Michelle Obama’s latest cause — breastfeeding

Those lactivists from the sit-in at the Hirshorn will be glad to hear this: Michelle Obama is championing a new cause in association with her “Let’s Move” campaign to end childhood obesity — breastfeeding.

Mrs. Obama said: “We also want to focus on the important touch points in a child’s life. And what we’re learning now is that early intervention is key. Breastfeeding. Kids who are breastfed longer have a lower tendency to be obese. . . .

“And because it’s important to prevent obesity early, we’re also working to promote breastfeeding, especially in the black community — where 40 percent of our babies never get breastfed at all, even in the first weeks of life, and we know that babies that are breastfed are less likely to be obese as children,” she said.

The “Let’s Move” organization rightly points out that the chips are sometimes stacked against mothers who may want to breastfeed — starting in the hospital, where babies are often separated from their mothers or fed formula right away, right on through to the workplace, where a working mother may have difficulty finding the time or privacy to pump. Speaking of which:


Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service announced Thursday that the costs for “breast pumps and supplies that assist lactation are medical care” are now, under the IRS code, eligible for tax breaks. That means that breastfeeding supplies could be treated as deductible medical expenses and/or be reimbursed under flexible spending plans.

I think it’s great that Mrs. Obama is promoting breastfeeding, especially among sectors of the population where it isn’t common. At the same time, I can’t help feeling that there’s something odd about championing breastfeeding solely from the childhood obesity angle. Yes, that’s important, but there are myriad other health and psychological benefits to breastfeeding that strike me as equally important, if not more so.

The same goes for the tax breaks. I’m all for making it easier for working mothers to breastfeed their children — building a pro-life culture by supporting the women who choose to bring life into the world, and all that — but are tax breaks the way to go about this? What about tax breaks for women who, through no fault of their own, can’t breastfeed and have to rely on expensive formula? It seems that the waters could get muddy here quickly.

Then again, I’m not a mother, so I want to hear from those of you who are. What do you think of Mrs. Obama’s campaign? Should breastfeeding mothers get tax breaks?

Margaret Cabaniss


Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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