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Surgeon General Calls for Breastfeeding Support But…

Alexandra Grablewski

The good news: last week, Regina M. Benjamin, the U.S. surgeon general, issued a “Call to Action to Support Breast-Feeding,” which lists ways to lower breastfeeding roadblocks for mamas who want to nurse their babies. The action plan calls for more community- and hospital-based education programs, expansion of community programs offering mother-to-mother support and peer counseling, better training for clinicians, and a firmer commitment from employers to offer lactation support programs, paid maternity leave, and break time and private space for moms to express breast milk.

The not-so-good news: another government agency, the Internal Revenue Service, recently excluded the purchase or rental of a breast pump as an allowed medical deduction, meaning no tax breaks for pumping moms.

So, while the surgeon general has stated that everyone needs to step up and support nursing moms (including employers offering time and space for pumping), the IRS is busy making breast pumps out of the reach for many moms (while acne sufferers get breaks on the cost of pimple cream, notes the New York Times) because it has ruled that breastfeeding doesn’t offer enough health benefits to qualify as a form of medical care. Pardon me, but hello? Can the left hand please work with the right hand? has started to circulate a petition urging the IRS to reverse its decision, based on hundreds of medical studies that have shown kids’ health benefits from breastfeeding, including the reduction of SIDS, asthma, Type 1 diabetes, obesity, and leukemia.

Moms, do you think the contradictory messages moms get about breastfeeding is part of the reason that more women don’t do it?