This Dreamy Mom Wants You to Have Access to Insurance Backed Lactation Support
When I was pregnant, people would ask me if I planned to breastfeed my daughter. My answer was an automatic "of course." At the time, my perception was that the baby would come out and that nursing would be the most natural thing in the world. Oh man, was I wrong. Like many new mothers, I ended up having a very strenuous breastfeeding experience. In a span of just a few months, I breastfed, exclusively pumped, supplemented with formula and eventually came back to exclusively breastfeeding. It was a journey wrought with fear (will my baby get enough to eat?!) and guilt (am I terrible for giving my daughter formula?!). At every single point of frustration, I felt like I needed more support. (If you're interested, you can read more about my journey in this interview on Maia Moda).
Another mom from the interview, Laurie Davis Edwards, who is a love coach, the founder of The Worthy One and author of the bestselling book, Love @ First Click: The Ultimate Guide to Online Dating, took her frustrations with breastfeeding to the next level. As she reflected on her breastfeeding journey, she decided she is NOT okay with how little support we receive. So, she wrote an open letter to her insurance company advocating for more care for the women who feed their children from their own bodies and encourages you to do so, too. "We deserve support and they can do more," she says.
The letter proclaims:
If you’re a mother, you know that giving birth is one of the most physically and emotionally intense experiences of your life. For many moms who breastfeed, it is also the beginning of an emotionally charged and financially draining process. This is an issue that goes unsaid in society, so I want to speak it to you, the keepers of our care.
But I promise you, you are under-serving nearly all of your patients who have given birth and if you ask them, they will tell you this.
it goes on to ask the insurance companies,
What would the world look like if moms felt cared for during this first year of a child’s life? These tiny humans depend on us to be healthy both physically and emotionally, to grow up and become change makers in this world.
and outline ways in which Laurie believes that they can make that world possible:
You can fund hospital-led support groups with licenced Lactation Consultants.
You can cover breastfeeding classes for expectant moms.
You can expand your database of IBCLCs who are covered. There is no shortage of them in the world, so offer more access to your patients.
You can cover postpartum doulas.
If an IBCLC lives further than 10 miles from someone, you can offer to reimburse their visit to one that is out-of-network.
You can increase your mental health support for moms, offering all new moms at least three postpartum visits with a therapist.
You can cover postpartum breastfeeding support groups for moms.
You can offer at least one more postpartum doctor’s visit for women healing from birth.
You can create or curate a video series for women on troubleshooting breastfeeding (since we are up at 4am googling and searching YouTube anyway with random results).
You can create an online community for breastfeeding moms to connect with each other and receive support from each other.
And on and on and on.
I don't know about you, but I WANT TO LIVE IN THAT WORLD.
Laurie has made it easy for you to be an advocate for yourself and your fellow breastfeeding mamas by creating a template letter to an insurance company that you can easily customize with your own provider and story.
I was honored to get the opportunity to catch up with Laurie and learn more about her breastfeeding journey and what inspired her to start a movement to advocate for better systemic support for new mamas. God knows we need it.
Tell me about your daughter. Ellie is 15-months-old and such a light. She's so intuitive and can gaze into your soul. When you're around her, you feel it in the way she looks at you and her energy. But she's also a total goofball and loves to make herself laugh.
Tell me about your breastfeeding / postpartum journey. I was in labor for 56 hours, and Ellie was sunny-side up even though we didn't know it until delivery, so we were both really exhausted when she was born. We didn't have the breast crawl experience at all but the nurses all said my latch was perfect. It never felt great though. At the hospital, I made the nurses look at the latch and even my nipple many times, but was told time and time again everything was fine. A few hours after returning home, my nipples started bleeding. It turns out that Ellie had a tongue and lip tie that was undiagnosed for 10 weeks. So in the meantime, we suffered. Immediately, I had an oversupply, which sounds like a good problem to have but it was horrifically painful for months. I developed clogged ducts almost every week, and eventually got a vasospasm which is even more painful. By the time Ellie was diagnosed with her ties, she had figured a way to work around them without me enduring pain -- and let's be honest, my body was probably desensitized, too. Despite all that we continued to happily nurse until she was 11 months old! The rest of our nursing journey was beautiful and amazing. She preferred to nurse lying down because of my aggressive letdown which was so nice because it meant about eight times a day, we snuggled up to nurse.
Where during this journey did you feel a lack of systemic support? How did that make you feel? The hospital staff was nice and attentive, but I did not feel heard. I asked for care in the same way over and over again and felt brushed off. But the bigger problem was with my insurance company. My body went through so much physical pain, and yet, the only thing that was covered was one GYN appointment 6 weeks after birth. The first six weeks are the most challenging! Why are we as moms alone then? Legally, insurance companies need to fully cover at least one lactation visit, but my insurance only covered ONE lactation consultant in the entire Greater Los Angeles area. It was very far for me to travel to and not realistic with a newborn and no car. So instead, I have to be my own advocate and pay out of pocket for lactation consults, breastfeeding classes, and so many other resources. What about the women who don't have the finances for that?
What encouraged you to write the letter to the insurance companies? The level of care moms receive postpartum is simply not ok with me. Birth is such an incredibly physical experience, and the majority of us these days go on to breastfeed. Our bodies are going through physical changes, hormonal shifts, and we're learning how to keep another human alive with solely our body. And yet, we don't receive support beyond one doctor's visit and if you're lucky, one lactation visit. There is a movement encouraging us to breastfeed -- and it's such a great experience when it works -- but we're not supported in our health as we do this. It's time for the insurance companies to commit themselves to us as we commit ourselves to our children.
Have you heard a response from any of the companies? What about the response from your fellow moms? The response from other moms has been overwhelming. This really has become a movement and I hope it continues to grow. We collectively need to stand up and demand better healthcare for ourselves. It's unfortunate, but true. So far, none of the insurance companies have responded.
In your perfect world, what would postpartum support for mothers look like? In the letter, I outline some ways insurance companies can support moms. The most ideal way is that postpartum doulas and/or more lactation visits are covered. For moms who have complications and need care like I did, hardly ever is one visit sufficient to get out of the zone of physical pain.
What advice do you have for new moms who are navigating their healing in our current healthcare system? Be your own advocate. There is no replacement for using your own voice. I know that it can be even easier to stay quiet when you're in the throws of motherhood with a newborn in your arms. Keep speaking. And know that when you follow your intuition, you'll always know what's right for you and your baby.