NYC Hospitals to Make Formula Feeding a Total Nightmare for New Mothers

Family Matters on 07.30.12
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Let me start off by saying that I'm an advocate for breastfeeding. I breastfed my daughter for a year. (I mean for meals, not for a whole year. That would be a world record.) I think there are many emotional and health benefits that make breastfeeding a wonderful thing to do for our kids. In the first few weeks, breastfeeding aids in the development of the digestive system and boosts the baby's immune system by passing along the mother's antibodies.

However, I know many excellent moms who, for one reason or another, were either unable to breastfeed or chose not to breastfeed for very long or at all. These decisions and circumstances weighed heavy on the hearts of these mothers; they had to look at the whole picture of how they were raising their babies in the context of their very own private lives and homes. In the end, they did what is best for their families.

In light of that, I am appalled at this New York Post article.

Starting Sept. 3, 27 of New York City's 40 hospitals will begin participating in the city Health Department's voluntary Latch On NYC initiative. Advocates of Latch On NYC are under the impression that more moms will breastfeed if accessing formula while in the hospital is a royal pain in the heinie. NYU Langone Medical Center is already operating under the program and claims that their breast-feeding rate has risen from 39 to 68 percent. That's great. But allow me to showcase some of the delightfully nutty highlights of Latch On NYC and the reasons why it's "working":

  • With each bottle of formula a mother requests, she'll get a lecture about why breast milk is superior. This is incredibly patronizing towards women. Perhaps you've never heard the term "breast is best" if,'ve lived under a highway overpass for a few decades. If those are your circumstances, perchance you have too many banned substances in your breast milk to make breastfeeding a good idea. But let's say for the sake of argument, you really and truly didn't know, so you get this lecture, and you decide, “Okay, that’s great. Give me the formula.” You are going to hear the same lecture every two to three hours for the duration of your stay. I predict at some point during this experiment, a sleep deprived mom with a squalling infant is going to start punching people.
  • A registered nurse will have to sign out formula like any other medication, and document a medical reason for every bottle that a newborn receives. As if the nurses don't have anything better to do. Nurses' aides won't be allowed to dispense formula. So if your baby is hungry and the nurses aren't readily available, then toughen up baby! No wonder the rates of breastfeeding increased, but it's very sad that it had to happen under such coercive circumstances.
  • Hospitals will keep formula in faraway secure storerooms or in locked boxes like those used to dispense and track medications. Again, like the nurses aren't busy enough. If every hungry baby has to wait for someone to unlock their food, then of course breastfeeding rates will increase. This sounds insulting to the mothers at best and traumatizing at worst.

When moms are in the hospital after giving birth, they don't need pressure and lectures. As Alia says, moms shouldn't have to apologize for how they choose to feed their babies: "It's nobody's business why you chose not to nurse your child." Bottom line: breastfeeding is a mother's private choice. It's sad that coercion and stress induced by a nanny state has become part of the picture.

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