Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Giving New Meaning to the Term “Cash Cow”

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WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama administration announced today an initiative that will pay mothers a stipend of $250,000 if they nurse for more than 12 months.

The Back to Nurture program of the Department of Health and Human Services will begin issuing payments in January of 2013, with the stipend contingent on a signed affidavit of the child’s primary medical care provider to the effect that the baby’s primary source of nourishment is his or her mother’s breast milk. Mothers are eligible for each child, beginning with babies born after December 31 of this year.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius announced the $41 billion program at press conference this morning. She spoke of her own thwarted desires to stay home and nurse her children, and expressed solidarity with millions of mothers “who know that what’s best for their children’s health and development is seldom what’s best for a mother’s career.” The new initiative also includes tax breaks for women medically unable to breastfeed by themselves but who engage a wet nurse, and subsidies for visits by licensed lactation consultants.

Republican Congressional leaders have responded lukewarmly to the program. “While we all favor motherhood and nurturing our children as well as possible, I fear this program might devolve into stay-at-home welfare,” said Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. “We’ll have to see how it is implemented before next year’s budget,” he continued, implying that his party might threaten to cut funding for it.

Women’s groups have also reacted with mixed feelings. “A quarter of a million dollars is a lot of money,” said National Organization for Women president Terry O’neill. “While it certainly gives mothers the luxury of choosing to stay home, it’s so much money that there’s not really a choice. Secretary Sibelius is basically saying, ‘Women, stay at home and take care of your babies; don’t bother developing a career’.”

Sibelius dismissed such criticism, citing numerous colleagues and friends who managed to both work and nurse. “The critics of this program haven’t examined it closely enough. Women who pump at work are still eligible for the stipend. There’s no reason that a woman who wants to work shouldn’t be able to take advantage of that provision,” she said.

Funding for the program is expected to come from cuts to the federal food stamps program and employment benefits; recipients of the stipend will not be eligible for such benefits. Additional funding, if necessary, will come from monies freed up by the cancellation of federal job training programs for women.

The measure could be a boon to large families struggling to make ends meet. In the upstate NY Hasidic enclave of Kiryas Joel, where austerity reigns and  the average family has nine children, residents are already planning how to adjust their lifestyles to maximize eligibility under the program’s rules. Feige Rosenbaum, mother of eleven, says that she probably has only four more births left in her, but her children should be poised to take full advantage of the stipends: “I’m going to encourage them to milk this for all it’s worth.”

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Written by Thag

July 31, 2011 at 2:38 pm

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