Information Letter 2009-0033 Information Letter 2010-0173 Announcement 2011-14
Previously, breast pump and lactation expenses were not reimbursable unless there was a showing of medical necessity (doctor's statement). Two Information Letters confirmed this. Now, breastfeeding storage, products and supplies are all eligible as they are required for assistance with breastfeeding.
What are nursing supplies?
Nursing supplies are the equipment and disposable supplies that assist with breastfeeding, or nursing. Nursing supplies are eligible for reimbursement with consumer-directed healthcare accounts and do not require a prescription by a medical doctor.
Examples of nursing supplies include breast pumps, disposable bra pads, lanolin cream, breastfeeding tubes and containers, etc. Below are some descriptions of common nursing supplies which can be purchased and are considered eligible for reimbursement with a consumer-directed healthcare account.
What are breast pumps?
Breast pumps have a number of vital roles as a mother begins her breastfeeding regimen for a newborn baby. First, the pumps can be used to stimulate milk production, collect milk for premature babies who may be unable to nurse, to relieve the pain and pressure on engorged breasts and to keep a milk supply steady if a mother is taking a type of medication that could be potentially harmful to a baby.
How does a breast pump work?
Breast pumps are available in two main variants: manual and electronic designs. Both of these items work under the same principles of placing a breast phalange (or shield) over each nipple. Whether the product is cranked manually or turned on electronically, suction is applied to each area to extract the milk, which is then collected in an adjoined breast milk storage bottle or bag. However, the biggest difference between manual and electronic breast pumps is time: electronic pumps typically take about 15 minutes to pump both breasts, while manual pumps can take as long as 45 minutes.
Breast pumps are designed to replicate the gentle sucking action of a newborn, so they should not cause pain or discomfort during operation. In addition to the pumps, some mothers may consider hands-free pumping bras that keep the phalanges in place during the pumping process, so mothers can perform other activities like reading, watching TV or talking on the phone while finishing the pumping process. It's important to remember that all of these parts and storage containers must be thoroughly cleaned after each use to prevent any bacteria from forming and potentially putting a child at risk.
What are disposable bra pads?
Disposable bra pads or washable nursing pads are small enough to fit in a diaper bag and can be used whenever a mom is feeling discomfort. These pads can fit underneath both standard and nursing bras, and they will wick away moisture throughout the day to prevent any leaks from staining or damaging the bra and outside clothing. These pads are also particularly effective in treating sore, cracked nipples by being used in conjunction with lanolin cream or other moisturizers to promote the healing process. Because of the continual strain that mothers feel during the breastfeeding process, disposable bra pads are extremely valuable for their ability to help moms improve their overall comfort level and promote optimal hygiene.
What is lanolin?
Lanolin is an amber-colored, fatty substance that is extracted from the wool of sheep before it is washed, and the substance is a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of sheep. Lanolin is known for its natural waterproofing qualities, and wool-producing animals produce this substance to protect the wool and underlying skin from the ravages of the outdoor environment. As such, this natural substance has been adapted for use by humans and is used extensively in topical products that specialize in the protection and support of skin, especially in sensitive areas. Lanolin's unique emollient properties makes it ideal for skin and beauty products, as it has the ability to soften skin and also acts as a humectant, which means that lanolin has the ability to absorb moisture from the air.
What is the medical use for lanolin?
Lanolin has myriad uses in the skin and beauty industry, but it has also been adapted for medical use as well. The most common adaptation of lanolin comes in the form of lanolin cream, which is most often used by nursing mothers to sooth dry, cracked skin around the nipples as a result of a breastfeeding regimen. These creams are carefully formulated to remove any allergenic components that could cause skin irritation, as well as any other environmental impurities.
Lanolin cream has the additional benefit for mothers in that it does not have to be washed off before nursing, so it is safe for both the mother and child. Over time, lanolin use can help to dramatically reduce pain and discomfort that comes with the start of a breastfeeding regimen, and can contribute to the reduction of skin cracking and irritation and improve the overall comfort of mothers who are nursing.