Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Does it seem fair that nursing mothers should get a tax break, but parents who bottle feed don't?

Asked by Dutchess_III (25566 points ) December 30th, 2013

From this article.

First of all, WHY? Why would one get a freaking tax break just for nursing?

Second, it’s just about free! You may need to buy a pump, but even if you buy a top of the line pump it’s still a hell of a lot less expensive than buying formula over a year.

Can someone explain the logic behind this to me?

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115 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

It is using tax policy to encourage breastfeeding over formula feeding. It is beneficial for the child, and promotes overall good health, and therefore lowers society’s overall health care cost burdens.

Yes, it is fair.

LornaLove's avatar

I was not aware of this, however, logic says it would cost less to feed a child this way simply because of the properties of breast milk vs formula and how this protects a child health wise.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

I have not heard of this. Are you sure? I have never seen tax papers make a distinction. All mine were breastfed, and I’m not aware of having received any tax break for it.

tom_g's avatar

Of course this is fair. What @zenvelo said.

zenvelo's avatar

@Jonesn4burgers It’s a new policy of allowing medical deduction for breast feeding supplies (pumps, those little plastic storage bags, etc.).

Dutchess_III's avatar

It costs less @LornaLove because breast milk is free.

@zenvelo, that isn’t fair to mothers who, for what ever reason, CAN’T breast feed. What about adopted infants?

I, personally, breast fed. And I did it in public and anywhere else I wanted and never, ever received one bit of flak or a dirty look. I don’t think I deserved some sort of award. I also don’t think my children were any healthier than the next kid.

glacial's avatar

Assuming it is real (per @Jonesn4burgers), I think it’s a good idea. I agree with @zenvelo that it would lead to long-term savings in healthcare, and a tax break is most likely to encourage breastfeeding where it needs the most encouragement – in low-income families where mothers are probably less well-educated on the benefits of breastfeeding.

However, it might be sensible to offer a similar incentive to mothers who have tried and cannot breastfeed for some medical reason.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I included a link, ya’ll, so you can check for yourself. I thought it had to be a hoax too.

I still think it’s ridiculous. What kind of health benefits are in magic human milk that isn’t in formula? I had one kid who never got sick, and another who got sick every week. Both were breastfed exclusively until I started them on baby food, and even after that for quite a while. Well over a year.

zenvelo's avatar

It’s not a comparable population, but there is already a US Federal program for financial help for low income women who formula feed infants. It’s called WIC and supports feeding and nutrition up to age five.

glacial's avatar

@Dutchess_III Really? The benefits of breastfeeding to the child’s immune system are pretty well established. It does not take much research to find out about this. You can’t extrapolate from your personal experience with a small number of children – this is anecdotal evidence only. On average, there is a benefit.

I would also add that we shouldn’t shrink away from helping one group of people just because we aren’t simultaneously helping all groups of people. That kind of attitude leaves everyone without help.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

It boggles the mind that they would go through the time, expense, and paperwork to put through something like that. I feel nursing my babies was the right thing to do, but a tax break seems a bit out there.

JLeslie's avatar

If that is true I think it is horrible. I’m on the fence about tax breaks for people with children, but this really crosses the line. If they give an extra $1000 tax break to all new mothers for the year the child was born, that I would be more ok with, to help them buy supplies for the baby. But, more for breastfeeding moms than moms who bottle feed. I find that offensive.

johnpowell's avatar

Keep in mind this is just for supplies used. Just like getting a break if you have to buy your own tools at work.

JLeslie's avatar

@johnpowell Why not have the tax break for buying bottles and diapers also?

JLeslie's avatar

@zenvelo From the link it doesn’t look like the breastfeeding tax break has anything to do with income level.

johnpowell's avatar

Why reward bad behavior?

JLeslie's avatar

@johnpowell Some women can’t breastfeed. Many of them feel guilty enough as it is. Their expenses are higher than the breast feeding mom. I think most people in America now know breast feeding is the preferred method of feeding a newborn from a medical point of view, but formula still is adequate and acceptable. We don’t have women who nurse other people’s babies in America when our breasts go dry or get infected or whatever else might go wrong.

I’d rather our government just increase awareness. They can add it to sex ed class in high school.

johnpowell's avatar

That is fine. They already get a major tax break for having a kid anyways. Personally, I don’t really care.

However, I do care about diapers. Those shitballs clog up landfills and will be around forever. I would be totally fine paying more taxes if it meant the government handed out and collected and laundered cloth diapers. Think USPS for dirty bombs.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@zenvelo I’m well aware of WIC and food stamps for low income single mothers.

@johnpowell What “bad behavior” were you referring to?

I think people should get tax breaks for NOT having kids.

