There is good news for pregnant and nursing mothers in times of crisis: a little help from the US government is making it easier for them to receive maternity benefits, lactation support and to rent hospital grade breastpumps. This is being done through the expansion of Affordable Care Act, effective from the beginning of this month.
The new guidelines adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), require new health insurance plans to cover women's preventative services. Well visits and lactation support are among the items on a list under these guidelines.
"The Affordable Care Act helps stop health problems before they start," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need."
This is a positive move forward for all those mothers who need support and encouragement in the hospital when their frustration with breastfeeding might otherwise lead them to choose formula over breastmilk. Likewise, the rental of a hospital grade breastpump makes it easier for women to choose to breastfeed even if they have to return to work.
"While 75 percent of women initially breastfeed their baby, after six months only 43 percent are still breastfeeding at all," wrote Valerie Jarret, Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls. "One of the most common reasons mothers cited for discontinuing breastfeeding is returning to work and not having break time or a private space to express milk."
Of course, the optimal breastfeeding environment is allowing your infant access on demand but with about one-third of women returning to work either part of full-time within the first six months after birth, making it easier to keep breastfeeding is the step in the right direction.
When a high quality Medela pump runs about $300, and a hospital grade even more, it is no wonder that some moms bag the whole notion that they can breast feed their child and go back to work.
As of March 23, 2010, the ACA required certain employers to give nursing mothers break time and a private designated area, not a bathroom, to express milk for their baby's first year. Republicans had lobbied for its repeal.
These reforms are far from the "nanny state" Reublican Michele Bachman believes may emerge with the expansion of affordable healthcare and preventative services for women. It is time that American women finally get taken care of in a manner befitting their role as care-givers.