March 10th, 2011 • Comments: 0 • by Amy • Pumping

Guest Post: PumpEase May Qualify as Tax Sheltered

tax shelteredBy 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.Hygeia Enjoye breast pump

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

{"Money" by 401(K)2012 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0}

{Photo credit: Ameda}

March 4th, 2011 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Retail Partner Spotlight

Retail Partner Spotlight - Milkface Nursingwear

Britt Pegan and children

RETAIL PARTNER SPOTLIGHT
Milkface Nursingwear
Britt Pegan, Owner

1) What inspired you to open Milkface Nursingwear and when did you launch?

When my first daughter was born, I was unable to find any nursing clothing or bras locally and realized that there was an opportunity to fill the void in the market. I was also looking for something to keep me home with my baby! I registered the business in Sept 2001 and launched the website in Feb 2002.

2) Do you have a company mission/vision?

Yes! We want to help moms breastfeed and babywear in style and comfort. We want to help parents with great products and back them up with information and education to help parents make decisions on what will work for their family.

3) What was the biggest challenge that you faced during your journey opening Milkface Nursingwear?

Balance! It continues to be challenging to balance my work life with my home life. I thought it would get easier as my girls got older but it just changes. Not easier, just different!

4) What is the best part of what you do as the owner of Milkface Nursingwear? What part could you live without?

I love working with the customers! I tear up when I’m able to help a mom and her newborn baby snuggle into a wrap for the first time and I absolutely love helping moms find a bra that makes them feel fabulous!

I could probably live without the financial side of running a business! I’m lucky now to have a great accountant and bookkeeper who make that side of things almost painless.

5) How many children do you have and what are their ages?

I have 3 girls – Maryn will be 10 in March, Sadie and Ella just turned 7.

6) What is the best part of what you do as a mom? What part could you live without?

I love just hanging out with my girls – we do a lot of reading and drawing in our house! I could definitely live without making lunches for school – for some reason, I just hate it!

7) Tell us about your experience, as a new mom, trying to find the "right products"?

Trying to find the right products as a new mom was very much the inspiration for Milkface. I was ordering from the US and paying shipping back and forth, not to mention that the Canadian dollar was very weak then and I found it to be such a pain. I also found that some products – like baby slings – had a higher learning curve and it was hard to learn without hands-on help.

8) What has been the most helpful product that you have encountered?

No question – my baby slings. I wouldn’t have been able to mother the way I do or run my business without a baby sling.

9) Do you have any inspiring stories to tell us about someone you have met or something that has happened since starting Milkface Nursingwear?

I have had many amazing things happen since opening Milkface. The most recent one has been being in on the ground floor as the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance was formed. I was thrilled to be invited by the incredibly inspiring Kristi Hayes-Devlin, owner of Gypsymama, LLC to be on the Board of Directors of this non-profit trade organization. To see the baby sling and carrier industry come together to work for better products and consumer education has been incredible.

10) What is the "next big thing" for Milkface Nursingwear?

We’re very excited to be ready to open Milkface stores across Canada and are looking to do so through franchising.

11) Is there anything else you'd like to add? Perhaps something that not many people know about you or your store?

We offer a haven in both stores for nursing moms! We have an area called the Milkspace where moms can relax, nurse, change diapers, use the washroom, etc.

Britt has generously offered our readers 10% off when shopping at milkface.com. Simply use coupon code PUMPEASE!

Where to find Milkface Nursingwear:
Website: www.milkface.com
Facebook: Milkface Nursingwear
Twitter: @milkfacedotcom

January 17th, 2011 • Comments: 0 • by Rebekah • GeneralHumourInside SnugabellJust for FunPumping

Guest Post: You Do What With What?! - Breastfeeding Through the Eyes of a Childless 26 Year Old

For those of you who don’t know me, I work with Wendy as her assistant/shipper/miscellaneous extraordinaire. We are coming up on our one year anniversary and when Wendy asked me to blog about my year learning about breastfeeding, breast pumps and the like I jumped at the opportunity.

don't forget to lower the toilet seat!

My husband and I were recently married last year and have decided not to have kids yet. So when I started working with Wendy I came in as green as the spring grass. Sure, I have breasts but I’ve never used them. I knew that mothers could breastfeed but I didn’t know some mothers had a harder time doing that than others. I figured breastfeeding was as natural to a woman as ask-telling her husband to please, please, please for the last time would you put the toilet seat down and save me from a midnight dunk in the bowl?

So I’ve decided to write about the things I have learned in the last year and share some of my most epiphany-rific moments with you. Here goes: 

1) Babies are alert when they are born and shimmy themselves up to the nipple and feed.

Wendy showed me a video of this happening. It was like seeing for the first time the pictures of the hippo and tortoise that are friends: I had some vague idea that in a perfect world it was possible for completely unrelated species to be kin but that it’s actually happening??? Mind = blown. 

2) When a woman breastfeeds/pumps, the other boob thinks it needs to express too!

Talk about a dilemma unless you have more than one mouth to feed (and I’m not talking about the dog). And then Wendy showed me the Milk-Saver by Milkies. All I can say is that this is one less thing to worry about when I start having babies. Thank goodness for inventive moms because if I was the first woman to breastfeed I would be up a milky creek without a paddle (or a Milk-Saver), y’all. 