JLeslie's avatar

@johnpowell Fair enough. I want a tax break for my tampons, so fair is fair. I’m going to write the President maybe. Tampons are technically a medical device, I should at least be able to buy them with a FSA or HSA card I think.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Hmmm. My schtick has always been to pay people less money from government services if they have a baby while already on the dole. The government encourages children to be born because positive growth in population generally is a good think to support social services for the aging population. That’s the theory anyway. I have other theories.

zenvelo's avatar

It is not a $1,000 tax break.

It allows a medical deduction of up to $1,000 for supplies. But to get that you must itemize deductions, and medical costs are only deductible for the amount above 7.5% of gross income anyway.

@JLeslie I did say that WIC covers a different population. And tampons are optional, you can use a variety of things.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Would a tax break even really encourage women to breast feed even if they didn’t want to.

Well, they should cover pads too @zenvelo. Those are the only two things that I know of that a woman can use. And I’m a woman and, like, I should know.

JLeslie's avatar

@zenvelo Tampons, pads, whatever. Do you want us to go back to towels?

If the tax write off for breast feeding supplies is only if you itemize for medical expensive if eligible it’s stupid. I wonder what percentage of people even get to use that deduction. I know only one person personally. Plus, does it cover the bottles the mother has to buy to feed the baby the breast milk? Then I would think any mother could use the tax break. Does she need to prove the baby breastfeeds or that her breasts are full?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Good questions @JLeslie!

What “bad behavior” were you talking about @johnpowell?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes, will she be subjected to random pee milk tests?

johnpowell's avatar

I also want feminine hygiene stamps. I watched my sister steal from my grandmas purse to steal tampon money.

@Dutchess_III :: Bad was the wrong word. Maybe less perfect would work better.

Dutchess_III's avatar

^^^^ The law’s on our side people!!

I still think it’s ridiculous. Got babies starving to death all over the world, and Americans whine about what KIND of food we use to sustain our people with.

JLeslie's avatar

@johnpowell Stamps? I’m just saying I want to buy them tax free like I do my thyroid medication. I wonder if Depends are tax free?

If men bled every month I bet tampons would be tax free, do they get the little blue pill tax free?

glacial's avatar

“Tampons, pads, whatever. Do you want us to go back to towels?”

Sounds like we would also benefit from a tax break for the purchase of menstrual cups, seeing as simply trying to educate the public about the environmental horrors of disposable products is evidently not working at all.

JLeslie's avatar

I just googled and it looks like incontinence products can be purchased tax free if they are to relieve a particular disease, who wears them unless they have a problem with continence? Menstruation we can’t control, it just leaks out. I still say it should count as a justified medical expense.

keobooks's avatar

I don’t know why I’m bothering, since several people have mentioned this and the same group of people keep ignoring it. But I’ll give it a go.

It is NOT a 1000 tax benefit! It just gives a tax break for SUPPLIES. While breastfeeding is “free” the supplies for pumping faster than the nasty cheap hand pumps can be a big expense upfront. Getting the nice electric supplies helps breastfeeding women go back to work and still pump breast milk and feed their babies. They can get back to work sooner and take less time out of each day of work pumping only a few minutes instead of the hour or so it takes to pump with a hand pump.

Also, breast pumps are considered medical supplies. They are giving the same break other medical supplies are getting. I get a tax break on my sleep apnea machine, I believe. It’s not meant to punish all you people who don’t have a machine like mine—it’s meant to offset the cost of paying for the supplies to keep it going.

It’s not meant to punish formula feeding moms. It’s just meant to give incentive to people who are on the fence about whether or not they want to breast feed (yes, there really are numerous benefits. I’ll let you google them.) And also keep women shying away from it because they can’t afford the pumps or can’t afford to take the time off work they’d have to take if they couldn’t pump.

johnpowell's avatar

@JLeslie :: Do you really want to itemize your tampons? And since you don’t get your period when you get a job it would be best to just have taxes be irreverent. If you need them you should be able to walk into someplace and get them. Imagine being a homeless female. Food is hard enough to come up with. You also need to choose between bleeding on what is probably your only clothes or buying food.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Previously, the IRS classified breast pumps (and supplies) along with nondeductible “feeding devices” such as dishes, silverware, and cups and saucers.

Pediatric groups and breastfeeding advocates had pushed, for many years, to define breastfeeding supplies as medical devices – similar to eyeglasses, hearing aid, canes and crutches, home blood pressure kits, etc.

In Announcement 2011–14, the IRS reversed its long-held position. “Breast pumps and supplies that assist lactation are medical care…because, like obstetric care, they are for the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body of the lactating woman.” There’s no mention, whatsoever, of whether breast milk being better than baby formula. The change occurred because lactation is an obstetric function that affects the mother’s body.

filmfann's avatar

This law is quite self serving. After all, most legislators are boobs.

filmfann's avatar

oh, yeah… Like I have the restraint to resist a set up like that!

