Mayor Bloomberg Orders Hospitals To Hide Formula So More Moms Will Breastfeed

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.

RELATED POSTS:

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

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

25 Comments

  1. I believe feeding of choice should be marked on the file OR an informative class on breast feeding should be given. Much like a bathing class was the standard in my hospital back in 92, and I was happy, because I didn’t know how to bath a baby. Too many nurses just give the babies bottles without asking the mother her choice method. It happened to my niece and to me, I was NOT asked, but breast feeding prevailed. But I was still upset. I don’t think the Mayors objective is to force breastfeeding, I believe it is to educate potential nursers of the option and if they oppose then they can request formula. I’m all for it and hope the program makes its way to NJ.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Robin,

      I LOVE that idea—to have classes for new moms that help them with all aspects of caring for their new babies. I would have really appreciated a quick lesson on how to breastfeed properly, just as I would have appreciated a quick lesson on how to bathe my child, swaddle her, etc. What I’m NOT down with is holding back formula from mothers who want to feed their kids until they get a “talking to” about breastfeeding—as if they suck for making THE CHOICE for themselves and their baby. When my first daughter was born, I wasn’t asked about whether I was breastfeeding; the nurses simply didn’t speak to me or offer any help on feeding my kid, outside of dropping off a swag bag full of formula and baby products. If I wanted to feed my child formula, there was no way to do so; I had the Similac, but no bottle to put it in and no idea how to use it. Thankfully, I didn’t want to anyway. I walked into the hospital KNOWING my CHOICE was to breastfeed, and I did it. Period.

  2. These bottle swag bags are just another way for big business to take advantage of us, especially young mothers who may not have thought about anything, but what was pushed in front of them. I say Kudos to Mayor Bloomberg for standing up for breastfeeding and giving it a real chance!

  3. Hmm Denene, on the fence, on the fence. On one hand, I totally agree formula/breastfeeding should be a woman’s choice. But on the other, as we know, formula is not the healthiest choice, breastmilk is. If someone doesn’t take a real stance (and yes, I think pehaps this one might be too harsh) new moms are likely to take the formula route, it’s too easy and convenient. I have three children (youngest soon to be 1) so I kinda know what I am talking about. I was soooo anti-bottle and formula for baby number 1. I’d be the mama to pop a boobie out any/everywhere and dare someone to say something. I was quick and smooth with it (still am). I constantly “bragged” about how my DC never had a bottle, never wanted one. For baby number 2, delivery went a little haywire (story for another time) and my DS was forced to bottle feed the first week because we weren’t even able to meet. But when he self-elected to ban his bottle a few weeks later, I was overjoyed because then my natural-hippy breastfeeding mamaself could emerge. However, I did miss the deep sleeps that he took with formula, and the convenience of being able to leave him with my husband (or anyone for that matter) without worry that I hadn’t pumped an artillery’s worth of milk. So when my DD came along 11 months ago, I didn’t rebuff the formula. I happily took the hospital swag bag and allowed that formula to lull my new baby to sleep so I could get some rest too. And still to this day I am supplementing with formula. It has not been without challenges, however, DD developed crazy eczema early on, had several bouts with constipation, and is now in the 95th percentile for weight (things I never dealt with with my first two children). There is no way to convince me that formula doesn’t have a little something to do with it. But all in all, these aren’t big things, just points of reference for challenges of formula. Not to mention, I read once that when you look at both formula and breastmilk under a microscope the breastmilk is active and alive, the formula is lifeless. To me another reason moms should at least try breastfeeding first. And maybe this push will help??

    • Those deep sleeps that are formula induced are nice, until you realize that those same deep sleeps increase the risk of SIDS.

  4. I think there should be more breastfeeding support, and I guess I don’t have a problem with this in the hospital–as long as Bloomberg is also providing more lactation consultants while women are in postnatal care.

  5. I think that while his intentions are comendable he is starting the campaign a little late in the game. If breast feeding was more well received amongst all in our society, then maybe more women would be open to the idea or even see it as an option. Also (and I am uber-PRO Breastfeeding) those of us that have gone through the journey have to be honest breastfeeding can be challenging, but (most often) it gets better. Like anything else it takes lots and lots of practice and it changes over time. Breastfeeding a newborn is different than a 3 month old than a one year old (let’s not even discuss the challenges when they starrt moving and teething). It’s hard work, and we have to be able to say that, and adding work and having to pump are more challenges.

    Ultimately at the end of the day how you choose to feed your kid is your choice, but as a society breastfeeding (even in public) has got to be accepted by everyone. My statement to the Mayor, next time a woman gets put out of a business for breastfeeding in public, then you need to show up and put the smackdown because kids have to eat all the time, no matter where and honestly pumping is a pain in the tookus. Maybe if he started there then it wouldn’t feel so bad.

  6. Angela Akinniyi

    I love it! I think he is doing a terrific job. Many women should be breastfeeding. I also think that having a nurse to be by your side to teach / guide you, should be included in health insurance.

