WIC, a program that has long provided nutrition help to more than 9 million low income women and children may be receiving a funding cut, says the GOP. This program provides items like milk, eggs, cheese, fresh fruits, vegetables, and infant formula to families that might not otherwise be able to afford it. Lawmakers, until now, have protected this program to help ensure that all women who needed the assistance were able to receive it.
Currently, the program stands to lose $868 million dollars. That is a 13 percent cut on their current spending allowance. The WIC budget is being cut to help absorb some of the militant funds that have been put into programs like defense, homeland security, and veteran benefits. WIC may not be the only program affected, however. Other programs like healthcare, food programs for the poor, and education may also see a cut. Lawmakers are struggling with where to tighten the belt.
Some lawmakers are expressing their disagreement to cut programs like WIC. According to Republican Sam Farr, D-Calif., “Tightening our belts is one thing. But people who depend on supplemental food programs or food stamps, or school lunches, have belts that are already cinched.”
As a mother of five children, I have relied on these programs at times in my life. However, knowing what I know today about food, I no longer use programs like WIC because they are very little use to me and my family. My youngest has never been on formula a day in his life. I have learned that introducing certain animal foods, like milk and cheese, to your child’s diet too soon can cause health conditions later in life. And, while I know this is better for my family, there was a time that I didn’t know any differently. And, with few people and programs willing to deter away from the conventional food pyramid, it is unlikely that anyone will learn this information unless they take the time to search for it.
So is cutting programs like WIC a bad thing? Maybe, but maybe not. It may drive more women to breastfeed, which has been proven in multiple studies to be best for both mother and baby. Programs like WIC make formula readily available to some of the families that could benefit from breastfeeding the most. According to some studies, low income families are at a higher risk for nutritional problems in their children. And, while WIC does provide other food items to families in need, formula is the biggest expense for WIC. They provide 8 to 10 cans per month, per child. Formula, at a minimum of $10 per container, can easily add up to more than $100, which is more than all of the other WIC money spent on any one family.
Of course, there is still the issue that most American mothers return to work very soon after birth. I myself returned just two weeks postpartum with two of my children, against medical advice. Why? Because maternity leave is not widely offered in the U.S. Because, in order to survive, many of us have to return to work. Even jobs that offer maternity leave do not generally offer paid leave.
The problem doesn’t end there. Pumping at work is not easy, especially when you work at a convenience store or a restaurant where you aren’t always guaranteed regular breaks. But, and I must stress the but, it CAN be done. What worked for me was pumping like crazy when my milk first came in. I pumped after every feeding and in between feedings, even at night. I used what breaks I did get to pump. And, I was honest with my employer. I told them that I really needed to pump at least twice for an eight hour shift. My milk supply did decrease some while I was at work, but the amazing thing about breastmilk is that it knows when to produce. To compensate for the lower supply while away, I continued to pump after nursing while at home. I nursed my baby frequently while at home to encourage him to stick with nursing.
Eventually, I went to formula. All of my children went to formula around the 4 to 6 month mark, except for my youngest, who is still nursing at almost 2. It wasn’t easy sticking it out that long. I worked two jobs with my third son and most days I felt like giving up. But, it happened. Despite the short breaks, despite the long hours, I did breastfeed.
I really think that the success of moving to a breastfeeding society and minimizing the effect of government cuts to programs like WIC rests with employers and with moms. As breastfeeding moms, we need to be willing to stand up and communicate the importance of what we do to our employers. Breastfeeding, as a whole, needs to be more widely supported in the workplace. Education is where it all starts.
The need for education is also very important as WIC starts to lose funding. Instead of just handing out vouchers for formula, moms need to be made aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. They need to receive more than just a “Do you plan to breastfeed?” Making formula less obtainable may not be a bad thing. It could push programs like WIC to take more initiative to encourage breastfeeding. Mothers might finally be informed that pumps are available for free through both the hospital and through WIC. More mothers might start to see breastfeeding in a positive light, if they are encouraged to do so. Less formula would definitely decrease the amount of spending done by WIC. It is my guess, however, that the income bracket will be changed to accommodate the funding cut. If, however, they took a more proactive approach, this wouldn’t be needed.
- Bottle fed Toddlers Face Higher Risk of Obesity by age Five
- Why Are Breastfeeding Mothers Viewed Poorly?
- CFIA Issues Warning About Certain Heinz Strained Meat Baby Food Products