Today I want to discuss the challenges that parents are facing with being able to meet their infant feeding goals. Insurance companies have been refusing to cover lactation consultants, even though the Affordable Care Act requires all non-grandfathered insurance plans to cover breastfeeding counseling and supplies at 100%. As a practice who has been working on becoming credentialed with these insurance companies, I have come to realize that there is a huge disparity in the postpartum realm. And now we have a formula shortage!
Breastfeeding is not a sustainable option for every parent, and I recognize this. However, with breastfeeding initiation rates being above 80%, it’s clear that most parents intend to breastfeed. When they’re met with challenges, these parents have limited options for lactation support. When insurance is refusing to cover the services, a lactation consultant seems an inaccessible and unaffordable expense. Then, we see the exclusive breastfeeding rates drop — and hence the need for formula. Now with the threat of formula being scarce, parents who were unable to meet their breastfeeding goals are fearful that they may run out of options to feed their babies. If these parents had been supported in the beginning, perhaps the need for formula would have been reduced if not eliminated. Even combination feeding would reserve formula tremendously.
I imagine that if healthcare prioritized lactation support a little more, the dependence on formula could be reduced and the country might be a little better off. This is a women's rights issue and a family health issue. I'll share more in the future on ways that parents can help address this disparity and address their insurance companies to change their stance on covering lactation support.
Sarah P. Willis, BSN, RN, IBCLC