    I commend and applaud him!

  7. I think this is just WRONG, and Bloomberg needs to stay the hell out of it. I adopted my son at a month old. The foster parents taking care of the babies whose mothers have decided on adoption and don’t breastfeed need the formula and it is helpful to foster families and non-profit agencies to have it available. But that is a special case.
    In general, I don’t think women should be made to feel like lesser mothers if they make the choice not to breastfeed. Having free formula is a nice perk, and probably not a tragedy if it isn’t offered, but it’s helpful to have know the options and how your child will react before you get home.

    I wish Bloomberg worried half as much about being mayor of NYC and keep his hands and laws off of grown folks bodies, talk about a Nanny State!

  8. I am not sure hiding the formula will be nearly as effective as Bloomberg and some others think it will be. Greater education, awareness building and support for families w. I remember being a hot, sweaty, frantic mess after the birth of my first child. And I also vividly remember a nurse coming in with a huge smile and her carrying an even bigger ugly plastic baby bag full of formula and bottles. Both looked like manna from heaven to my poor overwhelmed new mommy self. I was lucky to have had a supportive family and friendship circle who helped me navigate breastfeeding. I had a partner who helped me nurse and who repeatedly told nursing staff to back away from our child with the bottles of sugar water and formula. That was OUR choice. And it is about choice. Many moms do not have the information or support to make informed choices and decisions about whether to breastfeed their babies or not. How about helping out with that, Mr. Bloomberg instead of treating new moms like little kids who can’t handle having candy in the house, so mom hides it.

  9. I’m glad the mayor is pushing for this change. I don’t think he is taking choice out of anyone’s hands but I think he is giving women more of a choice by enabling education.
    I’m sure this is ruffling the feathers of certain businesses but it is good for the KIDS! Now I hope he works on passing a lot more laws (workplace laws, etc) to help keep those moms that are able and willing to breastfeed doing so for the full 6 to 12 months.
    Maybe the government can start giving low income moms money for breastfeeding supplies instead of money for FORMULA!!
    I actually hope more hospitals in the nation catch on to this.

  10. As a third time mother and third time breastfeeder, this actually makes me sick – and angry. The time to educate comes BEFORE birth – why not mandate that doctors talk to mothers about their feeding choices during their prenatal appointments, and require that every woman is offered a lactation consultant – not just a nurse – to assist with breastfeeding soon after birth and every day she is in the hospital. The time to educate is NOT in those days after birth when mothers are sleep-deprived and hormonal and overwhelmed. It’s insulting to have to have a medical reason for bottle feeding, or a lecture prior to receiving the formula.

    Is breastfeeding best? Sure. But I don’t always have to make the “best” choices for myself or my kids. If I make “good enough” choices, no one should be judging me or making it more difficult for me to do so. Educate me – and then leave me alone. Formula is not arsenic (as long as it’s not from China!) Some women don’t want to breastfeed – no matter how much education they get. And for me, even though I enjoy breastfeeding, I appreciated having the formula from the hospital when I couldn’t get my third child latched well and it was the middle of the night. Or now, that he’s 3 months old and I need to run errands but haven’t pumped.

  11. I support breast-feeding but it shouldn’t be the mayor’s decision if I decided to do so or not. He’s out of his lane on this one.

  12. I disagree with the Mayor. Trying to promote breastfeeding at the hospital stage is WAY too late. If he really wanted to promote breastfeeding, he’d find a way to offer free or low-cost breastfeeding classes to moms in their third trimester. Once you’re in the hospital, you may be too tired and overwhelmed to figure it out. That said, most moms I know wanted to breastfeed and did, but several ALSO used formula to supplement in the beginning to get the newborn’s weight back up, or later when they decided to wean. Yes, breastfeeding should be supported but not to the exclusion of formula. Nuf said!

  13. You go Mayor Bloomberg!!!

  14. I may be supersensitive since my baby is only 9 weeks old, but…

    This pissed me off when I read it earlier today. Blocking swag bags is good! But, locking up formula and subjecting new moms to lectures and mandating that nurses document a medical purpose for using formula is just messed up. There are a lot of non-medical reasons why supplementing or just full on bottle feeding is necessary (stress, not getting breastfeeding right away, or just choosing not to).

    I am breastfeeding. But, my milk didn’t come in for 15 days. 15 days people!!! My brown baby girl was on the breast every 2 hours and still nothing! She lost way more than 10% weight and we had to supplement. Luckily our pediatrician sent us home with formula just in case she needed it and we couldn’t get into see the doctor over the weekend (there is nothing more torturing than your 5 day old baby arching her back and screaming for food–she needed the formula until I got my milk). We are all good now and breastfeeding like a champ (w/ no supplementing), but I felt bad enough the first few days not knowing if I was going to be able to breastfeed (after all the prenatal education classes prep we did) having to be lectured about formula would have done me in!

