Breast-Feeding and the Affordable Care Act

(cc photo by Risager)

(cc photo by Risager)

Apparently we could do a lot of good if there was more breast-feeding happening:

The lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90 percent of U.S. women fed their babies breast milk only for the first six months of life, a cost analysis says.

Those startling results, published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics, are only an estimate. But several experts who reviewed the analysis said the methods and conclusions seem sound.

Monica Potts observes that breast-feeding is largely a class phenomenon and that the Affordable Care Act (conveniently!) has provisions that may help make it more widely accessible:

The study found that only about 12 percent of American women exclusively breast feed their children for the first six months of life, as recommended. College graduates are the most likely to breast feed; their rates are at 45 percent. The least likely are poor women and teenage mothers. There are reasons for this that go beyond education, of course. Non-college grads are more likely to have jobs where they’re unable to stay on maternity leave for a long time, and then more likely to go back to work in places where it is difficult to pump breast milk. So that makes this not just a public health issue, but a social justice one.

The health-care bill includes requirements for employers to start accommodating women who are breast feeding. The next step is to encourage doctors to encourage mothers to do it.

More robust family leave policies are going to have to be a key objective for the next wave of progressive social policy activism.


It seems Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon is responsible for this provision.

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