Breastfeeding or not – you should care about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act.
July 14, 2009 § 1 Comment
Advocacy and Online Marketing Director
Returning to work a little more than two months after maternity leave after each of my sons were born was certainly a shock to my system. The intimate quiet moments I enjoyed to feed my newborn was replaced by a quick dash (well within the speed limit and driving safety guidelines, of course) home during my lunch break. I feel like I’m one of the lucky ones because I have a private space to pump if I choose, or can go home to nurse, as well as the finances to take an unpaid maternity leave for three months. Across the nation, and especially in Texas, many women are not as “lucky.”
According to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research study, paid parental leave is still not standard, even among the best U.S. employers. While no federal or state law mandates paid maternity leave, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Family and Medical Leave Act provide some protection for pregnant women and new families. This powerful report released by Texans Care for Children made me realize how lucky my family is, and how so many children in Texas have the odds stacked against them. Did you know:
- Texas ranks last in the number of children without health insurance.
- Texas has one of the country’s highest rates of births to teenage mothers (49 out of 50 states).
- Infant mortality rates have steadily climbed in Texas, this decade, while remaining unchanged in the nation as a whole.
And then there’s cost.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers feed their babies only breast milk for the first six months, with some additional nursing as solid food is introduced and continuing at least for the baby’s first year. I again, was one of the lucky moms who didn’t have a great deal of difficulty nursing or maintaining supply. As this Babble.com article points out, breastfeeding isn’t exactly free for everyone, especially moms who return to the workforce. With my second, more than my first boy, work and life responsibilies sometimes got in the way of my desire for breastmilk-only babies, and I needed to suppliment my hapazard supply with formula.
So what happens when you live in a country that doesn’t create laws that make it easy to meet pediatric guidelines, in a state with the odds stacked against you for growing healthy children, and where the cost of breastfeeding while returning to work could cost a small fortune? I’ll tell you —
I’m sure, I’m not the only mom who experienced this after returning to work, wanting to at least make it to one year exclusively breastfeeding. A New York Times article explains this breastfeeding class divide and says that on average, lower-income mothers have less time, fewer resources and less employer support for breastfeeding. And before anyone thinks I’m going down the path of “formula is poison,” I, like many mothers, clearly made the informed decision that supplementing with formula is good enough.
Over time, and with the support of my loved ones, I have made peace with my choice. In the end, guilt serves no one.
For many moms, breastfeeding is a sore subject (no pun intended) which is why we need your voice. Your advocacy for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act and WIC can help moms have more real choices about how they feed their new babies.
One of the major goals of the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program is to improve the nutrition of infants, and encourage breastfeeding. They do this by offering support and resources that consider the real-life challenges of low-income moms:
- Breastfeeding mothers receive follow-up support through peer counselors
- Breastfeeding mothers are eligible to participate in WIC longer than non-breastfeeding mothers
- Mothers who exclusively breastfeed their infants receive an enhanced food package
- Breastfeeding mothers can receive breast pumps, breast shells or nursing supplementers to help support the initiation and continuation of breastfeeding
WIC is one of five programs under the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act that is not an entitlement program. This means that Congress does not set aside funds to allow every eligible individual to participate. Each state has a yearly food expenditure goal and must meet at least 97 percent of its food grant or face penalties in the form of reduced funding for the next year. Funding does not keep up with rising food costs and increased caseloads from the poor economy.
We need your support to ensure:
- Adequate funding in the FY 2010 budget to meet the growing need
- Combat pay from income for the purposes of determining eligibility (S.581) is excluded
My two boys –