So yeah, I admit it: when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned trans fat from area restaurants and wrote into law a requirement for eateries to list on menus the amount of calories in the food they serve, I applauded him. And I’m all for his proposed ban on super-sized dranks; who needs fast food restaurants pushing 2-liters with meals? But now, Bloomberg’s taking it too damn far: he’s requiring hospitals to hide their baby formula behind locked doors so more new mothers will breastfeed.
Beginning September 3, New York City will implement the most restrictive pro-breastmilk program in the nation—keeping and tracking bottles of formula in out-of-the-way secure storerooms or locked boxes, to be taken out only after a mother requests it. Under the program, dubbed “Latch On NYC,” mothers who receive formula will get lectured on the health benefits of breast milk and told why it’s best to offer the breast to her baby instead of the artificial milk.
Some 27 out of the city’s 40 hospitals also have voluntarily agreed to give up maternity ward swag bags full of formula, and document a medical reason for every bottle that a newborn receives.
Breastfeeding advocates say making formula more difficult to get is the key to getting more moms to breastfeed. Indeed, one hospital, NYU Langone Medical Center, saw its breastfeeding rates surge from 39 percent to 68 percent under the program.
That’s great news—for sure. As a breastfeeding advocate and a mom who breastfed both her babies for a year, despite extremely limited resources and support, I’m always happy when more moms choose to breastfeed their babies; doing so gives children the critical healthy leg up they need in their first weeks of life, helping their digestive and immune systems develop while assisting moms’ recovery from childbirth. The more breastfeeding moms, the merrier. And if nurses will be barred from the ambassador-styled waving of formula swag bags in a new mom’s face—much like the nurses did when I gave birth to my first child—even better.
But really, I won’t ever be down with programs that insist on basically shoving a mother’s titties in her baby’s mouth and then acting like she’s evil and pushing drugs on her baby if she removes her ninny and puts a bottle full of formula in it.
The key word here is choice. No mother, in the middle of all the confusion and emotions and elation and crazy of bringing a new life into the world, needs nurses standing over her, treating her like she has no choice in the matter when it comes to feeding her own child. And she especially doesn’t need anyone passing judgment on her for choosing to formula feed, no matter what her reasoning is.
Of course, I’m sure diehard breastfeeding advocates might take away my pro-breastfeeding card for my stance, but I honestly look at a woman’s choice to breastfeed much in the same way I do a woman’s right to abortion: I am anti-abortion for myself, but do not think it is my business, my right or my duty to tell another woman when and how she should become a mom. Just as I made the choice not to abort my pregnancies and to breastfeed my babies, the next mom has the right to choose to have an abortion if she’s not ready to be a mom and, when she has a baby, to buy formula by the truckload to feed to her child if she wants to.
Mayor Bloomberg is overstepping his boundaries on this one—no question in my mind. Putting formula under lock and key and lecturing formula-feeding moms as they feed their newborns is foul, and really as close to a nanny state as New York City can get.
1. Nipples and Ninny: An African American Mom’s Breastfeeding Journey
2. Dear Michele Bachmann: Shut Up About Black Moms and Breastfeeding
3. The Scariest Pro-Breastfeeding Video For Black Moms, Like, Ever
4. Black Breastfeeding 360°: Celebrating A New Resource For African American Moms