Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hot Topic Tuesday -- Latch On NYC

First it was Rhode Island. Then Massachusetts jumped on the band wagon. No more free formula gift bags for new moms. Okay. I’m fine with that. It’s actually a nice change of pace from the traditional “let’s push formula on these unsuspecting mommies” stance we’ve endured for years in hospitals across the country. But I must admit, I’m a bit disturbed by the trend for government to get involved in this matter, particularly in the case in New York City. 

Have you heard about the "Latch On NYC" campaign? Launched by NYC Health Commissioner Thomas Farley this past May, the citywide initiative is intended to support moms who breastfeed their infants. Now, before I go on, please do not misinterpret my stand on this. I do agree that breast milk is best -- whether served up right from the breast or out of a bottle. No formula can match the health benefits. Period.

My beef is with the higher ups in NYC, who believe government should get involved. Perhaps I wouldn't have a problem with this if I could trust the government to actually care about my health or the health of my children and grandchildren. But because of the government's continual allegiance with Monsanto, I simply can't. Every single day, we are being poisoned by GMOs and the government won't even agree to label them so consumers can made educated choices. If you want to get me riled up, ask me how I feel about Monsanto...

Sorry for the digression. Let's get back to the anti-formula campaign in NYC. Mayor Bloomberg, dubbed the city's "nanny"  due to his campaign's to make New Yorker's healthier, has gotten in on the action. On the surface, this looks like a good initiative. By not making formula readily available to new moms, more of an effort will be made to not only give breastfeeding a try, but also to stick with it. Too often, at the first sign of trouble, a nurse will offer to supplement with formula, or will suggest switching altogether. Often, this has to do with personal experiences/preferences. But the results end up being too many formula-fed infants whose mothers were offered an easy solution when they were feeling most vulnerable. 

Of course, I believe this is wrong. Breastfeeding mamas should get the most support possible by hospital staff. By locking up the formula (yes, that is what they're doing), switching over is not quite so easy. Or, at least, it won't be starting September 3, 2012. That's when the "Latch On NYC" initiative begins. Mothers of newborns will be asked to listen to talks about why breast milk is more beneficial to their child than formula. Okay, I have no problem with that. I'll even agree with Mayor Bloomberg's statement, "The immunities that a mother has built up get passed on to the child, so the child is healthier." 

But starting in September, 27 of the 40 hospitals in the city which have maternity wards, will no longer give away promotional formula. Hey, wait, I'm actually okay with that as well. So why is this not sitting well with me? 

I guess it's just this government-getting-too-involved-in-our-lives thing. And it's a fine line. Those of you who know me, know that I am 100% opposed to abortion. While many cry for "women's rights," I stand up for the unborn women's and men's rights. I also stand up for the father's rights when we're talking unborn children. But again, I digress, so let's get back to today's hot topic.

I must admit, I initially misunderstood the campaign in its entirety, assuming it was a mandate. It is not. Hospitals across the city can voluntarily participate. Here's what they have agreed to:
  • Enforce the NYS hospital regulation to not supplement breastfeeding infants with formula feeding unless medically indicated and documented on the infant's medical chart
  • Restrict access to infant formula by hospital staff, tracking infant formula distribution and sharing data on formula distribution with the Health Department
  • Discontinue the distribution of promotional or free infant formula
  • Prohibit the display and distribution of infant formula promotional materials in any hospital location
Sounds so... I don't know... legal. And the words 'legal' and 'breastfeeding' leave a bad taste in my mouth somehow. Except, of course, if I start hearing that breastfeeding is 'illegal' somewhere. Then this grandma's going to start baring her teeth (and yes, I do still have all of them).

For me, it also sounds like an awful lot more work for the already overworked and understaffed nursing staff, don't you think? After all, they will have to document every time a baby is fed formula, as if it was a prescribed medication. Oh yeah, they don't have anything better to do when caring for those precious little newborns and their mommies.

I am confident that some of you are disagreeing with me 100%. And for good reason. Breastfeeding is best. And I'm clearly not arguing that point. I just wish there were better initiatives offered by hospitals, before government officials got involved. Not offering the promotional marketing materials by Similac, et al, not handing out free formula, not having staff offering to supplement-feed the infants, etc. would be common sense choices here. And you know I'm all about common sense. Locking up the formula seems a bit extreme to me. After all, it's not a controlled substance, but Mayor Bloomberg is turning it into one!

My other fear in all of this, is that moms who don't choose to or simply can't breastfeed will be made to feel like failures before they even take their babies home. New moms are facing a whole new world, and it can be scary. I hate to think that a nurse or nurse's aide will somehow add to their apprehension by reacting badly to their need for formula.

Should breastfeeding be encouraged? Absolutely! Should a mom be bullied into it? Let's not even go there.

Simply sharing my opinion on this Hot Topic Tuesday,


For more info on why breastfeeding is so important 
for both baby and mama, please check out my post 
from last year's World Breastfeeding Week.


  1. I'm interested in seeing how this plays out. I think it has the potential to be a wonderful initiative. I think that so many mothers go into the new-mommy world expecting the "norms" of epidurals and formula, so they aren't well-educated on what the norm really is. I think if women really did have more support around them, and if nurses used formula they way they use medicine, not assuming that it will be used by all, but only by those that need it, then our perspectives would shift and we would start to view BF'ing as the natural solution that it is. However...

    Our culture just doesn't mesh with this ideal. If women are encouraged to BF, then they should be able to do so for as long as they want. How many women are forced back to work after two, four, six weeks? And how many of them work in an environment where they're actually able to pump breast milk for their newborns?

    I love that in Canada, we are encouraged to stay home for the first full year of our baby's life. I love that it is so easy to take time to breast feed and get used to how it works. I love that midwives are so accessible and so readily available. (I promise, I'm not trying to say Canada's system is better, just noting the differences.)

    I just wish that the American culture allowed for breast-feeding to be the norm. Great strides are being made towards this, but there's a long way to go still. (I'm still waiting to see a LLL commercial in place of a Nestle formula commercial.)

    I guess what I'm saying is, putting formula under lock and key isn't going to change the way people view formula. There is a lot more that needs to be done to change the way society views formula. In the meantime, shaming those who choose that option is not the way to go.

    1. Thanks for sharing such a well-stated viewpoint, Wanda! You're right about the whole "hurry up and pop a bottle in the kid's mouth and get back to work" mentality here in the US. It's awful. Good for Canada for recognizing the worth of a mother in the life of her child, especially during that first year.

  2. I totally agree, Hana! Of course, I'm in full support of breast feeding (I'm still going strong with my 14 month old :)), but you're right - my beef is with governments thinking they have the right to push their views on mothers - either for or against breast feeding. Why do they have to push anything? Why can't any and all options be available for those who choose to go with whatever option they wish?

    And I agree with Wanda. I'm an American, but I now live in Canada, and the differences with respect to this topic are unbelievable!

    Here's hoping the tide shifts in a positive direction, and women can just be left to do what it is they do best - be women!

  3. I think the initiative is wonderful. I was so angry when I was told that I "HAD" to take the promotional bottles of formula home from the hospital. I ended up donating them, but still - what a waste!!

    1. I knew not everyone would agree with me. But I still think going from giving away free formula to locking it up is a bit drastic!

  4. I think your take is great! There is way to much involvement in personal issues!

  5. WOW, great post! I completely agree with you! I do not like Government involvement with my health and wellness too! I think they can take up information and helping inform people of choices, but there comes a fine line of INVOLVEMENT. :-)


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