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IRS reclassifies breast-feeding as medical expenditure

Ruling allows use of tax-free dollars to buy breast pumps, equipment

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service on Thursday reversed itself in announcing that breast-feeding supplies qualify as a medical expense.

The ruling now allows moms who are breast-feeding to purchase all supplies using a flexible spending account. Those without FSAs can deduct the expenses as part of their itemized medical expenditures, including breast-feeding expenses incurred in 2010.

“Today’s IRS ruling providing favorable tax treatment for the purchase of breast pumps and breast-feeding equipment marks an important victory for the health of women and children across the country by making breast-feeding a more practical option for new and working mothers,” said Marion Burton, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The AAP recommends that mothers breast-feed exclusively for the first six months and continue breast-feeding for at least the first year of a child’s life. As many as 45% to 50% of mothers return to work full time within six months of their infant’s birth; breast pumps allow working mothers to continue breast-feeding. “Before today, steep cost burdens could prevent working mothers from purchasing breast pumps and related equipment,” Burton said.

“Now, more women will be able to pass on the health benefits of breast-feeding to their babies, which include protections against asthma and other respiratory illnesses, bacterial and viral infections and obesity, among other ailments," Burton added. "Pre-tax dollars already cover expenses like immunizations and bandages, and thanks to today’s ruling, women who wish to breast-feed will experience these same cost savings for breast-feeding supplies.”

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