Michele v. Michelle on Breast pumps

What Women Really Think
Feb. 16 2011 1:20 PM

Michele v. Michelle on Breast pumps


Whether and how long to breastfeed has long been a flashpoint in the mommy wars (see Hanna Rosin's piece in the Atlantic from a couple years ago for a primer), but the argument's always been about what's best for the baby and the mom. Now, Michele Bachmann wants us to think about what's best for reducing the federal deficit and size of the government when it comes to breastfeeding: She went on Laura Ingraham's radio show to complain about Michelle Obama's push to encourage more women in the African-American community to breastfeed (a community in which 40 percent of children aren't ever breastfed, according to Obama), as part of her broader campaign against childhood obesity, the likelihood of which breastfeeding has been shown to reduce. The IRS also announced that breast pumps would be tax deductible, alongside such medical "flex" expenditures like contact solution and bandages. Bachmann's problem isn't with breast-feeding-she did it for all five of her kids, she notes-but rather with the government incentive to do so.


While breast pumps aren't cheap, they can end up saving a working mom money: Even an expensive model is still less than paying for a good-quality formula for the first year of a baby's life. That way a new mom can get back into the workforce when she's ready-you know, the workforce, that thing that powers and grows the U.S. economy, and that thing that you need to be a part so you don't have to rely on the goverment for "handouts." And don't conservatives love tax breaks? It's hard not to think that Bachmann was more excited by the prospect of making a joke about how this is the defintion of the nanny state (get it?!), and the opportunity to ding Michelle Obama for her crunchy health campaigns and set off some Drudge sirens for herself than she was about thinking through the logical implications of her argument.

Photograph of Michele Bachmann by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Noreen Malone is a senior editor at New York magazine.


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