adjust downwards, and then dropping another feeding. You continue this process until all the feedings are gone.

    The are no guarantees with weaning, even if you wean slowly. It's not uncommon for things like plugged ducts and mastitis to crop up as a mom attempts to wean, and if that does happen to you then you need to treat those things by removing milk frequently and draining the breast completely, which would of course set your weaning timetable back.

    If you start weaning as planned, in late November, I think there's every reason to expect that you would still have some milk on January 9. So I personally think you'd need to start weaning a little sooner than Nov. 22.

    It is possible for you to continue to nurse and build up a large stash. IDK if you could reasonably expect to store an entire 6 months worth of milk, though- that's going to be around 20-30 oz of milk per day x 180 days. Are you pumping at this point, and if you are, how is it going? What sort of pump do you have? Do you have a free-standing deep freezer?

    Milk banks focus their efforts on getting milk to the babies who need it most, which generally means premature, medically fragile babies. Not healthy 6 month olds. My understanding is that banked milk tends to be expensive for moms who want to use it but do not have a medical NEED to use it. Nevertheless, I would contact https://www.hmbana.org/ and see what they have to say.

    A lot of moms for who banked milk is not an option get their milk through informal milk sharing arrangements. Here's one organization that tries to connect moms in need with those who can give: https://www.hmbana.org/

    It is possible that you would be able to return to breastfeeding after 4 months off. But there are no guarantees. Not all babies will go back to the breast, and it's generally much easier to maintain milk production than to restart it. Which is why I am so curious about the possibility of you pumping- if you could pump, you could keep your production going while you're gone. You could mail milk back to your baby. You wouldn't have to wean until much closer to the day you deploy. And when you got home, you could just start nursing again, with no relactation time necessary.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  3. #3

    Default Re: Military Deployment :(

    mommal has pretty much covered it. It's just too individual to put absolutes and dates on, certainly at this point. Mothers may lactate small amounts of milk for months after weaning, there is no way to know when you would have no 'lumps' by which I assume they mean, the breast is lactating. However, weaning gradually over some time-several weeks at least...would probably be the healthiest choice whenever you decide to wean.

    The AAP and every other child health organization says babies should be breastfed for at least a year, (exclusive for 6 months) and mothers working for almost any other mid to large sized organization and the federal government have protections when it comes to pumping at work. But as I understand it, the military is different and each branch has different rules is my understanding. I am talking US military, I apologize for assuming if you are in the military in another country.

    Anyway, you may find additional info to help with your specific situation here: http://breastfeedingincombatboots.com/

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Austin, TX

    Default Re: Military Deployment :(

    I am surprised that they can legally force you to stop breastfeeding. I'm so sorry you're in this tough situation. I feel like I remember reading posts on these boards from other military moms, so I really hope they will chime in here and offer you some ideas and support for how to manage the situation. Good luck mama. Keep us posted on what you find out and how it's going for you.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    miles from nowhere

    Default Re: Military Deployment :(

    What would the consequences be if you did not stop nursing and did get medically disqualified for 'lumps in your breasts'? By the way I totally agree with mommal that whoever said that has absolutely no clue what they are talking about. Is there any way to go up the chain of command and get some better guidance on what you really are required to do (as opposed to what one random person imagines you should do).
    “We are not put on earth for ourselves, but are placed here for each other. If you are there always for others, then in time of need, someone will be there for you.”

  6. #6

    Default Re: Military Deployment :(

    Thanks so much everyone for the responses! Technically we get 6 months of allowed pumping breaks during work, after that it is up to your chain of command. Mine would likely be supportive. They are not technically ordering/forcing me to stop before, just telling me to do so, so that I don't get disqualified medically. This deployment is to some intensive training that if I complete it my salary will basically double for the rest of my career and my daughter's life will be better for it in the long run (except for the breastfeeding of course). If I were to get medically disqualified, that would be that...I'd go back to my old job. I would not be able to go to this at any other time. I've considered doing that a lot, and am still not sure what to do. If it is possible to slowly wean over those last few months (Oct-Dec) so that I wont have plugged ducts, maybe I can try that. Is that possible?

