Female service members are allowed military maternity leave after the birth of a baby or the adoption of a child. Although the Department of Defense (DoD) sets the standard for each branch's maternity leave policies, the individual branches present this information to service members within their own instructions or regulations.
Department of Defense Instruction
The DoD presents its maternity leave policies in an easy-to-understand format within the Report to the White House Council on Women and Girls (page 8). Important aspects of the DoD maternity leave policies include:
- Maternity leave is not chargeable as regular leave.
- Up to six weeks (42 days) of maternity leave is authorized for active duty female service members after giving birth.
- An additional six weeks of primary caregiver leave is also allowed. This can be used anytime within the first year of the child's life.
- The maternity leave is designed to allow for recovery from childbirth as well as to give the service member time to arrange for appropriate childcare.
Whether or not a service member can take additional regular leave in conjunction with the non-chargeable maternity leave is at the discretion of the service member's commander and largely depends on the mission needs.
The DoD also provides direction regarding maternity leave for service members who are adopting a child within the same report. When service members adopt a child, one parent is designated the primary caregiver and is authorized up to six weeks of non-chargeable leave which must occur within 12 months of the adoption date. As with regular military maternity leave, whether or not this leave can be taken in conjunction with regular, chargeable leave is at the discretion of the service member's commander.
The Army provides direction for the use of maternity leave in AR 600-8-10, which is the Army Regulation outlining convalescent leave following illness or injury. Female service members are allowed 42 days of non-chargeable leave following the birth of a child.
Note that this same Regulation allows commanders to require a service member to return to duty sooner than 42 days, but only if the mission requires this and a medical authority has deemed the service member fit for duty.
The Navy presents direction for maternity leave to service members in the MILPERSMAN 1050-180. Just as with the other branches of the military, this 42-day leave is considered non-chargeable. Extensions of this maternity leave may be granted if the service member is found to not yet be fit to return to duty.
The Navy further states that this leave cannot be extended solely based on the newborn's condition. This means that an extended hospital stay for the baby does not necessarily mean a longer maternity leave for the mother.
The Air Force's Instruction regarding maternity leave is found in AFI 36-3003. The standard length of time before a service member must return to work is 42 days of non-chargeable maternity leave. This leave can be extended if necessary for the well-being of the service member.
The maternity leave period begins the day the service member is discharged from the hospital following childbirth.
Marine Corps Order 1050.3J (page 23) states that female service members are allowed 42 days of convalescent leave following the birth of a child. This Order further states that this maternity leave can be extended at the discretion of the service member's physician if necessary.
It's interesting to note that this Order also states that service members can return to duty sooner than directed, but only if the service member's physician grants permission, and only if the service member volunteers to do so.
The Coast Guard's COMDTINST 1000.9 outlines the Directives regarding maternity leave. After female service members give birth to a baby, they are granted 84 days of non-chargeable, convalescent leave. Extensions are available when there is a medical need, and the extension is recommended by the attending physician and approved by the commanding officer.
The Coast Guard further allows qualified service members to request a temporary separation from their service in order to care for a newborn. It is also further clarified that service members who are confined to a brig when having a baby are not eligible for these maternity leave policies.
All military branches offer further direction regarding accommodations for breastfeeding, time allowances to return to physical fitness standards, and more. For more information, consult with your immediate supervisor or primary care physician.