If you’ve ever breastfed a newborn babe, you know it is hard work. From supply and latch issues to discomfort and pain, breastfeeding can be super challenging — and returning to work only complicates the matter. But one employer is hoping to make the transition a bit easier. The U.S. Coast Guard will now cover the cost of shipping breast milk back home, and the effort is designed to relieve some of the stress — and financial burden — new moms face.
The change came about after a RAND Corporation study revealed women leave active-duty positions at higher rates than men.
“Although the Coast Guard enjoys one of the highest retention rates among the five military branches, we must do better,” Admiral Charles W. Ray, Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, said. “This study is an important element in our broader effort to recruit and retain an inclusive and diverse workforce that reflects the American public we serve. It is every leader’s responsibility to identify and eliminate elements of our culture that may inhibit equal participation and opportunity in our Service.”
The program covers up to $750 a year in shipping costs and is available to all active duty members, including public health service officers, US Navy chaplains, reservists on active duty and civilian employees, the Coast Guard said. Those who are away from home 72 hours or more can file for a reimbursement, and members who are deployed over 60 days can have a family member apply on their behalf.
No word on how long reimbursement will take.
Of course, the move — in and of itself — will not guarantee an increase in Coast Guard employee retention rates. The report found there were various factors affecting a woman’s decision to stay in the Coast Guard or leave, including the frequency and duration of deployments and possibility of transfer. Other barriers included concerns about sexual harassment and/or the scarcity of female role models. Still, the policy change is a step in the right direction for new and breastfeeding parents — one we hope other branches of the military (and other employers) will soon adopt.
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