Judi's avatar

It’s like deducting the cost of medical equipment. I think it’s great that it’s deductable. If a nursing mother needs a breast pump to get back to work it SHOULD be deductible. I think pantyhose should be deductable too.

JLeslie's avatar

@johnpowell No, I don’t want to itemize them, although I wouldn’t be embarrassed to do it. I want them to be under HSA or FSA. As @keobooks pointed out and some others, the breastfeeding supplies are itemized, now that I know that I have clarified that I want the tampons to be like my thyroid meds that I purchase with my HSA account credit card. The itemization is for a tax deduction, the HSA card is pretax money you set aside in a medical account that you can use for medical expenses that are approved. I don’t itemize my thyroid pills or my doctors visits because my medical expenses don’t come close to 7.5%, but I do pay for all that tax free. However, once they are deemed ok for the HSA card I would assume they would be tax deductible also if someone was itemizing if a person does not have an HSA or FSA account.

LilCosmo's avatar

The idea does not seem to be encouraging women to breast feed. This is a deduction for medical equipment not covered by insurance and it makes perfect sense to me. It isn’t discriminating against moms who bottle feed anymore than a tax deduction for diabetic supplies is discriminating against people without diabetes.

zenvelo's avatar

@JLeslie I just checked a list, I guess the patriarchal structure of Congress has kept feminine hygiene products off the eligible list.

But there are more women than ever in the Senate. This would be the time to petition for it to be added to the FSA eligible list.

Judi's avatar

With my HSA card I can buy whatever I want. If I get audited then I have to prove that what I bought was HSA reimbursable. If I go to a doctor and they don’t accept credit cards I’m allowed to use the HSA as an ATM and reimburse myself. I just need to keep the documentation of the expense in case I’m audited.

Seek's avatar

I breastfed for two years.

Couldn’t afford a real pump.

Got a hand-pump from WIC, but couldn’t get it to express any milk. I could only hand-express (Ouch. Trust me.) two to three ounces at a time. And it took, like, an hour to get that much.

Had to quit my job because my son wouldn’t drink from a bottle (nipple confusion combined with the vast difference in mama milk vs. formula) and lost a TON of weight.

I support this rebate.

funkdaddy's avatar

We’re transitioning from a couple of generations where formula was believed to be more beneficial for children due to marketing by the companies that sell it.

Studies found breastfeeding was in fact more beneficial to the child (when possible), so there’s a lot of momentum behind reeducating mothers (and their mothers) about it. This is part of that.

It doesn’t matter what choice you make, someone is pissed off and thinks you should have made the other. Want to breastfeed in public? Expect at least a few negative reactions. Want to feed your baby formula, expect someone to tell you they know better.

A $1000 reduction in income for mothers who breastfeed is such a small thing financially in the scope of the country, the outrage here has already cost more in lost productivity.

Seek's avatar

By the way, less than 2% of women are actually incapable of breastfeeding. Most of the “I couldn’t breastfeed!” crowd are actually women who supplemented with a bottle for the crucial first few days and because of that were unable to build an adequate supply due to the kid obviously preferring the easy milk from the bottle over the flesh nipple they had to work for, or they got a little nipple pain in the first few weeks and gave up.

deni's avatar

YES, you should get a tax break, if for no other reason than you have common sense and realize that we’re animals and that’s how babies are supposed to be fed. Rewarding idiots that think they can have a baby and treat it like a machine and not an animal, would be dumb. Just my opinion.

Judi's avatar

I’m so happy my mom was wiser than the “experts” of her era. When she nursed me the doctor said “Go right ahead if you want to poison your baby!”

JLeslie's avatar

Those of you who know me well, and know my rants about how doctors get it wrong; this whole breastfeeding thing might become part of my new rant. Why don’t I completely trust doctors and follow whatever they tell me? 1. Doctors used to believe breastfeeding was inferior to formula, we now know that isn’t true. 2. XXXX.

Although, when exactly were these years? My mom breastfed and her mom breastfed her. I’m curious to ask my mom about it. If she went against recommendations. It wouldn’t surprise me.

You all have swayed me on the tax break for the breast pump, I am leaning more towards it being ok. When I looked it up on the IRS website I did not see any dollar limit. It is too vague in my opinion. I don’t see how they could exclude bottles in general. You have to put the milk somewhere.

I started thinking, because of what I wrote about the tampons, if the pump is now eligible for the tax break, maybe it is eligible for the HSA accounts. I googled and found this that says it is. So, you can buy the pump with before tax income. Pretty much if the IRS recognizes something as a qualified medical expense it is qualified in general.

Judi's avatar

It was 1961 when the doctor discouraged my mom.

