by: Emma Aguirre

Earlier this month, the IRS announced that nursing moms will now be able to write off breastfeeding supplies as medical expenses, reversing its previous stance. Additionally, moms will now be able to use pretax money from their flexible spending accounts to pay for these supplies, provided the total costs do not exceed 7.5 percent of their gross income and that these filers itemize their returns.

Yey for breastfeeding advocates and it truly is a milestone. But what about those who physically cannot breastfeed? Those who chose not to? Where is our help?

One newspaper article suggests that breastfeeding supplies can cost in excess in $1000 a year. Bottle feeding costs are similar. I know firsthand as my daughter has been bottle fed from day one. By choice. I am fully aware of the benefits of breastfeeding, and a New York Times article on the decision by the IRS went so far as to say that the US would save $13 billion a year in health care costs in 90 percent of moms breastfed for six months. But breastfeeding just wasn’t something I could personally bring myself to do. In the past I have suffered anxiety and had a panic attack towards the end of my pregnancy. I was not willing to add the stress of breastfeeding to an already new and potentially stressful situation, where we all could suffer. It was something that just didn’t sit well with me from the beginning and I researched enough about formula and what formula I wanted to use to feel completely confident in my decision. My husband and I discussed it at length and it was a pretty easy decision for us. To date, my daughter has never been sick, has never had any colic or acid reflux of any sort, thankfully. I feel like I was a much more relaxed new mom those first few weeks because I knew exactly how much food she was taking, and when, and we were in complete control of the situation. It could have been a completely different story for us had I succumbed to the pressure of breastfeeding, and truthfully, there is a lot (even the nurses questioned why I had decided not to breastfeed at the hospital, and I was ready to state my case to any lactation consultant that decided to swing by our room). Where is our support and why does it feel like a battle? Today formula is closer than ever to breast milk and I fully believe that. It’s a very personal decision that we as women get to make, and we should support each other in that decision, rather than polarizing one or the other.

While I skipped out on the cost of a breast pump and all those supplies, we have the additional cost of formula. We use Similac, which is a great company for coupons. We’ve had several $20 checks in the mail and there is always a $3 off coupon on the website (we did find that Costco does a super-dooper sized Similac for the same price as the regular can, about $25). We are also going through nipples like there is no tomorrow. We use the Playtex Drop Ins system and it’s been great. I like the convenience of it. I don’t have to sterilize bottles, we simply wash them, daily, in hot, soapy water and run them in the dishwasher every now and then. Since we’ve been adding in a little rice cereal in the evening bottle, the medium flow nipples seem to be clogging some, so we bought the special Y-shaped nipples designed specifically for cereal. They didn’t work at all. My daughter was left crying because nothing was coming out while we frantically organized another nipple. Frustrated, I complained to Playtex and within a few days I had two coupons for $7.99 (it seemed odd, as the nipples run about $4, but I took them!). We’ll try the fast flow nipples with these coupons and if they don’t work, I will complain again. We spend enough money with the company to at least get replacements!

The point is, it all adds up and I know it was a choice we made, one that I’m happy with. What about those woman who physically cannot breastfeed and do not have a choice? I wish it was an even playing field and we bottle-feeding moms got the same support financially and otherwise, as breastfeeding moms do. It’s not easy for any of us.

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