    The mayor’s intentons are good. But we must not remove choice! This isn’t like soda or candy. Formula, while not better than the breast, is food! It’s not a junk food. IT’S FOOD! It has vitamins and nutrients that babies need. Thus, women should be allowed to chose.

  15. I breastfed my daughter for almost two years but my milk didn’t come in for almost two weeks. She drank formula for the first two weeks of her life but I still think this program is a great idea. No one is forcing new mothers to do anything. If you don’t want to breastfeed bring some formula with you to the hospital (just like you bring an outfit for the baby to go home with, etc.).

  16. I respectfully disagree with not only your hyped characterization of this policy shift; but your reason for opposing it. Formula will still be available for mothers if they request it, the same way ibuprofen is available when a patient requests it. Most hospital consumables are kept under lock and key. That is done to prevent theft. Baby formula will be kept in a supply closet or cabinet just like any other supply item. It is not being treated specially. (I would argue that formula was being treated specially prior to this policy shift.)

    Keeping formula locked up is also beneficial to those who want to exclusively breastfeed because it prevents hospital staff from feeding a newborn formula against the parents’ will when the baby and mother are separated (a common practice). Immediate breast milk only feeding can be a primary factor in ensuring ample supply of breast milk.

  17. Um, and he is going to force a baby to eat from a drug addicted mother’s breast right? b/c in ALLLL cases it’s the healthiest CHOICE for a baby right? eventhough , he is forcing something upon a woman’s body?I guess a woman does not have the right to say what happens to her body anymore?This is wrong on so many levels. Not to mention he will prob end up not getting alot of women to want to have their children born in that hospital.. I know I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t deal with being lectured from A MAN whose never ever given birth himself. I wouldn’t be told how to be a good parent eaither. This is BULL and shouldn’t be allowed to be in effect. What about our American rights?

  18. I disagree with this policy. While it is clearly understood that breastfeeding is best for the baby, all mothers cant do it. What about those of us who adopt? mant times you do not have that option. I think what bothers me most is that we seem to be unable to positively encourage breastfeeding without denigrating others for making a different choice. The key word here is CHOICE.

  19. (Apologies about my english, I’m a french speaking)

    Hello there, I discovered this blog 3 hours ago, and since I didn’t do anything else than reading all the topics. (now I need to go to bed )

    Thank you for sharing your point of views, it’s refreshing.

    I was born and raised in Africa, I live in Brussels (14 years), for me breastfeeding is normal, I didn’t even look for an another options, I do have them I suppose .

    I’m a mother , I breastfed my daughter till 30 months (till 12 on demand, and the rest mornings, evenings, and more when I was free).
    Some people will think it’s to much some will say that is enough.

    I stopped breastfeeding her, when both we were ready , when my daughter didn’t manifest any interest anymore.

    Here in Europe, less people (white people) do breastfeed their children.
    When a mother give birth they advice her directly to give what we call in french ( tetée de bienvenue), “a welcome breast ”
    80% breast in hospital (for one week), 60 percent for 1 month , 50% for 3 months, 25 % for 6 months, 5% more than 12 months, and less than 0,02 after 24 months.

    I’m not for a law obliging women to breastfeed but, Education to inform, and teach about all the good things about breastfeeding.

  20. I support breastfeeding 100%. But what is the mayor doing to help these moms after they return to work. About half of all breastfeeding moms quit after returning to work, because it is too difficult to maintain while working. I breastfed my son for 10 months, and constantly got asked why I couldn’t give my son formula from my employer. This created a lot of resentment from my employer, but I had to do what was best for my son.

  21. While breastfeeding may not be the best choice for every mom or every family. It IS the best choice for every baby. The dangers of formula feeding are not well advertised, including the 50% increase in risk of death from SIDS. We should educate every mother, and make them feel comfortable nursing their child in public. Human Milk and Formula are not comparable like Coke and Pepsi are. Breasts are SO over-sexualized in the US, that many people can’t differentiate from sex, and feeding a baby. I applaud Mayor Bloomberg, all he is doing is making sure every baby at least has a chance at the best possible start to life, and reducing risk of cancers. Good for global health. Great Job!!

  22. No one is going to deny anyone formula. Locking up the formula & signing it out/documenting is a strategy to make nurses/staff more accountable for their actions. This extra step makes the nurse stop & think – is this medically necessary? Did I do everything I was supposed to do to help this mom breastfeed her baby? Is the mom making an informed choice to breastfeed. Studies have shown this is actually very helpful. Early supplementation is rarely necessary & actually negatively effects breastfeeding.
    Formula swag bags are not helpful for breastfeeding moms. Its like saying – when things get tuff just start formula. Instead, staff should be saying – if things get tough, this is where you can seek help. Once the mom finds help, she may not need formula afterall.
    Its not about denying formula for the parents who make the MEDICAL choice to feed their baby artificially.

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