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Michelle Obama's remarks on breast-feeding draw criticism from Palin, Bachmann

First lady Michelle Obama's comments about breast-feeding have drawn criticism from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Minnesota lawmaker Michelle Bachmann.
First lady Michelle Obama's comments about breast-feeding have drawn criticism from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Minnesota lawmaker Michelle Bachmann. (Associated Press)

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According to an IRS spokeswoman, the new tax rules are similar to those men are permitted for a vasectomy. Men may use pretax dollars to pay for that surgery, or claim it as a medical expense.

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The first lady has been criticized for launching a breast-feeding campaign, but there has been no campaign to speak of. She has sporadically commented on the subject in the past - including telling breast-feeding stories of her own - and said during the reporters' roundtable that it will be incorporated into her larger work combating obesity.

"Kids who are breast-fed longer have a lower tendency to be obese," she said. "We want to get into child-care centers, day-care centers, and start talking about how - what kind of snacks they're getting there."

Exactly how involved Obama might be is still unclear. Her office declined to elaborate on her plans, or to convey her opinion on the new IRS rules or Bachmann's criticism.

"Breastfeeding is a very personal choice for every woman. We are trying to make it easier for those who choose to do it," Mrs. Obama's communications director, Kristina Schake, said in a statement. Her office said the "we" in the statement referred to the federal government, not specifically to the first lady.

The new IRS rules came after a group of Democratic members of Congress sent letters requesting the change. Still, at least one conservative group saw the first lady's public statements as evidence that the administration is focused on aiding working mothers, not ones who stay home with their children.

"Giving tax breaks for breast pumps helps only those moms who are working outside the home and does nothing for us stay-at-home moms. This is consistent with President Obama's pledge to increase the child-care tax credit as opposed to the child tax credit, incentivizing putting your kids in day care over any other child-rearing arrangement,"said Cathy Ruse, a senior legal fellow at the Family Research Council.

Palin, who like Bachmann also has five children, did not pursue whether the government should offer tax incentives for breast-feeding equipment. But she did take a crack at the reasons for the first lady's interest.

"No wonder Michelle Obama is telling people to breast-feed their babies," Palin said at an event on Long Island. "Yeah, you better, because the price of milk is so high right now."

Nursing children are not generally given cow's milk to replace breast milk, but instead drink baby formula.


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