WIC Unfair to Non-Breastfeeding Moms

I went to a Daddy & Baby pizza party at Cape Cod Hospital last night. It’s the same one I’ve been going to since Will was born. I like it because I get to hang out with other dads, listen to speakers with helpful information and there’s free pizza and soda.

Last night, some very nice people from WIC were there to speak with us about nutrition for babies. They were extremely nice, very informative people who gave us a lot of good information. They also told us how the guidelines and food packages for eligible people are changing this year, with nutritionally enhanced food packages becoming available. I think this is a great program, except for one thing.

Breastfeeding moms are given preferential treatment over those moms who choose to formula feed.

I get their rationale. Breastfeeding is undoubtedly the best food for a baby. That’s not even up for debate. And part of their mission is to encourage as many mothers as possible to breastfeed, therefore WIC offers incentives to breastfeeding moms. First of all, moms who breastfeed are eligible for food packages for 12 months after the baby is born, while formula feeding moms only get six months. Furthermore, breastfeeding moms get more food than non-breastfeeding mothers. The nutritionist last night said moms will start to receive jarred baby food with the changes going into effect this year, and breastfeeding moms will receive three times as much jarred food as those who formula feed.

Quite honestly, I think that sucks and I think it’s completely unfair.

I asked the WIC representatives last night what would happen if a mother desperately wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t. I asked what happens if she goes to a lactation consultant, toughs it out, does everything possible to get the baby to breastfeed but just can’t make it happen. I figured a woman who showed proof that she tried that hard, or that her supply just failed, would be given the same benefits as a mom who was actively breastfeeding. But she told me that wasn’t the case. The mother in my hypothetical situation would not be eligible for any any added benefits.

Like I said, I understand and appreciate what WIC is trying to do. But in a case like the one I mentioned all that’s doing is unfairly punishing a mother who tried to breastfeed but couldn’t. And quite honestly, I think it’s unfair to mothers who simply choose to formula feed. Namely because formula is expensive and the people getting assistance from WIC have low incomes. So WIC is giving more help to low income moms who are breastfeeding for free, while those who have to spend more money on formula get less food? That doesn’t make sense to me at all.

WIC is a wonderful organization and they do some great things. In this economy it’s probably more important than ever. But their policy toward non-breastfeeding moms is unfair and I hope they consider changing it in the future.

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12 thoughts on “WIC Unfair to Non-Breastfeeding Moms

  1. I have no personal experience with WIC, but is it possible that the extra food for breastfeeding moms is also given because mom needs more calories to breastfeed? Just a thought.

  2. Erica, I’m absolutely sure that’s a part of it and like I said, I get their rationale. But that wouldn’t apply with the baby food because moms don’t eat that (at least I don’t think they do, you never know!). It was just something I didn’t know about WIC until last night and I personally disagree with that specific policy.

  3. It’s not intentionally unfair so much as it’s bureaucratic. WIC is allotted a certain amount of money to use per household. They’re not punishing non-breastfeeding mothers, they’re just budgeting the money for that family. A family that doesn’t have to use money on formula can use it for jar food.

    It’s not as though they sat in a big meeting and figured out ways to reward breastfeeders and punish the lactating challenged. As always, it’s a budgetary issue.

  4. Well I was on WIC with this child for 10 months, due to a job change for DH. With all the cards they gave me while breast feeding my total savings ( milk, cheese, eggs, beans, juice, peanut butter and cereal for 3 of us ) was $95 a month. My daughter self weaned this month, so she is now on Alimentium formula for 2 more months due to a milk allergy. The cost of that is $232 a month, I still get a savings of $75 on the other things too.

    I can totally understand rewarding breast feeding mothers for saving money. So that WIC can help more people !!!

  5. WIC doesn’t have to spend as much money to help breastfeeding mothers, because the cost of formula is so high. They have limited funds, and they’re trying to encourage more mothers to breastfeed. As far as I’m concerned, this makes sense. I used WIC for about a year and a half after Gabriel was born.

