CAF Supporting Military Personnel Choosing to Nurse or Pump

Last month the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) released a CANFORGEN regarding support for military personnel choice of pumping and or nursing within the CAF.

The CANFORGEN, released on July 28, is part of the CAF efforts to ensure every member works in an environment of mutual respect, dignity, and inclusion.

Canadian Human Rights Act

As written in DAOD 5516-0 human rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act, which according to the CANFORGEN, prevents discrimination against family status, sex (including pregnancy and childbirth), gender identity and gender expression, pumping and or nursing is a protected right.

“Health Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommend providing human milk for up to two years and beyond,” the CANFORGEN noted. Therefore a lot of people returning to work may continue to pump and or nurse.

Members might not want to be open about the need to pump or nurse due to stigma, which is why Commanding Officers are going to have a lactation plan in place and have at least one lactation room per 400 people to support their members. The CANFORGEN also stated that Commanding Officers would look at other possibilities for secondary spaces.

Locations and the plan for these rooms are going to be shared with everyone. The responsibility will be of Commanding Officers to think of how the same needs can be met in a field or operational environment.

Creating Plans & Lactation Rooms

The CANFORGEN outlined that there are criteria to consider when creating plans and lactation rooms:

(a) Essential requirements: Space and time. A sanitary and private space is required as a designated space (i.e., bathroom facilities are not appropriate, and members shall be supported in-house). Lactation rooms should be in safe, central, and accessible areas. As stated in the release, “supervisors must do everything they can to accommodate as much time as needed by the member, as time required varies and is dependent on each person.” Time for lactation and breaks may also be required to prevent nausea.

Proof and justification are unnecessary for members when it comes to their decision and need to pump or nurse while at work.

(b) Additional guidance and recommendations: Clear and permissive signage for lactation rooms is encouraged. In addition, each room should include “a comfortable chair with arms, with proximity to an electrical outlet, a cooler or minifridge to store milk, a locking door, cubbies or drawers to store pumping materials, and proximity to a sink to wash hands and pumping pieces,” the CANFORGEN informed.

Signage, Location, & Communication Needed

Some units have encouraged the use of offices as long as some or all criteria are met. The CANFORGEN also noted signage, location, and communication regarding these rooms should be gender inclusive and accessible to all pumping or nursing members.

Proof and justification are unnecessary for members when it comes to their decision and need to pump or nurse while at work. However, anyone experiencing issues while trying to acquire space and time should reach out to their local conflict and complaint management services office.

Until further policy changes towards inclusive practices of pre-post natal care can be updated or drafted, this is how the CAF will move forward. The CANFORGEN noted an additional resource on creating a lactation-friendly plan could be found on the Ontario Public Health Association.

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Julia Lennips

Julia is a journalist who is an avid reader and an artist. She is living in North Bay, ON pursing her passion for reporting.

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