Aspoestertjie's avatar

In SA we are not that lucky. You will pay tax no matter what. I do however think it is unfair, especially to mothers who do not have a choice. I couldn’t breast feed my first child because I didn’t have enough milk. She almost starved even though I sat feeding her for hours on end. With my second child it was easier, but he got the RS Virus when he turned 3 months old and his lungs was not strong enough to receive breast milk anymore. Why punish women who do not have a choice? Why not give all mothers regardless of how they feed their children a tax break? It makes more sense. Breast milk might be cheaper but it is not always better as you need to consider how the mother accepts and feels about it as well.

Cupcake's avatar

Big fucking deal. So if my medical expenses exceed 7.5% of my adjusted gross income, I can claim my $250 double electric breast pump on my taxes?

1. I’ve already bought it.
2. If I’m claiming it on my taxes and my family earns $50,000, we’ve already spent $3,750 on medical expenses. If we earn $100,000, we’ve already spent $7,500 on medical expenses. And I have every receipt for every penny of medical expenses and brought them all to my tax person to prove that I’ve spent it. That’s not a pain in the ass at all…~
3. If I’m using my HSA, I probably have a deductible plan in which I had to pay thousands of dollars on my hospitalization for childbirth.

This is not money in my pocket. It’s proof that I’ve spent a ton on having a new child. This is not a penalty to non-breastfeeding mothers.

I’d also like to point out that breastfeeding is NOT free. The mother needs to eat a couple hundred extra calories daily. She should really be eating very healthy foods, higher in healthy fats and nutrients. She may need extra doctor visits and lactation consultant visits. If she works, she needs a breast pump. If she ever wants to be separated from her baby (like to go to the doctor), she needs to be able to express her milk and have someone feed it to the baby somehow.

Cheaper, yes. Convenient, sometimes. Free, not at all.

This is old news from 2011 anyway. Under the ACA, lactation services and breast pumps are free. Link

Dutchess_III's avatar

PEOPLE! AS @zenvelo HAS BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU, IT IS NOT A $1,000 REDUCTION IN TAXABLE INCOME!! It’s simply saying that they can deduct the COST OF WHATEVER SUPPLIES, UP TO $1,000 A YEAR.

I can’t imagine what in the hell could cost $1,000 a year though.

Seek's avatar

Medela double electric breast pump system is well over a thousand dollars. A grand will let you rent a machine and buy your own tubing, which is not reusable.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, it looks like you can get one a whole lot cheaper than that @Seek_Kolinahr.

LilCosmo's avatar

@Cupcake and @Seek_Kolinahr, my sister is currently pumping several times a day in order to keep her seven month old on breast milk only, she says that the bags to hold the milk cost a fortune! So yeah, good point that nursing is not free. How about the cost of visiting the doctor to treat mastitis or a thrush nipple? Those are real costs that a bottle feeding mom doesn’t have to deal with.

One more thought, formula manufacturers are a bit like pushers, while their product is wildly overpriced, free samples are a given and coupons abound. Even though I nursed exclusively, I left the hospital each time with hundreds of dollars worth of formula and coupons from every manufacturer under the sun. I had to pay cash for my breast pump and not a penny was reimbursed by insurance. It is about time we began to view these things as medical devices.

@JLeslie the reality is that your mom and grandmother were the exception in their time, most women were encouraged to bottle feed at that point in time. I remember when my mother decided to nurse my sister in 1974 it was a huge deal and she had problems finding the support she needed in order to be successful.

Judi's avatar

I think some people are confused about the difference between a tax deduction and a tax credit.

funkdaddy's avatar

@Dutchess_III – maybe this whole question comes down to not understanding a whole lot about breast feeding? Not saying that’s the case, just talking through. There’s more involved than just a pump.

For the first long while, moms drain every three hours or so to get their supply going and then growing. That means three hours whether it’s 3am, whether they’re at work, or if they’re able to just feed the baby. So you’re storing a lot of milk, hoping to build up some excess just in case your supply wavers, and carrying a pump and containers everywhere you’re going to be for more than three hours.

We probably have 40 breastmilk containers, and after we got those we only used the bags to freeze milk, but probably went through 10–15 boxes of those. There are parts you are constantly cleaning (every single time) and they wear out and get lost (tiny little valves and membranes).

$1000 doesn’t seem like an excessive estimate of the total costs for a year. Whether it’s in bold caps or not.

Seek's avatar

From the first page of results:

$1300

Seek's avatar

@Duchess – most of the results on that search were for replacement tubing and carrying cases

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s just one option, though @Seek_Kolinahr. And it was the most expensive one.
This one was $250. I mean, it’s just like a car. You can spend $1,000 or $20,000.

Seek's avatar

And you can get a breast pump that will allow you to actually pump milk through three children and then pass on to your baby sister, or you can get a $20 model from babies r us, end up with nipple trauma and mastitis, and end up needing surgery.

Dutchess_III's avatar

WTF??^^^ LOL!

