Support for breastfeeding mothers

Dr. Susan D. CroweSusan D. Crowe, MD, Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University

The Fourth Annual California Breastfeeding Summit convened in January in Sacramento with the theme “Circles of Support to Remove Breastfeeding Barriers: A Collective Responsibility.” The summit brought together medical professionals and public health leaders to participate in workshops and plenary sessions that discussed methods of removing barriers that still exist for breastfeeding women in California.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has increased breastfeeding support for women who plan to return to paid employment by covering breast pumps for most women. With a prescription from their obstetrician during the last month of pregnancy, all women are entitled to a double electric breast pump purchased by insurance carriers (excluding TRICARE) with few exceptions. This service is provided to both Medi-Cal and privately-insured patients.

California leads the country in legislation that provides additional support to breastfeeding women who return to employment with the Paid Family Leave insurance program. However, 4 out of 10 eligible California workers are unaware of this benefit that allows them to take up to six weeks per year of leave and receive 55% of their wages (similar to disability leave). As obstetricians, we can remove this barrier by informing patients of this benefit, which has been shown to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates, particularly for low-wage earners. 

As maternity care practices (such as skin-to-skin contact at delivery) improve and legislative support continues to grow at the state and national levels, the California Breastfeeding Summit celebrated the many successes we have already seen here in California. Ob-gyns should use the tools provided by the ACA, Paid Family Leave, and other policies to support our patients in reaching their desired breastfeeding goals.