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While everyone is talking about the historic win we received with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) accepting the full recommendations of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), making contraceptives available without co-pays, we shouldn’t forget the other great victories for women’s health that came with today’s decision. An equally important victory came from a little paragraph that said every breastfeeding mama or future breastfeeding mama would appreciate.

Comprehensive lactation support and counseling and costs of renting breastfeeding equipment. A trained provider should provide counseling services to all pregnant women and to those in the postpartum period to ensure the successful initiation and duration of breastfeeding. (The ACA ensures that breastfeeding counseling is covered; however, the committee recognizes that interpretation of this varies.)

How cool is that! I am sure I’m not the only one who ran up a pretty steep tab with my lactation consultant after having trouble breastfeeding. I’m also sure I’m not the only one who had sticker shock when buying my breast pump. While these expenses were worth every penny --- and they are definitely part of my advice to pregnant friends --- I would have loved to save that money for something else.

It just takes a quick Google search to figure out that “breast is best” when it comes to feeding. Lots of women are under pressure to breastfeed and that pressure is met during a time of increased stress (sleep deprivation anyone?). So the added pressure of costs, could easily put someone over the edge. Especially someone who is counting every penny.

Three cheers for the IOM for adding “comprehensive lactation support” and the “costs of renting breastfeeding equipment” to the “no-cost” list. By doing so the IOM is acknowledging what many women already know, that breastfeeding costs for many women are not optional but a “must have.” And thanks to HHS for accepting the recommendation.

So you’re probably going – great, now what? Good question. HHS’ adoption of the recommendations means that after August 1, 2012, when women get new health insurance plans, they will be able to take advantage of these benefits. What is a “new health insurance plan?” For example, if you receive your health insurance from your employer, on an annual basis, your employer and the insurance company probably review the plan. If they make certain sufficiently significant changes to the plan, the plan loses its “grandfathered” status and becomes new. This makes it a "new" plan.

I know, glad you agree – this is a good day for breastfeeding and a step forward for women’s health.

Cross posted from the National Women's Law Center blog

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