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Breast Feeding, Once Natural, Now a Science

October 7, 2013
Plain English Version

The Affordable Care Act covers breast-feeding. No, the mother is not paid to breast-feed. However professional lactation consultants are paid to advise them. And the cost of breast pumps is also to be paid by insurance companies.

Experts agree that breast-feeding gives an infant the best start in life it can have. It reduces dramatically the risks of asthma, leukemia and Type 2 Diabetes. Women have breast-fed their babies since the dawn of time.

When infant formulas, such as Enfamil and Similac, first came on the market, they were sold as a replacement for or supplement to breast-feeding. For women balancing work and motherhood, the temptation to use them was great. And use them they did.

In recent years, the trend has swung back to natural breast-feeding. That is why services to encourage breast-feeding are mandated in the new health care law. And that is where the confusion begins.

Insurance companies appear to be reluctant to provide or pay for the services. Lactation consultants are the most important service providers. Pediatricians have neither the time or training to help new mothers properly.

The health insurance companies do not have rosters of qualified lactation consultants. When women go out of network of providers to find a consultant, companies often will not reimburse them. They claim the lactation consultants are not certified to provide the advice. When a baby is hungry, it must be fed. There is little time to argue with an insurance company.

New mothers have to begin breast-feeding right away. Sometimes they suffer from insufficient milk or a painful infection. For example, a woman in Illinois said her baby was not thriving. A lactation consultant helped her get her son to open his jaw wider. Feeding was more effective and her milk production increased. She is now breast-feeding exclusively. The health care law does not say what kind of breast pump to use or what are the qualifications or certifications necessary to provide services.

It will take time to sort all this out. Mothers are advised to talk to their health insurers before giving birth.

Source: The New York Times

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