Seattle's Child

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IRS Gives Tax Break for Breast Pumps

Lots of Washington families will be able to take a tax deduction that was not allowed until this week – they can now claim rental or purchase of a breast pump as a tax deductible medical device. According to a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Washington State has one of the highest breastfeeding rates in the nation.

In fact in 2010 the Washington’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program received the prestigious WIC Breastfeeding Performance Award. The breastfeeding rates of Washington mothers utilizing this state-funded program is among the highest in the nation — more than 85 percent of new moms on WIC in Washington breastfeed their babies.

More than 90,000 babies were born in Washington in 2009, the highest number of babies born in a year in 55 years.

Not only will parents of new babies get a child tax deduction, those who use a breast pump can deduct those cost as a medical expense. The new breast pump ruling was issued by the Internal Revenue Service this week.

Breastfeeding advocates have long sought a change in IRS rules that previously defined breast pumps as feeding equipment and therefore a non-deductible item. With the new policy women will be able to use money set aside in pretax spending accounts to buy pumps and related equipment, which can cost several hundred dollars. The cost of pumps for those who do not have a flexible account will be tax deductible if their total medical costs exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income.

The definition change came in part because the American Academy of Pediatrics argued the many medical benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby also due to pressure from at least 45 members of Congress who wrote letters of protest to the IRS about how it classified the pumps. The academy recommends that women breastfeed their babies for at least a year.

Advocates are hopeful that the tax break will lead to increased breastfeeding rates and longer breastfeeding as more and more women decide to continue nursing with the help of a pump when they return to work.