Government Plans to Cut Women, Child Nutrition Program

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.

breast feeding baby

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 of very little use to me and my family. My youngest has never been on a 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 different. 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, the 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.

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About the author


Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done.


  • It was my experience with WIC that the office was FULL of pro-bfreastfeeding posters, that pregnant women were encouraged to consider breast feeding, and that information was made extremely available.

    In addition, some women just plain CAN’T breastfeed. Not even a matter of convenience or inconvenience. Some women have excruciating pain while nursing, or (like a friend of mine) have hormonal imbalances that cause nutritional deficiencies in their supply. When my husband had lost his job I was 7 months pregnant with twins. Twins who came five weeks premature. At five weeks premature, they NEEDED more food than I was able to immediately offer them, and the cost of providing formula on our own was exorbitant. Although I continued nursing and pumping, and eventually did get my supply high enough to ditch the formula, if it hadn’t been for WIC I really don’t know what we would do.

    Furthermore, WIC provides food for children who are off of the breast. For children who eat (and eat and eat and eat) solid food. And in urban places (like Chicago, where we live) food is more expensive than in rural areas. At our local grocery store milk is frequently $6 a gallon!!!

    I’m with Representative Farr, the recipients of WIC already have their belts cinched tight enough. Cutting services to the people who absolutely need it the most, babies and small children, is heartless.

    There are some corners in WIC that could be cut. But not 13% worth of corners. Not even close.

  • Thank you for your thoughts Lea. My experience was a little different. I have received WIC with all five of my chidren. I have formula fed and I have breastfed. I understand that there are times that nursing is not an option. This was not to address whether or not nursing is impossible for some. I get that it is sometimes. I know that sometimes supplementing is required.

    The point is that, in my experience, I was never questioned when I decided to formula feed. Mothers who planned to formula feed were never offered the breastfeeding classes. I was never directed to the breastfeeding nurse when I said I wanted to formula feed. I didn’t know a pump was available for free.

    WIC does vary in their services from state to state. In Oklahoma, the breastfeeding nurse was much more available. In metro Phoenix, you have to schedule an appointment.

    There are a lot of ways that WIC could cut their spending in formula. Offering breastfeeding education classes to ALL pregnant women, mandating it to receive benefits might encourage more moms to nurse. Having the breastfeeding support staff more available would curb moving to formula in some cases. If you want to get really extreme, mothers could be required to see the doctor for a prescription if they, indeed, can’t nurse. (That could get pretty sketchy, but it is a possibility.)

    WIC could save at least $100 a month, per formula feeding mom that nursed instead. That could quickly account for the funding cut. I don’t like that the program is being cinched either. I have relied on it for a good share of my adult life for milk, eggs, cheese, etc. But I know that there is more that can be done to encourage breastfeeding.

    What I didn’t share in the article is that I was also a teen mom. I was in a group home for pregnant teens. The REASON I chose to breastfeed was because we had a nurse come in and talk to us every week. She talked to us about breastfeeding. Talked about why it was so good for our baby. Answered our questions about it. When we had trouble, there was support.

    There were still a couple of moms that chose to use formula but I am certain that there were fewer formula feeding moms becuase of the support, encouragement, and education provided. Out of eleven TEENAGERS, only two chose to formula feed. That is some pretty amazing odds if you ask me. This is the point that I had hoped would be understood from the article. That more encouragement and support automatically equals more breastfeeding which automatically equals less spending.

    To cut the program completely would be horrible. I agree. There needs to be a plan to help WIC through the budget cut. There are other places that the government could cut funding, but I have found, throughout many experiences in my life, sometimes something tragic can turn into a thing of beauty. By cutting funding, WIC may be forced to encourage more and offer more support. Right now, I think they are too afraid of offending women that don’t want to breastfeed.

    Oh, and to address sore nipples – that is part of breastfeeding. It just is. I bled for weeks with my youngest. He was horribly viscious! For me, the best product was Earth Momma Angel Baby Nipple Butter. That stuff was like heaven on my sore nipples.

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