It seems like it should be the most natural thing in the world, but there’s a learning curve when it comes to breastfeeding — for both babies and moms.
Babies don’t always latch correctly, causing pain for mom and frustration for baby. And it's not always the sweet moment we see in the movies: Breasts can get engorged. Milk ducts can get clogged. Plus, learning to pump can be a challenge. And cracked nipples? Totally a thing.
I was extremely fortunate to have my mom — who also happened to be a professional lactation consultant — stay with me for two weeks after each of my babies was born. Her expertise and encouragement was crucial to my positive breastfeeding experience.
Not all women have that kind of support though. Many don’t have anything close to it.
Photo by Raul Arboleda/Getty Images.
But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more moms now have access to professional lactation support services and equipment — and it’s making a big difference.
Indiana University released the results of a study analyzing breastfeeding rates from 2009-2014 to see how the ACA’s 2012 policy change regarding lactation service coverage affected them. After Aug. 1, 2012, most insurance plans were required to cover breastfeeding services and supplies. The mandate also required large employers to provide time and space for breastfeeding mothers to pump.
The result? About 47,000 more babies were breastfed in one year after the policy change took effect. In addition, babies were breastfed for a few weeks longer on average. Average breastfeeding duration increased by 10%, and duration of exclusive breastfeeding increased by 21%.
Researcher Lindsey Bullinger of IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs says those outcomes are encouraging. "The Affordable Care Act has had a significant, positive effect on breastfeeding,” she said, “and our findings show that many more mothers and many more children will likely lead healthier lives as a result."
It's no secret that President Obama was a fan of the ACA — and of babies. I'm sure he's pretty happy to hear about the results of this study.
Official White House photo by Pete Souza.
According to the study, the ACA lactation support appears to have especially benefited black moms, single moms, and moms with less education.
That's good news, as black moms have historically faced obstacles to breastfeeding and single moms are usually working moms.
Breastfeeding supplies can be expensive, and working moms need the support of employers in order to pump breastmilk at work. Having insurance companies cover supplies and lactation help, in addition to ensuring that women have time and space to pump at work, can help moms who want to breastfeed do so successfully for longer.
"Many of the economic burdens, such as the costs of buying a breast pump, may be greater for less educated or unmarried mothers," said Bullinger. "These are groups that historically have had lower breastfeeding rates, so the increases we found are especially welcome."
Supplies and support make a difference, especially for working moms. Ask any mom who's ever used a good breast pump. (Also, ask Ijeoma Oluo, who shared the best pumping-at-work story ever on Twitter.)
Thanks @nayahealthco for helping me build a stash of 1000+ ounces of #liquidgold in less than 2 months without any pain or soreness! I definitely believe it is the extraction method that makes the difference. I had to use a different pump for 2 days and only pumped a fraction of what I normally pump. . #pumplife #pumpingmom #pumpingmama #nayabreastpump #nayahealth #nayahealthco #breastmilk #breastmilkstorage #lanisoh #lanisohbags #bestbreastpump
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Not all moms breastfeed, of course — and that's their choice. But those interested in breastfeeding should be given all the support they need.
The ACA has been controversial from the start, and some may feel that mandating insurance companies to cover breastfeeding supplies and services is overstepping. But considering the health benefits breastfeeding offers mothers and babies, anything that removes obstacles and helps make breastfeeding easier for those who want to do it should be welcomed with open arms.
Photo by Johan Ordonez/Getty Images.