This is really outrageous. The IRS says you can get a tax break for your dentures or your acne cream. But try to use your medical flexible spending account for your breast pump, and the IRS says no way. From a story in today’s New York Times:
…That is because the Internal Revenue Service has ruled that breast-feeding does not have enough health benefits to quality as a form of medical care.
With all the changes the health care overhaul will bring in the coming years, it nonetheless will leave those regulations intact when new rules for flexible spending accounts go into effect in January. Those allow millions of Americans to set aside part of their pretax earnings to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses.
While breast-feeding supplies weren’t allowed under the old regulations either, one major goal of the health care overhaul was to control medical costs by encouraging preventive procedures like immunizations and screenings.
Despite a growing body of research indicating that the antibodies passed from mother to child in breast milk could reduce disease among infants — including one recent study that found it could prevent the premature death of 900 babies a year — the I.R.S. has denied a request from the American Academy of Pediatrics to reclassify breast-feeding costs as a medical care expense…
I.R.S. officials say they consider breast milk a food that can promote good health, the same way that eating citrus fruit can prevent scurvy. But because the I.R.S. code considers nutrition a necessity rather than a medical condition, the agency’s analysts view the cost of breast pumps, bottles and pads as no more deserving of a tax break than an orange juicer.
Many mothers’ groups and medical experts say that breast milk provides nutrition and natural supplements that prevent disease, and would like to see its use expanded. Hospital accreditation groups have been prodding maternity wards to encourage parents to feed only breast milk until a child is 6 months old.
The new health law does include one breakthrough for nursing mothers, a mandate that they be permitted unpaid breaks to use breast pumps. Spurned by tax authorities, breast-feeding advocates say they will return to Congress to get a tax break, too….
The Motherlode blog on the NYT has a story about how the New York State Department of Health’s breastfeeding campaign focuses on one benefit of breastfeeding… weight loss. From the New York Times:
This fall, the New York State Department of Health created a series of TV ads aimed at women who qualify for assistance with the cost of groceries. Although some of the ads speak of long-term health benefits, the one creating the most buzz focuses on a more immediate result. It looks like an ad for a weight-loss product, with a woman dancing happily, boasting she has lost 16 pounds — and crediting breastfeeding rather than NutriSystem.
What a sweet book! “Mommy Breastfeeds My Baby Brother” is a new picture book for young kids. The story follows a young girl Jenna as her baby brother comes home from the hospital. Jenna learns how her mom breastfeeds, sometimes pumps milk, and how her dad can give the baby a bottle of pumped milk. Here’s the book’s website, mommybreastfeeds.com. And a link to the first-time author Mark Repkin’s bio.
Kudos to The New York State Department of Health for it’s new breastfeeding campaign. The campaign,”Breastfeeding…For my Baby. For Me.” includes TV spots, online ads, and ads on buses and bus shelters statewide. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding the campaign. It will run through the end of October, and aims to reach out to new and expectant mothers, primarily in lower-income areas. From the campaign’s press release:
Physicians recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed for the first six months and continue to breastfeed beyond 12 months. For most women, breastfeeding is the safest and healthiest choice, as breast milk contains the recommended amount of nutrients and changes to meet baby’s growing needs.
Research shows that breastfed babies have higher IQs, stronger immune systems, and a lower risk of certain types of childhood cancers, allergies, and respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments.
Breastfeeding also has benefits for the new mother and has been shown to:
Help the mother’s body recover from pregnancy and labor by shrinking her uterus back to size and reducing any bleeding after childbirth.
Burn about 500 calories a day, so mothers more easily lose the weight gained during pregnancy.
Lower the risk of ovarian cancer and some forms of breast cancer.
Strengthen bones, helping to protect mothers against osteoporosis later in life.
Protect against Type 2 diabetes.
Help ward off depression.
Save time and money. Unlike formula, breast milk is always the right temperature and requires no bottles to wash and sterilize.
Information on breastfeeding can be obtained by calling the Growing up Healthy Hotline at 1-800-522-5006 or on the DOH Web site at www.nyhealth.gov/breastfeeding.