Yesterday, Lynn Sweet reported that First Lady Michelle Obama would step up the administration’s efforts to promote breast feeding among American mothers as part of the Let’s Move! anti-childhood obesity campaign. On Thursday, the Internal Revenue Service also ruled that the costs for “breast pumps and supplies that assist lactation are medical care” would be eligible for tax breaks.
Ignoring the health benefits of breast feeding, Republicans immediately jumped on the news, with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) saying, “To think that government has to go out and buy my breast pump…That’s the new definition of a nanny state.” Fox News’ Megyn Kelly presented a debate on the efficacy of promoting breastfeeding during her afternoon news program and featured former Concerned Women for America president Sandy Rios criticizing Obama for changing federal policy to disproportionately benefit the African American community. Rios also suggested that women who can’t easily breastfeed at work should “find a different boss”:
RIOS: You have to remember that seventy five percent of American women already breast feed. We’re talking about a problem that’s specifically in the black community and so for you to change federal law and IRS regulations and start forcing businesses to make accommodations for nursing women at their own expense to promote it in the black community is the problem that I have with it. I agree with Michele [Bachmann] this is the nanny state on steroids. [...]
I’m concerned about her trying to dictate and impose her ideas on women of all stripes, which is what I believe what she’s doing in this case. I think breast feeding is wonderful. And to the point of whether someone should have a room. Yes, I think if a boss doesn’t accommodate if you want to pump, you need to find a different boss.
Watch the segment:
Experts at the Centers for Disease Control estimate that lowering the barriers to breast feeding would help women of all races and prevent 15 to 20 percent of obesity. The World Health Organization has affirmed that the long-term benefits of breastfeeding include reduced risks of obesity and consequent type-2 diabetes, as well as lower blood pressure and total cholesterol levels in adulthood. In fact, a recent study found that if 90 percent of new mothers exclusively breastfed their infants for six months, it would prevent an estimated 911 deaths annually and save the nation at least $13 billion each year, including $592 million due to childhood obesity.
Under Section 4207 of the Affordable Care Act, employers will have to provide break time and a place for breastfeeding mothers to express milk and a new home visitation program will bring nurses into the homes of new moms to offer assistance, which offers an opportunity to promote breast feeding. The new child nutrition bill also tasks the the WIC program for low-income women to provide “more breastfeeding counseling and supplies to eligible mothers.”