Breastfeeding is one of those issues that can be extremely controversial among mothers (dads don't seem to care so much). For the record, I think breastfeeding is a woman's choice. If a mother feels for whatever reason she can't do it, I don't think we should chastise her. It's horrible that some women will approach a mother feeding her baby a bottle in public, and feel a need to comment to this stranger that the baby should be getting breastmilk. If you've ever approached a stranger and said something like that or given any sort of unsolicited parenting advice, you're nuts and should mind your own business. Just so you know.
That said, I think breastfeeding is wonderful. Both for the health benefits and the bonding. I think that we should provide every possible resource (finances, time, moral support) to make it easier for women to give their babies breastmilk.
Recently a woman at work told me that her insurance company had paid for her breast pump. Then she gave away that pump to a friend and they paid for a SECOND breast pump for her next child. I was impressed. I thought it was incredibly forward-thinking of insurance companies to pay for breast pumps.
Because I might hypothetically need one someday in the future, I decided to call my insurance company to ask if they would cover a breast pump. The answer was no, which wasn't a big shock. But what really surprised me was when the woman on the phone added, "Unless it's medically indicated."
Of course, I had to ask, "What do you mean by 'medically indicated'?"
"Well, if the baby is premature or has an abnormal sucking reflex," the woman told me.
After thinking about this a bit, I found it kind of disturbing. Basically, they're admitting that breastmilk is important and beneficial for babies, because they're providing the pump for women who can't nurse the natural way. They're saying that if a baby can't nurse directly from the breast because they're premature or have an abnormal sucking reflex, they want the baby to still have that breastmilk because it's SO important.
But if the woman can't nurse directly from the breast because she has to go back to work... well, those ladies are on their own.
There are some states in the U.S. where you get 12 weeks of family leave time that's unpaid, but at least your job is guaranteed. After that, you can lose your job. In other states, you can get short term disability to pay for those 12 weeks of leave. But that just means you have a three month baby when you get back to work. So are insurance companies saying that it's not "medically indicated" for three month old babies to get breastmilk? And I think many people reading this blog who live in the U.S. probably took far less than 12 weeks. (I did.)
I think that kind of stinks. Insurance companies pay for preventive care, vaccines, etc. But for some reason, they won't pay for a relatively modestly priced breast pump to facilitate a newborn getting breastmilk from their working mother. Seriously, could this country be any less supportive of breastfeeding? I think all women who manage to do it, especially when they have to go back to work, deserve a round of applause.