Seek's avatar

Also, the pump in style isn’t meant for long term use.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t know. I never used a breast pump. But I DID get mastitis once.

Seek's avatar

Some of the cheap breast pumps are effectively vacuum cleaners with bottle attachments. They can seriously injure a person.

Cupcake's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr So true. I almost quit two weeks in due to injury from the breast pump.

LilCosmo's avatar

@Dutchess_III when it comes to breast pumps one really does get what one pays for. Sure a nursing mom could buy the cheap pump, but she is going to face some pretty big hurdles to keep nursing. Those pumps make it very difficult to completely empty the breast which leads to complications such as clogged ducts which lead to mastitis which is an awful, painful, dangerous experience. Add to that the fact that the best milk for baby is the hind milk that comes at the very end of the feeding. Then factor in the fact that many nursing moms work full time jobs to make ends meet and probably do not have the time or luxury during a work day of spending a couple of hours expressing milk. So yeah the car analogy doesn’t work.

Dutchess_III's avatar

{Deleted. Double posted.}

Dutchess_III's avatar

@LilCosmo Dunno. Never used a breast pump. I had a coworker who spent about a year pumping at various times during the work day. I’ll ask her what her pump cost.

Cupcake's avatar

I am very fortunate to work in a hospital with an employee pumping room equipped with 3 industrial breast pumps. Downside is that there is a line to use during busy times, so if I don’t want to miss hours of work a day I still need my own. Plus, I can’t use the work one at home… obviously.

Seek's avatar

Mastitis is a bacterial infection in the breast tissue. You get it the same way you get any skin infection. Trauma + bacteria. It doesn’t matter where the bacteria a came from. You can get mastitis without breastfeeding. You doctor gave you incomplete information.

Dutchess_III's avatar

No, he gave me the info as it pertained to me. The bacteria was introduced into the breast tissue by breastfeeding. It can be introduced via pumps too, if they aren’t kept clean.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

This is all much ado about nothing (or at least very little).

Taxpayers can deduct medical expenses only if they (1) itemize deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A and (2) have uninsured, unreimbursed costs >10% of adjusted gross income.

Very few people get any tax benefit from out-of-pocket health care.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah, it has to exceed a certain amount of your income, right @SadieMartinPaul? Does this have that same requirement?

JLeslie's avatar

I question the 2% stat that I think Seek mentioned above. My mom nursed me for 6 months, basically no problems. With my sister she gave it up after a few weeks, because my sister was not getting enough milk. I am the first born, so she knew the drill when my sister came around. A girlfriend of mine breastfed her first baby for almost a year. Her second baby about a month in she got a bad breast infection and stopped. Pretty much everyone I know who has had a baby in the last 20 years had a lactation nurse or specialist visit them in the hospital to be educated on what to do and what to expect.

@LilCosmo I absolutely believe there was a time when doctors were recommending not to breastfeed, I was not questioning it. I don’t know if they all did, but from other Q’s here I learned there was a time breastfeeding was frowned upon. That information was kind of a surprise for me when I first learned it. I grew up (I was born in ‘68 if I didn’t mention it yet) with breastfeeding being normal. When we used to go to Macy’s in NYC, the really nice bathroom on the 4th floor had a nice sitting area, and women could feed their babies. It wasn’t that I saw it often, but I saw it more than once in that sort of setting. Visiting my mom’s girlfriends, once or twice I saw them nurse their babies.

When I was a very young teen a neighbor of ours was very worried about her first born, because there had been some report, maybe a recall, that formula, or a particular formula (I don’t remember the details well) was missing some nutrition and that babies fed solely on that formula risked brain damage. Not severe brain damage, but possibly have some learning problems or something. So, it was reinforced to me again breast feeding is the way to go. I wasn’t around a lot of babies, but enough that I had a consistent positive message about breastfeeding.

I wonder if the attitudes varied around the US?

My mom is one to think doctors can be idiots. I kind of get that from her. When they used to prescribe us antibiotics for a cold, because it was to prevent a secondary infection, she never filled that script. She had only gone to the doctor for the Dimetapp, because back then it wasn’t OTC.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@Dutchess_III Yes, it gets added to the medical expense “bucket” and, along with all other health care costs, subject to the AGI floor.

JLeslie's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul You can buy it with pretax dollars with the HSA card. Most people who opt for that type of plan have large-ish incomes. So, lets say they pay 25% in taxes usually, that’s a pretty good savings. Basically, I am thinking this tax benefit helps mostly higher income people and low income, and the majority of the middle class is probably SOL. Same old story.

funkdaddy's avatar

One of the purposes for policies like this is the “legitimize” certain things.

If the government considers breastfeeding a medical expense, then insurers will consider covering it (actually handled elsewhere now), and employers who tell moms they can only pump in their car or the bathroom stall will consider changing that policy.

