Nursing military mothers traveling on permanent change of station orders are now eligible to get reimbursed for up to $1,000 of the cost of shipping their breast milk back to their child.

Troops and their families often travel separately when moving to another base so they can set up their new household, or to attend training and other work requirements in the midst of the transition. The policy aims to help cover out-of-pocket costs for breastfeeding parents while they are separated from their children, which can squeeze service members’ budgets at hundreds of dollars per shipment.

The new Defense Department policy, which took effect May 24, is similar to an earlier policy enacted in 2022 that helps troops recoup the cost of shipping breast milk when they are on temporary duty travel for work trips longer than three days.

The new rule applies to service members who are breastfeeding children up to 12 months old. Troops are responsible for making their own arrangements for transporting breast milk.

In doing so, service members are allowed to be reimbursed for commercial shipping fees, excess baggage fees, and dry ice or regular ice, according to the Joint Travel Regulations.

The policy won’t cover the cost of packaging and packing material, as prohibited by federal law, or of a rental vehicle.

Service members must receive prior authorization for reimbursement, to be included on their PCS orders, before incurring those expenses. The service member must claim the costs on their PCS voucher once the move is complete. All receipts, regardless of the amount, must be submitted along with the claim.

Christopher Woods, the Defense Travel Management Office’s policy branch chief, acknowledged those costs can add up.

“The fact is that this milk must be stored in a cold environment,” Woods said. “Service members are having to purchase things like ice and dry ice in order to keep the milk frozen or cool.”

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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