Breast intentions

So, the IRS has ruled that breast pumps are not eligible for purchase on tax-exempt medical flex spending cards. The reason? According to a New York Times article, “breast-feeding does not have enough health benefits to quality as a form of medical care.” I call bullshit.

Under the same law, the IRS will allow purchase of acne meds, denture cream and many other items. But not breast pumping supplies. It’s an interesting contradiction. On the one hand, the government is invested in promoting breastfeeding.

Likewise, agencies such as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breastfeeding through six months to benefit both the baby and the mother, which actually helps society as whole by lowering health costs, according to this release from the AAP:

Increased breastfeeding also has the potential for decreasing annual health costs in the U.S. by $3.6 billion and decreasing parental employee absenteeism, the environmental burden for disposal of formula cans and bottles, and energy demands for production and transport of formula.

And while the majority of new moms start off trying to breastfeed, there is a precipitous drop-off before six months. A 2008 BYU study reported by the New York Times showed that only 36% of breastfeeding moms stick with it to the 6-month mark. There are a lot of reasons why that may be. One is definitely that it is hard to breastfeed and work outside the home. This is where having a breast pump is integral! Women need these pumps in order to supply food for their babies. How can you say feeding babies doesn’t have “enough health benefits”? Ridiculous!

What I find strangest of all is that you can find government programs that will help you pay for baby formula but not help you pay for breast pumps. Even WIC, which provides food assistance to women and children, has a program to promote breastfeeding (as well as help to pay for formula). In that program, eligible women can get help obtaining breast pumps. It’s like the government doesn’t know what each hand is doing!

I am not trying to be pro-breastfeeding-only. I respect that different women and families need to have multiple options to decide what is best for them. But I am absolutely calling out the IRS for being total douchebags. Why does our country continue to have backward laws and regulations that limit women’s choices and put increased strains on families? Parents don’t need more roadblocks! They don’t need more bills!

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