If they don’t then it’s a lot easier to educate them with these sorts of policies in place.

It’s not about taxes.

JLeslie's avatar

@funkdaddy One of the things I was thinking was it would be really nice if employer became more and more accomodating to new mothers. I don’t think it is fair at all to give parents special treatment in the workplace, but I am all for allowing them to bring their children if it does not disrupt work, or allowing them to work from home. As long as everyone can work from home.

Seek's avatar

@JLeslie

World Health Organization documentation on the 2% statistic(supp)_3.pdf

Someone failed at properly formatting the PDF, so I have to re-type, but here’s a selection from page 2, under “Lactation Failure”:

“Lactation Failure is one of the reasons frequently given by mothers for not breast-feeding their infants; it’s claimed almost exclusively in industrialised countries in and in the higher socioeconomic groups in urban areas of developing countries (emphasis mine). Yet the women in question are, in the main, healthy and well nourished, with health yand strong infants, and there is no apparent physiological reason for their not being able to secrete milk.

In contrast, in traditional societies, even women who live in unsanitary conditions, who are poorly noursished and often ill, who engage in strenuous physical labour, and who bear the greatest number of low birth weight infants do not generally fail to produce milk (again emphasis mine)

It was found that out of a total of 3898 mothers studied in Nigeria and Zaire, not one was unable to secrete milk

JLeslie's avatar

I have seen the WHO information previously. In more primitive countries I bet they tend to help each other nurse, meaning other women step in and nurse when a mother is having trouble. I just don’t know how accurate I think the information is. I will say that my friends who nursed who did not work felt on whole it was much less hassle than bottles. The food was always with them, less to carry. However, I do agree that a lot of mothers in the US don’t give breastfeeding the proper chance.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think it’s more psychological than anything. In the 50’s, when I was born, Mom said she tried to breastfeed but her milk never came in. Knowing my mom, I think she was just flat uncomfortable doing it. And there’s a chance it was discouraged, therefore little education was available. If I hadn’t been warned that it could take 2 or 3 days for your milk to actually come in, I might have given up, thinking my milk wasn’t going to come in at all.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I agree that many women might give up, because they don’t know what to expect. I would assume back in the day the women in the village or your own mother would help the new mother with what to expect. Now we have the lactation experts. I would think OB doctors or birthing classes might give information also, but I really have no idea if they do.

Also, the US population is more drugged up and I think mothers worry about passing the drugs to the baby. Lots of people like to get liquored up also, and after abstaining for 9 months they want to get back to it. They may not realize they can breastfeed and still have a glass of wine at night or a few drinks on the weekend. They just have to be aware of when they are drinking and when they are feeding or expressing their milk.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I can not imagine drinking when you have a baby to attend to….I think I had a couple of beers once. I didn’t stress about it, though. My only hope was that it would help put her to sleep! She was a wild one.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I don’t think people who drink a glass of wine daily with dinner think of it as really drinking. But, I do think they think about it enough to worry about it for the baby.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t know. I never drank that much. I don’t know that it would even hurt the baby, either. I don’t know how many hours it would take for it to appear in the milk, and if there would even be any alcohol left by that time. I think I’ll go look.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Found “This”: https://www.llli.org/faq/alcohol.html “Alcohol passes freely into mother’s milk and has been found to peak about 30 to 60 minutes after consumption, 60 to 90 minutes when taken with food. Alcohol also freely passes out of a mother’s milk and her system. It takes a 120 pound woman about two to three hours to eliminate from her body the alcohol in one serving of beer or wine…the more alcohol that is consumed, the longer it takes for it to be eliminated. It takes up to 13 hours for a 120 pound woman to eliminate the alcohol from one high-alcohol drink. The effects of alcohol on the breastfeeding baby are directly related to the amount the mother consumes.”

Also: “Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is the case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers.”

Seek's avatar

Do you think the WHO is lying about four thousand women in Nigeria being able to breastfeed without a single report of lactation failure?

Seek's avatar

My midwife encouraged drinking a glass of dark beer to encourage supply. It worked.

JLeslie's avatar

Just to clarify, I am not overly concerned about mothers having a little alcohol, I am saying some moms might worry about it.

@Seek_Kolinahr Yes, I am questioning the WHO statistic. Just like I question vaccine side effect and adverse reaction statistics. My mom used to collect those adverse reactions and tally them remember. She was the government person recording it. She does not trust the reporting when she looks up the stats for a particular vaccine, partly because it is underreported to the government in the first place.

poofandmook's avatar

honestly, this thread is super long and I’m not reading everything, so I apologize if I am doubling what someone else said.

But it sure as hell is NOT fair, simply because I know mothers who tried their hardest to breastfeed and it just didn’t work. An inability to breastfeed shouldn’t be a penalty of sorts, or make them any less entitled to benefits of nursing mothers.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah, that was addressed. I still feel the same way, the way you do. Why should they get a tax break and mother’s who can’t or don’t nurse don’t? They have to pay gazillions for their formula.

