“The law states that we must provide rental pumps,” said UnitedHealthcare spokesman Matthew Stearns. “These pumps are hospital-grade, and they are larger, harder to clean and more expensive than personalized pumps for women. We are providing women the option of getting a personal pump in lieu of renting the more-expensive pump.”People will do what is incentivized. If breastfeeding is — as we've been told — extremely beneficial to the new baby (and the old baby?), then we ought to want to encourage women to do it. We can't force them to do it, but what we can do is make it easier. I'm very interested in the way the health-care law is going to be a mechanism for manipulating human behavior. By requiring the offering of something that feels like a gift, the government manages the moods of women who would be outraged — rightly outraged — to be told they must breastfeed.
Let's say, now that we're all becoming so involved in the overall economics of healthcare, that we wanted to boost the health of the babies in the insurance pool by making every mother breastfeed (unless she can't and gets a doctor's excuse note). You couldn't simple mandate breastfeeding, because it's too intimately concerned with the woman's body. You'd be violating her rights, but you wouldn't even reach that legal question, because it would be too politically ugly to go there. How about imposing higher health-care premiums for women who have babies, then choose not to breastfeed? That's also unpleasant. And how would you spy on women to check what they were doing? You could slap some big tax on baby formula, but that punishes even the women who can't breastfeed, and it nudges people to buy some alternative product — milk being an obvious substitution.
So make the pumps free so the manipulation feels good.
And here's a business sector that will do fabulously well: the pump-makers. The politicians score triply: 1. Female service to baby health is harnessed, 2. Women feel happy about getting things, and 3. A business booms.
ADDED: Times have really changed:
I remember in the early 70s, Ms. Magazine, in its early days, constantly attacked La Leche League, a pro-breastfeeding group. It was considered anti-feminist at the time to encourage women to breastfeed. Breastfeeding promoters had an ulterior motive (according to Ms.): keeping women at home.The pump is a device to obscure this criticism. It represents a weird kind of freedom. This human organism needs your body, frequently, but you can get your distance if you attach yourself, diligently and efficiently, to the electrical suction machine. The aesthetics of breastfeeding are radically transformed. The leisure and the ease of natural breastfeeding while tending to various household tasks are superseded by a busy schedule stacked with duties — going to work, getting through work while slotting in the regular suctioning of the mammaries, getting home, taking care of all the same household tasks, and slotting in some time to bond with the child. Was this worth it? Hey, don't be glum. Here's a present for you: A milk-extraction machine. Happy?