The U.S. Army announced major policy changes this week that will expand the benefits for soldiers who are parents when it comes to pregnancy, the postpartum period, and parenthood in general.
Military.com reports that the Army’s Parenthood, Pregnancy and Postpartum directive, which is aimed at both birth and non-birth parents, was initiated as a grassroots effort by soldiers looking to advance their careers in the Army while providing the time and flexibility they need to care for their growing families. There are currently over 400,000 parents in the Army who will benefit from the new policies.
"We recruit Soldiers, but we retain Families," Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the Army, said in a statement. "Winning the war for talent means making sure our best and brightest people don't have to choose between service and Family."
The new directive includes 12 provisions (some new, some are updates to existing rules). One of them is for parents in the Army include a 365-day deferment:
- Soldiers who give birth will be excused for a year from any continuous duty events longer than one normal duty day, including deployment and field training.
- The one-year deferment also applies to non-birth parents, single soldiers, and soldiers who are undergoing fertility treatment.
- In terms of dual-military couples that adopt or have a long-term placement of a child, one Army member of the couple is also eligible for the deferment.
Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers will be granted 12 paid training days off after the birth of a baby. Since members of the Reserves only work part-time, this can add up to three to six months off for them.
When it comes to breastfeeding, the Army is now requiring Commanders to give breastfeeding soldiers 30-minute lactation breaks every two to three hours. They're also able to breastfeed or pump milk in a private, locked room (that is not a bathroom), that will include a place to sit down and a fridge for storing breastmilk.
Notably, a soldier who has a miscarriage or other form of perinatal loss will get leave, as will an Army spouse.
There are updates to the physical fitness requirements for soldiers who recently gave birth as well.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth signed the directive, which is a huge improvement for Army families, on April 19. Hopefully it will inspire other branches of the armed forces to follow suit.
“We believe all of these will have an outsized impact on our ability to recruit and retain talent as well as promoting and improving the well-being of all parents,” Amy Kramer, lead action officer for the policy, tells WBIR News.