    I have only been pumping once for about 5-10 minutes after an early morning feed between 5 and 8am depending on when baby wakes up. I get around 2 ounces, sometimes less sometimes more. I hadn't been pumping more because I do have a forceful letdown, which seems to be getting better...or my baby is just dealing with it better. I do have a good pump, a Madela Symphony. Should I start pumping longer and more often right away? She eats so often during the day, like sometimes every 30-45 minutes I'm just not sure how to fit it in. I go back to work the end of August so I know that could slow production too. I'm going to buy a deep freezer this weekend to keep my stash and really want to build it up. I was thinking I'd pump in the middle of the night and during my commute but I know that's not nearly enough for what I'll need

    I will check into the milk banks, thanks so much for that info! I don't mind spending a lot on this it is worth it to me. Do you think it is safe to buy milk from some of the informal sources?

    Thanks again!!!

  7. #7

    Default Re: Military Deployment :(

    Wow that is crazy...you could never, ever get this training again?? That is just, well. Really unfortunate timing!

    Did you explore the website I linked? They had a very good simple weaning tips page. Certainly it is possible to gradually wean over 2 months, it is possible to wean faster or slower...it all depends on how fast you try/need to do it and how your body responds. But no one can guarantee that you body will cooperate completely and you do not get plugged ducts or stop lactating on such and such date. I think it would be helpful to get clarity on what exactly would disqualify you and what needs to be happening or not happening, breast-wise, when you would be examined. How sad if you reduced your milk production and weaned your baby to formula and then got medically disqualified anyway!

    Should I start pumping longer and more often right away?
    Pumping in order to be able to leave your milk for your baby after you deploy? I understand the impulse to pump lots now so your baby will have your milk when you are gone. But of course pumping a lot will increase production, which might make the weaning process slower for your body, if that makes sense. It can in some cases cause breastfeeding issues as well.

    I think it might help to sit back and think about this a bit. Plan for the future but also consider what would make you and your baby happiest in the present.

    I think it boils down to-do you want to make sure baby gets as much breastmilk as baby possibly can, even after you deploy?

    Or would it be better to relax and enjoy the time you DO have to exclusively nurse and enjoy your baby, which will be longer than most mothers exclusively nurse these days, and not worry so much about cramming in pump sessions, even if that means baby gets more formula in the long run?

    Or is there a happy medium for you?

    There is no wrong answer...obviously there are pros and cons either way.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Military Deployment :(

    Definitely check out Breastfeeding in Combat Boots. You can also ask questions on the BiCB Facebook page.
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  9. #9

    Default Re: Military Deployment :(

    Thanks for your post lilmeg! Yes, it is the worst timing possible. Unfortunately there is an age limit that I am about to reach so if I don't go now I will no longer qualify It's really competitive and I had been trying to get it for 5 years now...and of course it has to come right when I have my sweet girl It's so hard because my baby is the most important thing to me and I want to do what is best for her. But you are right I definitely need more information about the physical exam and what to expect, it would be horrible to wean and then get DQ'd! That website you sent really did help! The weaning information was great, I have a much better idea of what to expect now.

    I was thinking I would just try to pump pump pump so I had enough for the time I am gone, but I think I do need to find a happy medium so I can enjoy the time I do have with her. I'll just have to pump when I can and hope that I can get her at least an extra month or so...or enough for a few months half bm and half formula.
    It's going to be so hard leaving her!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Re: Military Deployment :(

    Is the training physical? Or is it more of an educational opportunity? I mean, if you're going to be doing really grueling physical training without opportunities for pump breaks, then I can understand the rationale for you needing to be completely dried up before you begin. However, if the training is something where you're mostly sitting at a desk or something like that, and you have time to pump, then I don't understand why you'd need to be totally weaned. Also, does the physical exam you'd be facing incorporate a breast exam or something? And if not, how would they know whether or not your breasts were lumpy?

    If the physical does involve someone checking your breasts for lumps, one possibility to consider would be pumping really, really thoroughly right before you go in for the exam. Empty breast = no lumps.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

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