As America inaugurates its 45th President, our country is bracing itself for change. New trade agreements? Fewer environmental controls? A wall across our southern border?
What about the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? Will it change? If so, how quickly and in what ways?
For years, MilkWorks dreamed of insurance coverage for breastfeeding support and breast pumps. Once it arrived as part of the ACA's Women's Preventative Services, it was much more difficult to implement than we thought. Now that it is here, can we truly go backwards and lose coverage of breast pumps and lactation consultations?
Two stories I heard over the holidays reassure me that we have come too far in restoring support for breastfeeding to ever go back ...
A mom in Omaha shared with me that she was nursing her one year old son when her three year old daughter quietly asked her, "Mom, when can I get some of those things?" She pointed to her mom's chest, and then asked, "And one of those things you tie around you?" By now, her mom was on to her, and she replied, "Oh, you mean breasts? and a bra?" Her daughter eagerly nodded her head. When her mother asked her why she wanted breasts and a bra, the three year old calmly said, "Because I want to feed my babies."
This story is remarkable because most women of child bearing age in the United States, and those of us who are now entering grandmother land, never saw a baby breastfeeding until we looked down and found one at our own breasts. We could not ask our mothers about breasts and a bra and feeding our babies because it never entered our minds. We grew up in a land of baby bottles and cans of formula……..and when we learn something as a child it always comes easier.
I found myself also marveling at the blog of the news reporter from Omaha, who publicly shared via social media how her babies “suck at sucking”. Without a hint of reservation, she shared her birth plans and her journey through breastfeeding problems with her two kids. She then ended up tweeting with a female police officer about getting help at MilkWorks O.
This would not have happened twenty or thirty years ago. I remember cautiously taking my newborn daughter to a Board of Health meeting in 1995, knowing that if she wanted to nurse, I would have to be brave enough to do it. It was a time when decent breast pumps were just emerging on the market and my daughter would not take a bottle. I had been appointed to the Board of Health, and even though I was in a Health Department, there was something about being female and conducting business that did not mesh with breastfeeding a baby. If you were being a mother, you kept it at home out of fear that you would not be viewed as professional.
You can imagine my smile as I read about the Omaha news reporter. I wanted to shout: Yes! Times have changed when a woman (read: mother) can blog about breastfeeding and still show up to deliver the news on public television, or wear a badge and protect our citizens.
Women (and men) may have to stand up a bit taller and speak a bit louder as the ACA goes under attack. If you care about the cost of health care, you care about prevention. If you care about prevention, you care about helping moms have access to lactation support. After all, those moms may be the daughters who are getting ready, right now, by asking for “that thing that ties around those things”. That would be a nursing bra and breasts. Necessary implements when it comes to feeding the babies of today, who will be the news reporters and police officers of tomorrow.