Breastfeeding can be tricky AF. Thanks to the ACA, more moms are figuring it out.

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.)

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.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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