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Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin: The Left and Right of Breastfeeding

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Like her predecessors, First Lady Michelle Obama has aligned herself with a cause.  Her platform, the prevention of childhood obesity, addresses a health concern that affects at least one in five American children, according to some sources. Luckily, the problem is preventable.

At a recent press conference Mrs. Obama said she supports breastfeeding because “kids who are breastfed longer have a lower tendency to be obese.”  

This is not just opinion; it’s fact. Breastfeeding gives children a healthier start in life. The health benefits of breastfeeding and good nutrition alone could save billions in health care costs.

Enter former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn).  Their negative spin on Obama’s comments was  instantaneous, like a strong “let-down” reflex.

According to news reports, both Palin and Bachmann breastfed their children, so why do they have to politicize Obama’s cause?  

At issue is a new Internal Revenue Service policy that allows a deduction for breast pumps. Bachmann complained the benefit would create a “nanny state,” rewarding mothers who work over mothers who stay at home. She doesn’t mention women who have to pump for other reasons, such as taking medication or being hospitalized.

Bachmann says the purpose of the tax code is to tell people how to run their lives. Really?

Considered a medical device, a breast pump can only be deducted if a family itemizes on its taxes and has medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of their total income. A lot of families won’t even qualify.

I’d say the whole thing is a non-issue.

Ask any stay-at-home nursing mom if she would feel short-changed if her neighbor or sister-in-law got a tax-break on a breast pump. She’d laugh out loud.

To succeed at pumping, a mother has to be committed to giving her child the best nutrition in spite of the fact that she isn’t there to give it to him.   

No woman wants to have to pump her breasts — especially at work. Pumps are sometimes hard to use. Plus it isn’t always convenient to pump at work.  The milk needs to be refrigerated, the pump cleaned, and the whole process repeated the next day.

America rallied behind Lady Bird Johnson’s campaign to beautify America. Nancy Reagan took on drug abuse with “Just Say No.”  Laura Bush tackled illiteracy.  Why can’t Palin and Bachmann latch on to Michelle Obama’s efforts to promote breastfeeding as a means of reducing childhood obesity?

After all, a little from the left, a little from the right, and everybody’s happy.  FFG

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