No, the Internal Revenue Service is not telling new mothers what to do with their breasts.
It's absurd for U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.) to cry "nanny state" and for others to suggest the federal government is applying undue pressure on mothers by designating their breast-feeding supplies as a tax-deductible medical expense.
The change means that women who have flexible spending accounts to use their own money to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses can spend those funds on breast pumps and other supplies. Women whose total medical expenses exceed 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross incomes also can write off the purchases on their tax returns.
The government will not buy or distribute the breast-feeding supplies. The change simply offers a savings to women who choose to use those supplies, which often are necessary when they must be away from their children because they are working.
This reasonable adjustment in the tax rules recognizes the long-term health benefits attributed to breast-feeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which pushed for the change for years, says breast-feeding protects babies from infections and illnesses such as diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia.
It reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Breast-fed babies are less likely to develop asthma or become obese, and exhibit diminished risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
Women who breast-feed their babies confer enormous health advantages. The IRS is just providing a little help.