La Leche League: Breastfeeding Support and the Military Family

A mother holding her baby boy close to her chest while breastfeeding him. His body is nestled in and relaxed. His right hand resting on her arm his left resting by his mouth as he drifts off to sleep. The tree of life overlay symbolizes the life-sustaining nourishment of breast milk for baby.

Rebecca, Pennsylvania, stationed in the Dominican Republic

My family consists of my husband, our nearly one-year-old son, and our three dogs. I am the lone female in our household for now. As a couple, we decided to wait almost nine years after getting married to expand our family. Our decision was heavily influenced by my husband being in the military and spending a lot of time away from home. We waited until we were in a position where he would be able to be part of the pregnancy, as well as our son’s life. Currently we reside in the Dominican Republic, but this is our third “home” since the birth of our son. We enjoy traveling as a family, which is made so much easier with breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is an ever-evolving journey that as individuals we get to define for ourselves, and no one else can do that for us. Our journey took an unexpected turn when I ended up having a cesarean birth after two days of labor and five hours of pushing. Also, other important factors I learned after the fact were my diagnosis with gestational diabetes as well as my son having jaundice at birth. There were a lot of things going against us, but we pushed through.

I had amazing support from my husband before baby ever arrived. I had not one but two lactation consultants available to assist in the hospital: both we visited multiple times after discharge to do weighted feeds. In addition to the lactation consultants, the hospital where I gave birth has a Breastfeeding-Friendly Designation. All but one nurse was supportive, available, and gave tips throughout the first few days of our breastfeeding journey. On our third night in the hospital, I was pumping colostrum while the midwife went over discharge instructions and as a nurse held my son to facilitate the entire process. I am forever grateful for the amazing hospital and the staff who were all part of my birth experience as well as my postpartum care.

Overall, our breastfeeding journey has been one of ups and downs. But, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed especially because we live overseas where drinking water is all bottled. What comes out of the tap is not safe for consumption. Breast milk is portable, potable, and my son loves it. Despite our early issues and difficulties, I pushed through because I knew it was the best thing for my son. A fellow mother recommended La Leche League when I hit a rough patch. I found support that is beyond words in the online community. All of the LLL meetings are in Spanish where I live, so the support online is paramount and it helped me continue. Thus far, the support from LLL assisted with introducing solid foods, when baby bites, and general teething discomfort. I look forward to continued support as baby approaches one year of age and nutrition other than breast milk becomes more relevant.

We are a military family and that greatly influenced our decision about having a child, and the always-relevant question of when. The timing is never perfect and there always are  hiccups, but I feel blessed beyond words. My husband has been with my son and me for all but nine days out of his first year of life. I know many other military families cannot say the same, and it leaves a huge hole in the hearts and support systems for new mothers.

In our case, being so far away from family I looked to the mothers around me, including active duty military mothers and stay at home military spouses, as well as local mothers. I asked first-time mothers as well as experienced mothers any and all questions. I realized very early on I needed a huge support network and was not shy to ask questions. To this day I am immensely grateful for those women. Two in particular provided examples of when everything goes right and when things go wrong early on.  I held their stories close for those early days when things were not ideal for us as a breastfeeding duo.

Our story is not unique and there are so many military families out there that face many more struggles than we did. I would just ask people to consider how they would have felt being thousands of miles away from their core support, trying to breastfeed, and know that your significant other could leave at any moment!

LLL USA is celebrating mothers, fathers, and parents 
from May through June!

I donated in loving memory of my mother, Carol Rudzinski, who was a devoted LLL leader for over 30 years. Though she is no longer with us, I am so happy that I grew up knowing the importance and specialness of breastfeeding a child. Eight months ago, I welcomed my first child, a daughter, and I know that the relative smoothness of our breastfeeding journey was due to my mother. I miss answering the phone, handing it over, and telling her, “It’s a La Leche League call.” She’d then proceed to help someone in need. The times that happened are countless. I only hope that one day I can help as many people as she did.

Tribute from Cathy Rudzinski

My mother nursed me for a long time when that was even more rare than it is today, and she shows that kind of care and maternal instinct with so many people. She was the caring and fun chaperone for school trips, the Girl Scout leader who made us want to stay in the troop from elementary school to high school, and the “mom” to anyone who needed a hug or good advice. Now she gets to pass on her love to my daughters in the role of Nana, and nothing is better than to see her holding and playing with them. Thanks, Mom!

Tribute from Lauren Feiler

In addition to sharing stories, you can also make a donation ( to LLL USA on behalf of a mother, father, parent, or support person who has been an inspiration or help in meeting your nursing goals. Your donation keeps our volunteer organization running and is used for training, materials, and community outreach.

Send your submission, story ideas or questions to Amy at [email protected].