By now, you've probably heard that the IRS has reversed their ruling on breast pumps as a medical expense. Prior to February 2010, they weren't approved; that meant they couldn't be purchased with health spending accounts or deducted on tax filings. Given that things like penis pumps and astro turf qualified, this was a pretty raw deal for new moms!
Luckily, the IRS revisited the subject and decided breast pumps can be deducted on taxes or purchased with health spending accounts (they're now known as "tax sheltered"). This is a major victory for moms!
Here's the actual language of the ruling reversal:
"The Internal Revenue Service has concluded that breast pumps and supplies that assist lactation are medical care under § 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code because, like obstetric care, they are for the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body of the lactating woman. Therefore, if the remaining requirements of § 213(a) are met (for example, the taxpayer’s total medical expenses exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income), expenses paid for breast pumps and supplies that assist lactation are deductible medical expenses. Amounts reimbursed for these expenses under flexible spending arrangements, Archer medical savings accounts, health reimbursement arrangements, or health savings accounts are not income to the taxpayer."
Basically, this means that the money spent on pumps and pumping supplies (like PumpEase!) is tax-deductible, or doesn't count toward the total income on which you'll pay taxes in a given year. The government isn't buying any breast pumps and they're not giving out tax credits (actual cash-money that you could collect); they're just saying that you don't have to pay taxes on the money you use to purchase these items and that they can now be bought with money in your pre-tax health spending account.
It would be great to see an itemized list of what qualifies, but since there isn't one (or at least there isn't, yet), we'll have to do some trial and error. If you have a health spending account, you can submit a reimbursement claim for your pump, pump accessories, and PumpEase. Each company that administers health spending accounts is going to have their own interpretation and rules, so you may find it helpful to call and speak with them about your reimbursement claim. While you can't show that your PumpEase definitely IS a qualified expense, they can't show that it's excluded, either. And hey: any mama who's pumped can attest to the necessity of hands-free pumping!
The other option is to deduct the cost of your pump, pump supplies, and PumpEase on your taxes. However, since only 1/3 of Americans itemize their taxes (as opposed to taking the Standard Deduction), this won't be practical for everyone. Many companies offer health spending plans in their benefits packages, though, so it's worth a call to HR to find out if that's an option for you.
You won't need a prescription from your doctor or any other kind of verification to deduct the cost of your breast pump, pump supplies, and PumpEase from your taxes or purchase them with your health spending account.
The best thing to do here is TRY! Since things are currently very open-ended and undefined, it's absolutely worth a try to either purchase your PumpEase with a health spending account or deduct it from your taxes, if you itemize. We'll be watching for further developments and details on this subject, so stay tuned!
Have you submitted your pump, pump supplies, or PumpEase for reimbursement through a health spending account? We'd love to hear about your experience!
Written by Amy West of Just West of Crunchy. You can read all about Amy here.
The following is an interview with Jen from Life With Levi. Jen bought a PumpEase from us a couple of months ago and so loved it that she contacted us to pitch an idea to PIP (pump in public) on Black Friday, take pictures and blog about it! We were SOOO game! So we sent her a complimentary PumpEase (so that she had one for work and one for home) and sat back and watched her go! Jen then told us she also wanted to review PumpEase which we were also thrilled about. And as you can see, er... read, she wrote an honest, thorough and detailed review! Keep your eyes on Jen - she is an exclusively pumping mom with lots of experiences to share!
OK, now for the interview...
Wendy: When did you know that you wanted to breastfeed your baby?
Jen: I always planned on breastfeeding. I guess I didn't really consider that there were other options. I mean, I know formula exists, but I've always thought of formula as Plan B, not Plan A.
Wendy: How were the early days of breastfeeding for you and your son?
Jen: They were a struggle from the beginning. At the hospital, I had a lactation consultant visit to help me. She recommended using a nipple shield, since I apparently have a flat nipple (This was news to me, but it's true. Amazing what you learn about your body when breastfeeding!). Even with the nipple shield, breastfeeding was a struggle. I went back to see the lactation consultant a week later - she told me part of our issue was my letdown, and that I should try pumping a bit before breastfeeding so that the milk was already flowing when Levi latched on. Trying to manage pumping, getting a nipple shield in place, and a squirming, crying newborn was tough, and it only worked partially for us. I was lucky if I could get Levi to feed for more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time. After we both got frustrated, I would switch to pumping, then bottle feed him the pumped milk. I wanted to keep our breastfeeding relationship going, but I also wanted to make sure he got enough to eat when he was hungry, and that's what worked for us.
Wendy: How were the early days of pumping? How was your letdown? Finding the time to pump? Was it hard to pump enough milk?
Jen: Pumping for me was an emotional experience in the early days. I would cry while pumping, because I felt like a failure that I wasn't breastfeeding the "normal" way. It was both a relief and a chore - the pump didn't have latch issues or pull away from my breast, but it did take time. As a sleepless, exhausted new mom, it was a tough cycle - trying to find time to pump with everything else going on was really hard. Once I started pumping, though, I had absolutely no trouble maintaining my supply. In fact, I probably have an oversupply of milk now thanks to all the pumping I did in the early days and continue to do now.
