Thursday, July 1, 2010

Breast Pumps for Working Moms...Come On Insurance Companies!

I've been very fortunate to have generous friend (thank you, Jill!) who has lent me her hospital grade breast pump that she used when she first had her daughter. When I was pregnant, Jill, offered to lend me her pump and I took it with me to the hospital when I gave birth so that the lactation consultants could show me how to use it. Hospital-grade pumps are multi-user pumps and are designed for long-term and frequent use. It's especially helpful to have a strong, reliable pump for establishing supply in the beginning. While they are larger than the smaller sizes built into a easy carrying back, they are a workhorse. I compare it to having a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer that you can use for decades or having a small hand held electric mixer. In the past few months I've been spoiled by this trusty pump. As a working mom, it's recommended to pump every 3 hrs to maintain your supply while you are separated from your baby.

I've decided that it's time to buy my own pump for nursing Ava and for the future. I've heard from lactation consultants that smaller pumps like the Medela Pump in Style are great for nursing 1 child, but then they are not as effective for future kids simply because of the wear and tear on the pump. Since this pump is already over $300, I've decided to spend more and get the big mama pump, the Lactina, which is about $1,000. My reason is that it's so reliable and great for heavy-duty use long-term. Because it's a hospital-grade, it's built to last. I plan on nursing Ava until she's at least 18 months, which means that I'll go longer if she wants. The main reason is that I just learned that babies don't produce their own antibodies until their about 18 months old and breast milk over time with the baby nursing less because they're also eating table foods, becomes richer in antibodies. It's nature's way of protecting the young baby from illness. Amazing!

I did some research with my medical insurance provider to find out about my benefits for breast pumps. I was appalled to learn that they only cover a MANUAL breast pump, which is a mere $30! I was completely blown away! A manual pump is for occasional use (think stay-at-home mom), NOT a working mom. If I were to use a manual pump while at work, it would take me hours! Manual pumps are operated by hand and you can only pump one breast at a time. Electric are pumped at the same time, using a motor and you can get bras to make it even hands-free for working while pumping!

To me, this is completely inexcusable! It's another MAJOR hole in our system that fail to give mothers and babies a strong foundation to establish and maintain breastfeeding. Remember, my post on current stats that I shared about the dismal number of exclusively breastfed babies in the US (only 33% by age 3-months). By that time, the mother is likely to return to work and without support systems in place (employer-supported lactation policies/facilities, benefits for breast pumps, etc), women who don't want to wean their babies, start falling off. Insurance providers would have fewer claims because breastfed babies are generally sick less than formula babies. Sadly, at Ava's daycare, the babies there are starting to have more formula. When she started at 8 weeks old, 1 out of 7 were on formula and now, Ava is one of 2 babies getting exclusive breastmilk. She has a cold now from daycare, but she's doing ok. We took her to the doctor and she doesn't have an ear infection and her cough is getting better and she isn't as sick as the other babies in the nursery. The antibodies from my milk are helping her for sure.

So why would the insurance companies only provide manual pumps to working or any mom that is breastfeeding, because our culture is formula company lobbied. The are setting moms back from the advice from the World Health Organization, Le Leche League, and the American Academy of Pediatrics that babies should be exclusively breastfed for a minimum (key word) of 1 year. I'm planning on writing to my medical insurance provider and alerting my HR admin. I wonder if our HR team even knows about this major gap? It's unbelievable to me. What are lower income working moms doing? My hope is that they are investing the $300 in a good pump, which is far less than buying formula.

The saddest part for me is that babies are not only missing out on the ultimate nutrition, but the physical comfort and bonding that happens when a mother and baby are back together. I can tell the difference on days when I'm in the office all day. Ava and I are separated for 10 hours. When I'm working at home she's at daycare for 4 1/2 hours. But the day full days apart, she and are rarely apart at night. I can barely cook a meal because she wants to be with me and nurse all night. Yesterday, for example, Ava ate 6oz in 10 hrs and when I arrived at daycare she nursed longer than normal. Babies miss their mommies and nursing is an amazing way to reconnect for working moms, especially! I just love it.

I encourage you to find out what your benefits are and be assertive. Make our voices heard to help bring change.

1 comment:

  1. You and Ava (not to mention all the babies who your donated milk will benefit) are welcome to the pump until we are lucky enough to have another child. (At LEAST 10 months from now, probably longer.)

    The lack of insurance coverage for all things lactation related is another example of the inequality that still exists between men and women. I am glad to see you are writing about it because the only way things will ever change is if we make some noise.