Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) introduced an amendment to a House spending bill yesterday that would zero out funding for a peer counseling and support program for low-income women who never learned how to breast-feed.
"All this money is being spent on salaries, benefits and cell phones for a program the federal government has no business doing," Foxx said on the during Floor debates on Wednesday.
The program is run through WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, which stands to lose $686 million in total funding if the appropriations bill passes on Wednesday. In addition to providing food for low-income women, children and babies, WIC sets aside money for breast-feeding support and education through one-on-one peer counselors.
National WIC Association president and CEO Douglas Greenaway said Foxx's staff advised that "women have been doing this for millions of years and shouldn’t need any help." But WIC estimates that women who attend its breast-feeding support groups are twice as likely to plan to breastfeed as those who do not.
"Your mother may not have breast-fed, so she can't show you how to breast-feed," Greenaway told HuffPost in an interview. "Now we've got infant formula that they promote, advertise, and give away in hospitals, so we've had to use peer counselors to help moms feel comfortable and appreciate that they can breast-feed too. When they do succeed, they discover how amazing it is to be nursing a healthier child and providing the best food possible."
According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three out of four new mothers now starts out breast-feeding, but rates of breast-feeding at three and six months remained "stagnant and low" in 2010, and hospital practices and policies that interfere with breast-feeding remain common.
Rep. Foxx’s Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Amendment was defeated with a vote of 119 to 306 Wednesday afternoon. Greenaway said he couldn't estimate exactly how many women would have been affected by the loss of the breastfeeding program, but he knew the cuts would have had a great impact.
"Formula manufacturers would be delighted with this," he said.