The Army is reviewing its policy regarding nursing mothers after a lawmaker pushed legislation that would require the service to develop a comprehensive policy on breastfeeding.
"The Army recognizes breastfeeding is beneficial to mother and baby, as both experience positive health benefits," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno wrote in a letter to Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass. "Army leaders are required to provide the necessary time and support to female soldiers who decide to breastfeed their babies or express breast milk following maternity leave, ensuring that they have a designated, clean space in the work place."
Tsongas recently wrote a column in Army Times advocating for action on behalf of numerous women who have come forward with concerns about the Army's lack of a standard breastfeeding policy.
She also pushed legislation that would require the Army, like the other services, to develop a comprehensive policy regarding breastfeeding.
The legislation, which was included in the National Defense Authorization Act, calls for the Army to create a policy that, at a minimum, designates a private, clean area with electrical outlets for expressing milk and an allowance for breaks, according to information from Tsongas' office.
Tsongas sent a letter June 2 to Odierno asking the service to adopt the measure.
Odierno responded in a letter dated June 22.
"The Army is currently in the process of conducting a thorough review of this policy," Odierno wrote. "We will work with the other services to understand best practices. We will ensure this updated guidance is reflected in Army Regulation 600-20, Army Command Policy."
The Army also will continue to promote and encourage mothers to take advantage of several resources that support breastfeeding, including Lactation Support Rooms and Nursing Mothers' programs, said Paul Prince, an Army spokesman.
In a statement, Tsongas said she appreciated Odierno's "willingness to pursue a breastfeeding policy."
"On many issues involving the full integration of women in the military, the Army has been at the forefront," she said in her statement. "Gen. Odierno has supported the removal of the ban on women in combat and Special Forces, and many of the latest efforts to combat sexual assault. I have always appreciated his frank and open communication. … Action on this front would bolster the needs of Army moms, and I look forward to working with Gen. Odierno and his team."