  6. Miss Grace, I get that. Like I said in the post, I understand what they’re trying to do and that they have limited funds. But I think there should be some slack cut for the moms who really do try to breastfeed, but can’t for whatever reason.

    Maybe they could show proof that they went to a lactation consultant and repeated doctor’s appointments in order to get the same benefits breastfeeding moms get from WIC. There has to be some way to make that more equitable because even though some mothers desperately want to breastfeed, it’s out of their control.

    Other than that I think WIC is great. There’s a high likelihood that I’ll be using them soon so I’m not knocking their mission, just a small part of how they choose to go about dispensing goods.

  7. Okay, I understand why a breastfeeding mom would receive more food for a longer amount of time (since she is providing the food for her baby on her own, she needs the extra calories & to be more careful about what she eats) but I do NOT think that whether you breastfeed or not should have any effect on how much jarred food the baby gets. Especially if, like you mentioned, a woman really WANTS to breastfeed but is unable to for some reason.

  8. I agree with Jee and Jana… I’ve never been on WIC nor have I ever breastfed….
    I saw it the same way as these ladies, not so much a punishment but rather maybe evening out the money spent, which who knows, may still be saving them money in long run.
    I didn’t breastfeed by choice, but I could agree with rewarding someone for doing it, if that is the case, and if not then proof that someone may not be able to breastfeed, but tried, should allow them the same rewards.

  9. I think all WIC offices must be different. When I was on WIC in CT the only extra breastfeeding mothers received were they could stay on the program longer (meaning they could continue to get the milk, cheese, and eggs that all women receive for longer) and they get a can of tuna. That was all I saw.

    Anyway, I can see both sides. I’m sure WIC is hurting financially so they want to reward those who can save them some money, but I also don’t think it is quite fair either and sucks for those (like me) who could not breastfeed. Let’s also not forget that the amount of formula WIC gives you a month is not enough for most people. The lady I spoke to at WIC told me straight up that I may have to buy a can or two each month and sure enough, I had to. In the end, I understand that they do what the need to. These sure are hard times and I can only hope that they will remedy this decision once the financial strain all of us are feeling starts to lift.

  10. I’m on WIC now as a breastfeeding mom and had no idea they were talking about changing it. First off it is correct that we are allowed to stay on the foods for longer because we are feeding the child and need the extra calories and such. I’m eligible until he is 1 year and then he starts getting the benefits at that point if we’re still eligible. As far as the changes, I do understand most of it. The only thing I don’t agree with is the amount of jar food. Whether you breastfeed or formula feed typically jar food is used the same amount so I’m not sure why that makes a difference. Not to mention statistically I think foods are delayed longer on breastfed babies than formula ones anyways. As far as allowing a mom who has really tried to breastfeed an exception, I think that would jsut be too much to try and regulate. They really go by the system that if you do it for one you have to do it for all. There would definitely be women who abuse that system if it were done that way and I guess tehy figure it’s just best not to go that route. On the flip side there are things that formula feeding mom’s get that I don’t. LIke rice cereal. It doesn’t start on the checks until my son is 6 months where as with my daughter it started at 3 months, she was on formula. Formula gets bottled juice instead of frozen, most often peanut butter instead of beans. You could also look at it this way. Formula is really expensive. We were on the cheap stuff and it was still $100 a month. I guess financially they figure it evens otu the way they want to do it.

  11. Aaron, my cousin works for WIC…I’d be happy to get you in touch with her. She works out of VT though so I am not sure if state rules differ across the US?

  12. This is interesting. This could be a real attempt to “incentiveize” breastfeeding, meaning that the extra food (while necessary for a nursing mother) may be used as an incentive for mothers to at least attempt breastfeeding.

    I don’t have my book with me, but the WHO did a study a few years back on the amount of money that programs like WIC could save if mothers breastfed even for the first 2 or 4 months – I can’t remember the amount offhand, but it was staggering. Also, I know that economically disadvantaged (i.e. “poor”) mothers are statistically least likely to breastfeed (this is due to a variety of factors).

    I’m not sure that I agree with their tactics, but I AM encouraged that they may be trying to turn this tide…

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