Have you heard yet about the Affordable Care Act?
On August 1, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) adopted additional Guidelines for Women’s Preventive Services – including well-woman visits, support for breastfeeding equipment, contraception, and domestic violence screening – that will be covered without cost sharing in new health plans starting in August 2012. The guidelines were recommended by the independent Institute of Medicine (IOM) and based on scientific evidence.
And from a bit farther down in the article:
Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling: Pregnant and postpartum women will have access to comprehensive lactation support and counseling from trained providers, as well as breastfeeding equipment. Breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive measures mothers can take to protect their children’s and their own health. One of the barriers for breastfeeding is the cost of purchasing or renting breast pumps and nursing related supplies.
I am thrilled to hear about this. There are so many moms (including myself) that have to go back to work full-time shortly after the births of their children. Right now, in the US, those moms typically have to go back to work at 12 weeks postpartum. This falls under FMLA, which makes no requirement that these moms get paid during that time. If you’re lucky enough (like me) to work for a company that does elect to pay during this time… Great!
Many moms aren’t that lucky. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a mom from a low-income family, have a baby, and then be faced with the prospect of having to choose to put food on the table for their families or stay home with their babies.
So imagine this scenario: You’ve just had your baby. You’re about to return to work just a few short weeks after the birth. You’ve worked so hard to breastfeed your baby during those critical first few weeks. You know that your work is required by federal law to allow you time and space to express milk. But you’ve just been out of work and unpaid for a few weeks. Finances are really tight. You don’t have an extra $100-$300 laying around to get the double-electric pump you know you’ll need to be able to express enough milk during your short break to be able to send to daycare with your baby. You think about the cost of formula, and while you know it’s cheaper in the right now, it’s so much more expensive in the long run. And anyway, you really wanted to breastfeed your baby and you’ve worked so hard at it.
What kind of a choice is this? It’s not a choice. Not at all. And it’s completely unfair.
According to the CDC:
Breastfeeding rates were examined by income status group. Income status was defined using the poverty income ratio (PIR), an index calculated by dividing family income by a poverty threshold that is specific for family size (3). Low income was defined as PIR less than or equal to 1.85, and high income was defined as PIR greater than 1.85. For the total population, the proportion of infants who were ever breastfed was lower among infants whose families had lower income (57%) compared with infants whose families had higher income status (74%).
Considering how many friends I know that have lost jobs in the current economy, making sure women have access to affordable healthcare, including lactation support if they need it, is critical.
I’m glad that the Affordable Care Act will be going into effect. I don’t think it is a complete solution. I wish that all women, insured or not, had easy access to the same resources that I do. I wish that all women could make the choice of how to feed their child–whatever that choice might be–without the outside pressures of simple and brutal economics.
I wish, I wish, I wish.
I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!
You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.
(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)