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Peterson proactive, supporting new moms

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Jillian Novak, 21st Comptroller Squadron and expectant mother, chats with Tonya Bonner, left, 21st Space Wing chief of civilian personnel, and Carmen Ryan, Key Spouse mentor, in the new mother’s room of the Mission Support Squadron building on Peterson Air Force Base, Feb. 1, 2017. Bonner and Ryan started the process of creating the space for nursing mothers to use in comfort and privacy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Alethea Smock)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Jillian Novak, 21st Comptroller Squadron and expectant mother, chats with Tonya Bonner, left, 21st Space Wing chief of civilian personnel, and Carmen Ryan, Key Spouse mentor, in the new mother’s room of the Mission Support Squadron building on Peterson Air Force Base, Feb. 1, 2017. Bonner and Ryan started the process of creating the space for nursing mothers to use in comfort and privacy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Alethea Smock)

Air Force Space Command Headquarters new mothers have access to a nursing room in building one.

Air Force Space Command Headquarters new mothers have access to a nursing room in building one.

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Breastfeeding moms will soon have a place of their own when a nursing room is opened in the Mission Support building on Peterson Air Force Base by the end of January.

The room is being created based upon need and in accordance with Air Force Instruction 44-102. It is furnished with pertinent items, has curtains for privacy and is available whenever the building is open.

The project stems from an interaction between a civilian employee and Carmen Ryan, Key Spouse mentor, following a commander’s call.

“She said she saw a woman breastfeeding in the restroom,” Ryan said.
“A lot of moms go to the Child Development Center and nurse at lunch,” added Capt. Neelie Ylagan, 21st Medical Group pediatrics flight chief.

The civilian suggested creating a space better suited for nursing mothers. Once the idea was presented to the 21st Force Support Squadron, it gained momentum said Ryan.

Ryan said the squadron sacrificed space across from the 21st FSS offices, room 1220, matching the needs for the room. The room has a closet and a refrigerator for storage, and an interior window, chairs with arms, and small table for comfort. Homey décor and curtains to section off the room for additional privacy complete the area.

“It’s more for pumping (milk) than breastfeeding,” Ryan said. “It’s open to employees, visitors – anyone really.”

A similar room has been available in the Air Force Space Command Headquarters building on Peterson AFB for about five years, said Clayton LaPointe, facilities manager.

“It's rare that someone in the building is not lactating, at least one and sometime up to three individuals,” LaPointe said. “Some individuals during late term also use the room to rest and get a feel for it before they start using it.”

The Centers for Disease Control reports mothers are the fastest growing segment of the American labor force. About 70 percent of employed mothers with children younger than 3 years are full-time employees. A third of the mothers return to work within three months of giving birth and the remaining two-thirds return within six months. These figures demonstrate the group's significance.

The CDC also cites several studies indicating lactation support in the workplace benefits families and employers. Better productivity and staff loyalty, decreased absenteeism, health care costs and employee turnover are all benefits.

Ylagan said American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines play a role in creating the nursing space. The AAP says choosing to breastfeed should be considered an investment in the overall health of an infant, rather than a lifestyle choice and recommends breastfeeding for the first 12 months of life.

Similar information is found in the "Breastfeeding and Breast Pumping" section of AFI 44. The Air Force Medical Service recognizes a number of benefits to breastfeeding recommending supervisors of nursing Airmen arrange work schedules allowing 15-30 minutes every 3-4 hours to pump breast milk in appropriate areas. Restrooms are not considered appropriate areas.

“It is very refreshing to see the joint forces taking huge strides and to make accommodations for Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen to incorporate pumping into their daily work routine,” Ylagan said. “Understanding the long term implications breastfeeding can have on both maternal and infant health will also protect the impact on the mission.”

The experts agree nursing facilities are positive for Airmen families, and adding one on Peterson AFB is a demonstration of Col. Doug Schiess, 21st Space Wing commander’s interest in promoting family. Providing a space for mothers to nurse and pump is an investment in Team Pete Airmen.

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