Help is on the Way: Breastfeeding Support for Healthier Moms and Babies
This article is cross-posted from Countdown to Coverage.
This year, World Breastfeeding Week coincides with a major milestone for mothers: on August 1, the women’s preventive health provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) go into full effect. Every new insurance policy will now begin covering breastfeeding equipment and lactation support services without co-pays.
Leading professional groups recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, with some breastfeeding continuing through at least the first year. That’s because of the tremendous health benefits to both women and children – including lower rates of infections, obesity, sudden infant death syndrome and asthma in children and reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers in mothers.
But women are not meeting their breastfeeding goals. New Mothers Speak Out, Childbirth Connection’s report of postpartum experiences of the national Listening to Mothers II survey participants, reported:
- while 61% of women intended to exclusively breastfeed as they approached the end of pregnancy, just 51% were exclusively breastfeeding one week after birth
- only 46% of women breastfed as long as they had wanted
- 16% of employed mothers reported that breastfeeding issues were “a major challenge” in the transition to employment.
Eliminating the cost of skilled breastfeeding support means more women can get support and information to prepare for breastfeeding, proper assessment in the early postpartum period, and help troubleshooting any breastfeeding problems that arise. Eliminating the cost of breast pumps can help women exclusively breastfeed even after returning to employment or other duties.
These changes are part of a larger national picture of integrated strategies to increase both the number of women who breastfeed at all and the duration of exclusive breastfeeding. A major federal commitment to increase the number of Baby-Friendly Hospitals through the Best Fed Beginnings Collaborative will help ensure that more women and babies get off to a good start with breastfeeding. Another ACA provision, already enacted, requires most employers to provide private space and reasonable break time for breastfeeding mothers to pump at work. More work is needed to address cultural attitudes, clinician education, family leave policies, and access to affordable, high-quality child care.
Childbirth Connection is pleased to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week and the health reform preventive services milestone with our sister organizations working to improve the health of women and families. Here are some links to more information.
- For more about breastfeeding, check out Childbirth Connection’s brand new Breastfeeding Resources Page.
- For more about the new health law and coverage for preventive services like breastfeeding support, visit Countdown to Coverage, the public awareness campaign by Raising Women’s Voices. You can find out more about when your health plan might begin covering breastfeeding supports and other women’s preventive services. (Some new health plans may not incorporate these provisions until their new plan year begins on January 1, 2013. Existing health plans may not have to comply for another year or so. You may want to call your health insurance plan to ask when these provisions will go into effect. )
- For more about World Breastfeeding Week, visit the global campaign web site: Understanding the Past, Planning the Future.
Amy Romano directs the Transforming Maternity Care Partnership for Childbirth Connection. Childbirth Connection is a 94 year old organization working to improve maternity care through consumer engagement and health system transformation.