3) Women can pump milk.

hamburgerHow did I not know this? Okay, I live a bit of a sheltered life when it comes to babies but this is kind of obvious; also that women who aren’t with child can pump milk. And give milk to other babies! Who need milk! Viva les women! Now, when breasts start producing burgers I will jump on that meal train.

4) Nestle makes chocolate bars AND baby formula.

I know the whole Baby Formula vs Breastfeeding thing is a bit of a big deal. I think when I have babies I will form a solid opinion (through actions) about how I feel on this topic. Until then, how I feel about Nestle making baby formula and chocolate bars is equal to how I feel about Dove and Axe Body Spray being own by the same company. In a word: suspect. 

5) PumpEase is probably one of the greatest inventions I can think of when it comes to boobs and babies.

When my mom got her eyes fixed (lasered) she couldn’t watch TV, read a book, go on the internet, be where light was nor any ordinary daily thing for DAYS. This is the closest thing I can relate to being stuck holding the breast pump on your breasts while waiting… and waiting… and then more waiting. If the pumping bra had not been invented I would not doubt that future-child-bearing-me would probably be duct taping those suckers right onto my chest. 

Thank you all for journeying with me through the last year. It has been a smorgasbord of enlightenment. I am so grateful that I’ve gotten to know Wendy and her fabulous PumpEase because it will help me when I decide to start having babies and it will hopefully keep me out of trouble (and duct tape).

Rebekah Joy Plett

December 21st, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Warm & Fuzzy

Silent Angels - The True Spirit of Christmas

This post is comprised of an email that I received from my sister, Yvonne Armbruster, the other night. I was so moved by it, that I asked her if I could share it with you, my readers. I often tell her she should start her own blog as she is a great writer and has a very dry sense of humour (not at all reflected in this particular post by the way). I hope you enjoy and are enlightened by the story as I was...

"Well our Midland staff dinner was last night, it was at a very nice restaurant on the waterfront in Vancouver.

Midland staff

That's Robert 4th from the left in the back row.  Ken is third to the right of Robert. My sister Yvonne is on the far left of the front row.

I picked up Robert, who was anxiously waiting for me at the door when I arrived at his house. He was so happy I showed up - biggest smile ever (and when Robert smiles he lights up the room). I got a big hug and he held my hand as I walked him to my car.

We hired Robert a couple of months ago through an organization here in Vancouver. Robert is deaf, mute, has epilepsy and some learning disabilities. He signs, writes in Chinese and understands very little written English. He’s also missing fingers, which makes understanding his finger spelling interesting to say the least!

I took a weekend course in sign language years ago, but since hiring Robert I've dug out my old books and bought some new ones so I can communicate with him, or at least try. I made sure I brushed up on all the things I needed to know for the dinner last night - signs for meat, fish, chicken, drink, eat etc.

When I asked him what he wanted to drink, he signed back "beer" which caught me completely off-guard. I would have thought with all the medications he takes and his epilepsy, alcohol would have been a no-no. But I’m not his mom, so I ordered him a beer, lol. I sat next to him at the restaurant so I could translate the menu as he doesn’t read English very well.

Liberian Kids swarm the owner of Midland Liquidators, Ken McAllister, during one of his yearly visits to the war-torn country.When Ken [the owner] got up to make his speech I asked if I could say something first, so I took the floor and to Robert signed, "Robert, we are very happy you are here with us." And then I told the rest of the staff what I said and they all applauded for Robert. He was so happy to be included in our group!

I only wished I could have translated everything Ken said about our [mostly unpublicized corporate social responsibility] work and what we do at Midland...

This year we have put 700 children in Africa (Liberia) into school, children who otherwise would never have had a chance. We fed and supplied medication to 22 children, who would have died from sickness and severe malnutrition, and who are now doing well. And our happiest story is about a boy, who we rescued, fed and got well enough to send to school, who graduated grade 12 this year, and is now attending a college in Monrovia to study medicine in the hopes of becoming a doctor one day.

There are a lot of other stories - local ones as well. We don’t just help abroad, we also help our own here in the city [of Vancouver].

All the little things we do at Midland; all the attention to details and customer service; every sale makes a difference.

Robert is an example of that - at 46 years old he finally has a good job, one that his care worker has said has made a huge impact and difference in his life.

I am humbled to be a little part of good things happening in the world. Always try to remember - sometimes Christmas arrives in unassuming packages from far away places and sometimes it arrives in a silent language right on your doorstep."

Midland Liquidators has been in business for 25 years in Vancouver, BC, Canada - a small company making a BIG difference.

What "silent angels" have you encountered in your life? Please share your story with us below...

December 17th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Breast is BestPumping

An Interview with Jen - a Mom's Bumpy Road to Exclusively Pumping and PIP!

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?nipple shield

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? 

freezer stashJen:  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.

Jen from @LifeWithLevi - PIP!Jen from @LifeWithLevi - PiP!All done!

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!

{Photo credit: Jen / Life with Levi}