But, as @SadieMartinPaul pointed out, it’s like any other medical deduction. The total out of pocket expenses have to be above a certain percentage of your income before you get reimbursed. Certainly one breast pump wouldn’t meet that requirement.

JLeslie's avatar

This is similar to giving obesity an official medical designation as a disease. Now there is a code for insurance for people who are obese to get more medical stuff covered.

JLeslie's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr You might be interested in this from pubmed about lactating Nigerian women. A reasonably high percentage were supplementing breast milk by the first month. I think their can be miscommunication in how the statistics are gathered and interpreted is all I am saying.

LilCosmo's avatar

@Dutchess_III by your reasoning it isn’t fair that because my out of pocket medical expenses didn’t total more than 10% of my adjusted income, I can’t deduct them. In other words, the argument makes no sense. I can walk without issue so I don’t need crutches or a cane. Does that make it unfair to me that people who need one of those can deduct the cost if it rises to a certain level? I would assert that the answer is no. Instead of whining about how it impacts my income taxes, I am thankful I can walk unaided.

The deduction in question is for medical devices. The gist of the change to the tax code is that breast feeding supplies are now considered medical devices. Totally not worth crying discrimination.

Cupcake's avatar

@poofandmook Mothers who attempted to breastfeed probably already purchased pumps and are, thus, also eligible for the tax credit for medical supplies. There is no penalty.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@LilCosmo I understand. But what constitutes a “medical device?”

Cupcake's avatar

Just to reiterate for anyone joining the party late or just skimming above, this is a moot point now that, due to ACA regulations, breast pumps and lactation consultant visits will be covered by insurance starting tomorrow (2014), if not already.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s cool.

Seek's avatar

@JLeslie

From your link:

“The proportion of babies breastfed at the age of 6 months was 100% among the rural and urban poor but only 35% among the urban elite.”

Consistent with the World Health Organization report of lactation failure being an exclusive claim of healthy, well-fed mothers with the means to supplement.

Further information:

At 12 months, none of the babies among the urban elite were being breastfed while 100% and 80.8% of the babies in the rural poor and urban poor groups, respectively, still were being breastfed. The median duration of breastfeeding was 19 months in the rural poor group, 13 months in the urban poor group, and 5 months in the urban elite group.

JLeslie's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr We don’t know for sure all the mothers were able to breastfeed, it doesn’t say that. It could be the case, but might not be. All we know is all the babies are breastfed. In lesser developed countries moms co-nurse and have wet nurses still present day.

Seek's avatar

Well, we might as well never cite sources for anything, then, should we? I mean, two major worldwide publications agree on something, and still that isn’t good enough?

Whatever. I’m done.

JLeslie's avatar

There is nothing wrong with citing sources, but how a question is asked can determine what answer you get. If you ask a woman if her baby was breastfed, and she used a wet nurse, she will answer yes. Asking questions for polling and scientific studies is a whole course of study in and of itself. WHO wants women to breastfeed, it is a goal of theirs, because they believe strongly it is the healthiest option. They want the results to be everyone can breast feed. Not every woman can, but I am sure it is an extremely high percentage. I know women after birth who are extremely ill. Heart problems, or a complication that led them to need a procedure, it isn’t always safe for them to breastfeed. I realize you had a complicated birth yourself.

In Africa shared nursing is not very uncommon like it is in the US. It has been more under fire for a while because of the concern for HIV transmission. WHO now has decided that mothers with HIV should breastfeed their children, but that African women should not let other mothers feed their babies, because if the HIV transmission slim possibility. I am not saying every mother in Africa finds it commonplace to let someone else breast feed her child, but it is more acceptable among many people in parts of Africa than it is in the western world. Remember everyone freaking out that Selma Hayek breast fed a baby in Africa? There are all sorts of rules surrounded the relationship of wet nurses in Africa to the children not of her own that she breastfeeds. The woman gets treated much like family. I think some of the rules come out of the Muslim religion, but possibly the co nursing was a practice in Africa before the religion really took hold? Not sure about that.

Why doesn’t WHO do an American study? Take 10,000 women who want to breast feed and see how they do. That would apply to us more directly.

Seek's avatar

We already know American women wimp out and quit breastfeeding as soon as they feel a twinge. It’s not an accurate assessment.

In poor regions of Africa, women have little option other than breastfeeding their children. And they likely don’t have the Carnation corporation in their laying-in rooms pushing Similac on them, saying “It’s just until your milk comes in”.

Co-nursing isn’t really a big deal among many women in America, either. I co-nursed with several friends. Made babysitting for a couple of hours much easier.

