This post is sponsored by The Breastfeeding Shop.
Finding out that you or your partner is pregnant is often an exciting time. Ultrasounds, doctor’s appointments, baby registries and baby showers can make it even more fun to share with friends and family. It can also be an anxious period, as you work to welcome your baby home. Birthing classes, breastfeeding classes, birth plans, buying baby gear and more can make the experience more daunting.
Fortunately, military installations around the globe are there to help families who need it. In some cases, the help comes regardless of income level. Classes and information may vary depending on the size of your installation and whether it is stateside or overseas. Here are some ways that military installations can help you if you are a new or expectant parent:
Start with the family services group that corresponds to your service member’s branch of service
While the name of the organization varies across military branches, the services offered are fairly similar. Regardless of the name of the building or organizations, they offer a wealth of services and information when it comes to prepping for and bringing home a new baby. The services may vary from installation to installation. This group offers:
1. Baby Boot Camp
This is a free class that teaches parents the basics of labor and delivery and newborn care. Topics include nutrition; labor, delivery and pain management; feeding a new baby; comfort measures; couple’s communication; assistance with enrollment in DEERS and TRICARE; and help with passport and consular birth certificate paperwork (if OCONUS). This is a free class.
2. WIC program registration assistance
Family members can get WIC assistance if they qualify, from the beginning of the mother’s pregnancy until the child turns 5. The program ensures that families get the nutrition they need and provides support with meal planning, recipes, and food prep. It costs nothing to enroll.
3. Infant massage classes
This class teaches parents how to help their baby relax, improve digestion and circulation, and reduce colic, fussiness and gas, while offering parents the chance to meet other parents.
5. Home visitation
Under the wider umbrella of New Parent Support Program (or branch equivalent), families receive in-home parenting education, support, resource links and referral services to community options. Regardless of the number of children a family has, they are treated as a “new parent” as long as there was a recent birth.
5. Lactation support
Certified lactation consultants can assist new moms with breastfeeding support to increase the chance of success while helping to plan routines.
Most installations offer a playgroup for young children, usually between the ages of 6 weeks and four years. This is a great resource to help parents who may stay home and would like to prevent isolation.
7. Lending closets
If you’re at an overseas location, you probably have a lending closet available. Families in need of certain baby items can borrow them from the installation family services group, sometimes for an extended period of time, although some items may have a return date. Items available may include high chairs, pack and plays, car seats, and more. There are usually a limited number of items available.
8. Information on child care
Your family services organization can help answer your questions involving different types of care for you baby. Free pamphlets are available that provide instruction on safe and unsafe foods, keeping a healthy mouth, how WIC can help, and more.
9. Free baby necessities
Some installations offer a basket or box of baby necessities to new parents based on income level.
Visit your nearest Military Treatment Facility
Some of this information will vary depending on the size and location of your installation, but even if your local MTF doesn’t provide the services, they can usually direct you to off-installation civilian options that do and provide referrals if needed.
Your local MTF can do more than provide prenatal, postnatal, and pediatric care for new and expectant mothers. They also provide:
10. Birthing classes
Many hospitals strongly urge parents to attend birthing classes with their birthing partner. Parents learn how pregnancy, labor, and delivery progress, while also gaining important information involving induction, pain relief options, breathing techniques, and early infant care. They may be free or require a fee. Check with your MTF for more.
11. Breastfeeding classes
While usually included in basic birthing classes, this type of class provides important information to start off breastfeeding properly, from day one.
12. Hospital tours
At most installations, these tours are organized through your installation’s MTF. In some cases, sign up may be at your family services organization. Either way, the tours help prepare parents for their arrival on the day of delivery. Parents usually get to see the triage location, delivery rooms and recover rooms (depending on the facility and process). You should be able to find out the specific process at your location while on the tour. It can help ease the jitters of arriving on the big day.
13. Lactation consultants
These are certified professionals that can help you on a path of successful breastfeeding. This service is covered by TRICARE, so if your installation doesn’t offer it, they should be able to refer you to someone who does.
14. Newborn information
While your child’s PCM will preform a newborn exam within a few days of birth, that appointment can also provide you with additional information. Most MTFs have printouts on hand detailing vaccination schedules and appointments baby will need throughout the first year.
15. Your child’s PCM
At some installations you may see an actual pediatrician and others may have a doctor specializing in family practice, but either way, your child’s PCM is a mine of information. If they don’t know the proper answer to your questions, they will be able to find someone who does. You can lean on them for information and assistance.
16. The mother’s OBGYN
Direct all pregnancy and postpartum questions to your OBGYN or a nursing care line while pregnant or during the early postpartum period. They are the best option to receive accurate information as they are specialized in OB care but also know your patient history.
Host nation programs
If you are in an OCONUS location, some host nations may offer programs to parents delivering in civilian hospitals. Programs can include:
17. Visiting midwives and doulas
Instead of making trips to a doctor or sitting on the phone to ask questions, midwives and doulas can visit new parents to help with routine baby care, observe breastfeeding to correct any problems and offer other support to mothers in the postpartum period. You can ask about these services while still in the civilian hospital after delivery. Many come covered by insurance or at no cost.
18. Housekeeping assistance offered by doulas
Doulas in certain host nations may offer housekeeping assistance in addition to other programs. They can do basic housekeeping and laundry to help parents from the postpartum period until the child is three. You can ask about what services doulas in your area specifically provide.
19. Lactation consultants
Like the lactation consultants in other areas, host nation consultants can help new mothers with breastfeeding by observing breastfeeding sessions, offering assistance and suggestions, checking for ties, or even weighing the baby before and after feedings to ensure proper nutrition. Host nation consultants can offer in-home breastfeeding assistance.
There are a few other options outside of your installation’s family services or MTF:
19. American Red Cross
You can use the Red Cross to update (or learn for the first time) the skills necessary to use CPR or relieve choking.
20. Child Development Centers
If you need to use daycare services, be sure to check in with your installation CDCs to get your child registered. Many installations have wait lists for babies and toddlers, but two working parents are often put at the top of the list. Get registered as soon as your baby is born to increase the chances of getting a daycare slot.
21. The service member’s unit
Most unit family support groups (FRGs or FROs) are willing to help in the event of a new baby. They may provide new parents with baby supplies, a baby shower, support with household tasks (mowing the lawn, walking the dogs, picking up older children from school), or providing meals. They are there to help you, so definitely lean on the services if they’re offered.
Whether you’re expecting a baby or recently had a new addition to your family, be sure to lean on your installation’s services for help in the early weeks and months. As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise children.” Let your installation be your village.
The Breastfeeding Shop provides name-brand, high-quality breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies. Catering to the military community, the Breastfeeding Shop’s quick and easy service ensures that TRICARE beneficiaries can receive breast pumps and supplies at no-cost to them.
By Sarah Peachey