Michele vs. Michelle: The Political Battle Over Breast Pumps

We cheered when we learned last week that the IRS will now allow breast pumps -- which typically cost a few hundred dollars -- to be tax deductible. To us, this isn’t about politics or whether we think breastfeeding is better than bottle-feeding. It just seemed like a positive step to make breastfeeding –- for those who choose to do it –- slightly more affordable. Especially when breastfeeding expenses can run up to $1,000 for a new mom in her baby’s first year.

But listening to Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann, a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, you would think the government had suddenly named first lady Michelle Obama as breastfeeder-in-chief.

“I’ve given birth to five babies and breastfed every single one,” Bachmann said in a recent interview with radio talk show host Laura Ingraham. “To think that government has to go out and buy my breast pump -- you want to talk about a nanny state. I think we just got a new definition.”

With all due respect to Congresswoman Bachmann, the government isn’t going out and buying any breast pumps. The new policy only allows women to deduct breastfeeding expenses by itemizing it on their tax returns, or by using pre-tax dollars in their flexible spending or medical savings accounts to pay for those supplies.

“She makes me embarrassed to be a Minnesotan,” says iVillager adamsmumma on our Breastmilk vs. Formula board. “Buy my breast pump? Since when does a tax deduction mean that the government is buying my breast pump? I still have to shell out the $300 it costs to buy the thing. They’re just saving me the [under] $40 in taxes.”

“This is not some big-government ‘nanny state’ program in the works (though one of my friends suggested Bachmann should have said ‘wet nurse state’ instead)," says jessica765. “And I don’t think it’s going to convince … anyone to breastfeed when they wouldn’t have done so otherwise. It’s a minor change to a tax code provision that affects a few people. Underwhelming.”

Furthering the debate --  even among state Democrats and Republicans -- is the first lady's push to encourage breastfeeding in her fight against childhood obesity, though it's clear to us that Obama isn't saying that everybody needs to breastfeed. Still, there is some evidence to support the theory that breast is best. The Centers for Disease Control reviewed a number of studies and concluded that the odds a child would be overweight were lower for kids who were breastfed versus kids who were not. At the same time, other studies have questioned where there is any direct linkage between obesity and bottle-feeding or how strong that link is.

Charleen2008 summed up the whole breastfeeding brouhaha this way -- “To me, regardless of what you think of [Barack] Obama and his policies or which political party you belong to, there is no real issue here.”

So, does that mean we’ve heard the last word in the political battle over breast pumps? Probably not. Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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