Wendy: What brand/model of pump do you use? Do you rent or own?
Jen: I own two breast pumps currently - a Playtex Embrace that I bought while I was still pregnant, and a Medela Pump In Style that I bought to keep at work when I returned after maternity leave. I also have two sets of parts for each pump, so I can still have another to use when one set is drying.
Wendy: What led to you pumping exclusively?
Jen: Long story short - I developed a breast abscess that required surgical drainage when Levi was only a couple weeks old. It was too painful to try to breastfeed, but I had to keep expressing milk or the infection could get worse, so pumping was really my only option. I wound up needing two surgeries and a 4-day hospital stay to clear the infection. By the time everything was healed up, two months had gone by and I was already used to exclusive pumping.
Wendy: How long after giving birth did you return to work? How did you prepare for this transition? Did you build a stash? Talk to your boss?
Jen: I went back to work after 12 wonderful weeks of maternity leave. I had burned through all of my freezer stash when I was recovering from surgery, but thankfully was able to build up a new stash before I went back to work. I work for a global company in a relatively small office (about 30 people). I made sure to research my legal rights before returning to work, and my boss knew I was breastfeeding, but I didn't talk to her specifically about logistics until I started back. (If I could do it again, I would definitely have this conversation in advance.) Luckily, she had no issues with it, and just let me do what I needed to.
Wendy: Did you always have your "pumping cave" or did you have to fight for a private place to pump?
Jen: I'm definitely spoiled when it comes to my "pumping cave". I've had it from day one. I assumed that would be the setup when I returned from work, but wasn't sure until I spoke with HR. For those that are wondering, my pumping cave is a private office on a vacant side of the building that's for my exclusive pumping use. Technically, our company doesn't lease that side of the building, so it's not something that will always be available to people in my company. Most of the women in my office are past menopause, so I think HR just handled this on a case-by-case basis. I know I'm blessed, because I've worked for companies that don't have space set aside for moms who pump, and I've heard stories of women who have to fight with their bosses to get ample time or adequate private space to pump.
Wendy: What has been the hardest thing about pumping? The most rewarding?
Jen: The middle of the night pumping sessions are the hardest. All I want to do is sleep, but instead I'm up and pumping. I've started going longer between nighttime pumping sessions, but wake up engorged and uncomfortable. Plus, going longer between pumping sessions is a slippery slope - I find myself pumping every 4 or 5 hours instead of every 3 more often now, especially at work.
I almost hate to admit this, but the most rewarding thing for me right now is how much I'm not spending on formula. Yes, I'm feeding my son the perfectfood, I'm lowering my risk factor for breast cancer, etc... those are all things that I love, but I guess I kind of take them for granted at this point. But my bank account is something I keep a close eye on, and knowing I don't have to budget for formula is a huge relief.
Wendy: What surprised you the most about pumping? About breastfeeding?
Jen: It's super easy once you get the hang of it. I just realized I've been doing this for almost 4 months now, and show no signs of stopping. My supply has leveled out. I no longer leak through all my shirts. Pumping is relatively easy to work into my schedule, and I find I enjoy pumping as a bit of "quiet me time" now.
Wendy: How did you come up with the idea to try pumping while shopping on Black Friday? At any point during the day, did you ask yourself, "WHAT am I doing????"
Jen: Several times, actually! LOL. Neccessity is the mother of invention, right? I refused to miss out on Black Friday shopping, and I also refused to skip a pumping session, since engorgement sucks. So I decided to do both. I live in Minnesota, and pumping in the car would be cold and uncomfortable, so I decided I'd just bring my pump in with me. I use my PumpEase while pumping for everything else (folding clothes, catching up on Twitter, reading a magazine), so why not give it a go for shopping?
Wendy: How did you feel after you accomplished your goal of PIP (pumping in public)? Did you feel like a super hero? Were you surprised? Did you think, "What's next?"
Jen: It was awesome! I was surprised just how easy it was. I even had a lady give me a thumbs up when she saw my Medela pump bag (I'm guessing she recognized it, because she looked at my chest next and gave me a knowing smile). Now that I know just how well my PumpEase holds up, I'd love to try out pumping and doing other things. I'm somewhat holding off until I find a more portable pump to use, though. I'm not super modest, but I would prefer something that doesn't stick out six inches from my chest.
Thank you LOADS Jen for agreeing to this interview. I believe that moms need to TALK MORE about the fact that breastfeeding and pumping are NOT always easy in the beginning, but that it DOES get better! I am inspired by your journey and look forward to hearing more as you continue down the path of exclusively pumping for your son.
So, how was breastfeeding for YOU in the early days? What about pumping? Looking back, what one thing did you wish you had known before you had your baby? By sharing your experiences, as Jen just did, you will be helping countless other moms, present and future, beat the Booby Traps!