I did have a complicated birth. It took exactly three minutes when I came to after my haemorrhage for a nurse to offer my son a bottle of formula, “just until”. Fortunately, I had chosen to do my research ahead of time and talk to a lactation consultant about all the possibilities.

It took three days for my milk to come in, during which I encountered nipple trauma due to a poor latch, which was hellaciously painful. Again, since I was determined to breastfeed, I suffered the pain, had a meeting with the lactation consultant again, and carried on. Eventually, baby’s sucking triggered lactation, and I ended up producing what was probably enough milk for triplets. He had reflux and would throw up after every feeding, which meant he ate constantly to maintain his weight.

In contrast, my brother’s girlfriend had no problems producing milk – in fact, lactated throughout her pregnancy – but six weeks in she had a plugged duct and decided that was way too much pain and quit, and now tells everyone she “couldn’t breastfeed”.

American women are weenies.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was an Urban Elite and I breast feed for over a year.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I think the urban elite referred to were in Africa. All my closest friends around my age are middle or upper middle class in fairly urban, at minimum suburban, areas and they all breastfed their children. Two of them didn’t stop until their children were three years old. My SIL stopped at 14 months with her first, younger with her second. I am always shocked by the very low stats for breast feeding, because it isn’t my world at all. My friends who breastfed the longest did have the luxury of not having to work when their babies were born, or having a job that most of their work was done from home. One of my friends who worked full time did pump her milk for all three of her kids for a few months once she went back to work. A few of my friends once they went back to work switched to formula.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah, I have to say that if I had to work I probably would have switched to formula whenever I had to go back to work, rather than pumping.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III That’s why I prefer to focus on work flexibility and infant services at work and how our class structure is changing for the worse, rather than paying for a pump. I’d like for the US to not be so out of control that both parents have to work full time when a baby is first born. If I keep talking it becomes a whole other Q, so I’ll stifle for now.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think it’s still possible to live on one income, but people don’t want to. They want more, more, more.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Yes and no. It’s a little of a lot of things. Some parts of the country your income matters more. Schools can be very different from one school district to another, safety in your neighborhood, etc. If both parents are making really good salaries, and on one they would be making still a good middle class salary, then yes, they could tighten their belt a little and live on one income. When we were first married we lived below our income and saved. I knew I wanted to be an at home mom or part time work when I had an infant. Or, I wanted the option anyway. Being a mom never worked out for me, but we had that plan.

Add on the totally horrific problem that if you have a break in your resume you have to have a really good explanation or employers think you are worth nothing, I don’t care if it is for a baby or because I decided to travel the world for two years, if my work history shows 5+ years of good stable working and that employer(s) give me a great review, why should taking off time be held against anyone? I don’t believe in having to explains gaps in our work history, it’s nobody’s business. By law employers are not supposed to ask if we are married or if we have children. If a woman is going to explain a gap in employment, a lot of the time it is because of children.

JLeslie's avatar

I just asked my mom if she was discouraged by doctors to breastfeed when I was born in ‘68. She said, “they encouraged breastfeeding; the military encouraged it.” Then I asked her if they had sonograms back then for pregnant women (not sure why I thought to ask that) and she said, “no, they didn’t do a sonogram, but they want to do an xray at three months and I refused, and they kept pressuring me at every visit.” She thinks maybe it was for a study, she doesn’t know if the nonmilitary doctors were doing it. She does know that they stopped doing it not long after I was born.

Remember how I said my mom refused to give us antibiotics for a cold, she also refused to xray us when we were still developing in the womb. Doctors were trying to poison me before I was born. I wonder how many fetuses were zapped? That was back when xray had much much more radiation.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My mother politely refused the thalidomide the Dr. offered her to control morning sickness when she was pregnant with me. This was ‘58. Thanks Mom.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III OMG. Thank goodness.

Dutchess_III's avatar

No kidding JLeslie. I wouldn’t be TYPING here today!

BTW, I asked my coworker, who pumped for at least a year during special breaks at work,how much she paid for the pump. She didn’t remember exactly, but she thought it was around $500.

JLeslie's avatar

Like the “DES daughters.“http://www.desaction.org/aboutdes.htm Explains some of our cancers. Doctors like to prescribe. I know patients are blamed for asking for drugs, but the truth is prescribing doctors make more money, because the patient has to come back to get a prescription filled at least once every six months usually. Can be more or less. I think also doctors need to believe what they are doing is for the patient’s good or they would not be able to do their job, so they are psychologically set up to want to be able to do something to actively treat the patient’s problem. For doctors that is mostly pills or surgery.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m on blood pressure meds. Have been for 6 years. Guarantee you if I miss a day, my blood pressure goes through the roof. We’re talking 220 / 130.
Hubs is on blood thinners. Same thing.
I’m trying to imagine under what conditions a doctor would prescribe permanent meds that weren’t needed?

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