Never thought these words would come out of my mouth (or be typed by my computer), but thank you, IRS! On Feb. 10, the Internal Revenue Service allowed breast pumps purchased in 2010 and later to be considered a reimbursible medical expense. Many health groups, from the World Health Organization to the American Academy of Pediatrics recognize the importance of breastfeeding, encouraging women who choose to and are able to breastfeed to do so exclusively in the first 6 months of a child’s life, and to continue until the child reaches a year to two years or more.
Unfortunately, this issue has become policial, after First Lady Michelle Obama made a statement supporting the IRS decision, which was met by backlash from Tea Party Republicans Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. The Washington Post did a nice article outlining each woman’s statements, including the flawed remark by Gov. Palin suggesting that Mrs. Obama was trying to compensate for higher milk prices (cow’s milk should not be introduced until after a baby reaches age 1). Here are some additional counter-arguments for the nay-sayers and considerations worth noting:
- The government is not paying for breast pumps. This is a tax rule that will allow for reimbursement and use of a flex spending account to purchase medical devices. Breast pumps were merely added to the list. Even the IRS spokesperson noted that the tax rules that apply to the breast pump reimbursement are the same that applies to men getting vasectomies.
- This tax break will serve moms beyond those who work in an office setting. Today’s moms are balancing more than ever, between office jobs, work-from-home jobs, and stay-at-home parenting – which is one of the most underappreciated jobs a woman can have. For my daughter’s first 7 months, I was a stay-at-home mom but relied on my breast pump to: keep up my supply as we adjusted my thyroid medication (which at one point caused me to nearly dry up); allow my husband to participate in the feeding process and the bonding that goes with it; provide me with some much-needed breaks and a weekend away for my husband and me to remember it’s not always all about the baby, and so on. A good breast pump is also a must for any mom – working or not – who either does not want to or cannot directly nurse or whose baby does not latch well.
- Women need MORE support, not less, when it comes to continuing to provide breastmilk to their babies. A recent news article found that women are more likely to breastfeed and continue breastfeeding if she had family support. Although I’m not aware of any research on the matter, a breast pump is a sizeable expense and could be considered an obstacle to breastfeeding. With a reimbursement program in place, more families may be able to spare the expense — and reap the rewards.