Maternity Leave for Military Moms

A Brief Guide to Policy and Benefits

soldier and pregnant wife
Getty Images/Daniel Bendjy

Maternity leave is just as valuable and pertinent for military moms as it is for civilians. Of course, female servicemember have a few more things to worry about, such as station location, assignment, or rank, but the basic need to care for a newborn and spend quality time with the family time is the same. To accommodate these needs, the Department of Defense created the Report to the White House Council on Women and Girls in September 2009.

Among the report’s most important recommendations are:

  • At least four months after giving birth, a mother shall be deferred from assignment to certain overseas tours, as well as deployments or temporary assignment away from the permanent duty station. However, a mother does have the option to waive deferment.
  • A minimum four-month deferment period is established to provide medical recovery time after childbirth. This period also allows military mothers and families to arrange and prepare family care plan and childcare plans.

In terms of leave programs that benefit new mothers and families, the report offers the following general guidelines:

  • Maternity. A convalescent period of up to six weeks after pregnancy and childbirth. This timeframe allows mothers and families to establish necessary care plans during and after the maternity leave.
  • Paternity. Married dads in active duty may receive 10 days of non-chargeable leave of absence in order to assist new mothers and accommodate any necessary administrative changes as a result of the birth. Paternity leave should be taken within an appropriate time after the birth.
  • Adoption. Servicemembers who complete a qualifying adoption may have 21 days of non-chargeable leave of absence in relation to the adoption. The leave of absence should be taken during the 12 months after the adoption and can be used in conjunction with regular leave times.

While the Report to the White House Council on Women and Girls lays out minimum standards for all military services, each branch may review and amend the policy based on effectiveness or need.

Changes in policy are often updating, such as in the case of maternity leave through the United States Navy and Marine Corp as of July 2015, so it’s important that expectant mothers learn and understand all policy guidelines in advance. Here are some of the most current regulations in relation to various branches of service.

 

Air Force

Guidelines for maternity and family leave are found in the AFI 36-3003 and state that a mother has 42 days of non-chargeable convalescent leave available unless otherwise specified by a unit commander. Depending on the health of the servicemember or newborn, maternity leave may be granted on an as-needed basis: maternity leave in this branch begins immediately after hospital discharge.

 

Army

Policy and regulation for maternity leave may be found in Army Regulation 600-8-10, which had a Rapid Action Revision issue date of August 2011. Within the regulations, female servicemembers are provided 42 days of non-chargeable leave after the birth of a child. A provision in this regulation allows commanders to require servicemembers to return to duty sooner than 42 days if a mission requires it and the female servicemember has been given medical clearance.

 

Navy and Marine Corp

Recently updated in July 2015, the United States Navy announced that female servicemembers will have 18 weeks of maternity leave to use throughout the first year of a child’s life.

This new guideline has also been applied retroactively to any female servicemembers who have been provided with convalescent leave for the birth of a baby since January 2015. Provisions also state that a new mother doesn’t need to use the maternity or convalescent leave all at one time, but she must use it within one year of the birth.

 

Coast Guard

Detailed in the COMDTINST 1000.9, new mothers are provided 42 days non-chargeable leave, with possible extensions based on the needs of mother or child. These extensions must be approved by a doctor and commanding officer. In the event a female servicemember has a baby while confined to a brig, select maternity leave conditions are not available.

Many factors come into play with regard to a new mother, servicemember or not. In the event of further medical care, breastfeeding or time allowances to return to top physical shape, be sure to refer to your commanding unit supervisor.