The Defense Department is continuing its push to better the work-life balance of those working for the Pentagon by providing more care options for pregnant and post-partum people.
TRICARE is embarking on a five-year pilot program that will provide lactation and doula services to beneficiaries. The program will run until the end of 2026.
Beneficiaries will receive up to six breastfeeding counseling sessions with a professional under a TRICARE-approved provider. Pregnant people may receive doula counseling at 20 weeks of gestation and lactation services at 27 weeks of gestation.
“One of the biggest pain points, if not the biggest pain point for families is figuring out how to feed their baby,” Maggie Moore, head of partnerships at SimpliFed, a lactation services company contracting with TRICARE East and West, said. “There’s so much focus on birth and labor. One of the things we like to say is, ‘It’s great to have a birth plan, but the other plan you also need to have is a feeding plan.’ We really exist to support parents in an inclusive, supportive, non-judgmental way however they can and choose to feed their babies.”
Moore said one of the biggest pushes is to help the whole family care for a baby by addressing mental health and total family health.
“Ideally, we will start working with families when they’re still pregnant to set expectations and to make sure there is that feeding plan,” she said. “We help make sure they have their pump. We also are working with a number of organizations in the Military Health System who helped increase access and make it easier for parents to get their breast pump, which is also a covered benefit.”
The military services are making it easier for troops and civilians to find areas to pump and offering spaces to store milk as well.
“After the baby comes a lot of times in those first few days to first couple of weeks is when a lot of the issues and challenges can come up and so we can really surge support virtually in the hospital, in the home or wherever parents are,” Moore said.
One of the most helpful things for that is virtual care, especially for those working in remote areas or with busy lifestyles.
Moore said parents can easily contact counselors in the parking lot from their car or on base or anywhere else, by using virtual appointments.
“I do think having flexibility and access to care that is remote, that doesn’t require packing up the kids getting in the car or taking time off, or whatever the case may be, is why we do this,” Moore said. “We want to try to make things easier and fit into a busy lifestyle.”