Pregnancy

Nanny State: NY Mayor Bloomberg Pushing Hospitals To Hide Formula So That Moms Will Breastfeed

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breastfeeding debateYou may think you’re reading The Onion, or that it’s April Fools in July, but this is no joke: New York’s Mayor Bloomberg is urging hospitals to hide its baby formula so that more new moms will breastfeed. I know, I know, it’s ridiculous, not to mention disturbing and just plain offensive. Last I checked, women are supposed to have a choice when it comes to their bodies. Is it just me, or is Bloomberg’s latest initiative is totally ass backwards?

The New York Post reports that come September 3, the city will keep tabs on the number of bottles that participating hospitals stock and use. (Bloomberg is asking administrators to hide their formula behind locked doors, by the way – kind of how your parents locked up the liquor cabinet when leaving your and your siblings home alone for the weekend.)

It’s all part of the Health Department’s “Latch On NYC” initiative, which includes scrapping formula-branded mugs, for example, as well as documenting a medical reason for every bottle a newborn receives. What’s kind of weird about the whole thing – or at least somewhat “unofficial” – is that moms who want formula won’t be denied it, but hospitals still must keep the formula in secure storerooms. In other words, you can have the formula if you want it, but not before you’re made to feel like shit for requesting it. Oh, and you’ll also get a “talking to,” according to the Post, meaning that staffers will tell you why you should be offering baby your breast instead.

It goes without saying that new moms often feel vulnerable and out of control, especially in those first few hours and days following childbirth. Attempting to ban baby formula – or at least lock it up and pretty much label it evil – is wrong on so many levels. Sure, there’s no harm in educating women about the benefits of breastfeeding, but Bloomberg’s plan takes it to a whole new (degrading) level.

Let’s please remember that feminism has always been about choice – and that includes the right to breastfeed or formula feed, plain and simple.

(Photo: First Class Photos PTY LTD/Shutterstock )

36 Comments

  1. JMB

    July 30, 2012 at 8:03 am

    When I had my son, they were telling me he was crying so much because he was hungry. I didn’t seem to have enough for him, so I asked for a bottle to supplement until my supply came in. they made me sign a waiver saying I understand what an awful parent I am before they gave me one.
    Just what a parent needs in the early days. 2 days old and you’re already failing.

    Personally, I found the people who shamed me made me want to say ‘screw it’ and give up, while compassionate people like my family doctor, who made me feel like I had a choice while still being a good mother, made me feel like I could stick with it.

    • Jen Kerr

      July 31, 2012 at 8:46 pm

      I had the same exact experience. Was met with disappointed, sad eyes, shaking head “Are you SURE? Well… sign this waiver.” Am I sure WHAT? He’s freaking starving and I’m nursing and pumping but nothing is coming out yet! After he had his first bottle, he was like a whole new person. Bright eyed and aware, looking around at the world without the discolouration of hunger. It was amazing. I didn’t regret it one bit. And yes, I did go on to breastfeed when my milk came in on day 3.

  2. E

    July 30, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Breastfeeding is HARD. I think that’s why breastfeeding mothers get so up in arms about formula feeding – its not that they don’t hear what formula feeders are saying, but that they do – that they struggled similarly and worked bloody hard at it until it started to work. And they want other mothers to know that YES, it is a struggle but YES, you can get through it almost all of the time. Its not easy, and there are going to be a lot of people out there tacitly suggesting that you can’t do it. As a breastfeeding mum, I have no problem with formula being kept to the side. I know the author says that women have a choice – but I wish women would think harder about the outside influences on that choice. Who is making women feel rushed or hassled or shamed or grossed out by breastfeeding? I think it is even more feminist-leaning to stand up to the industry and culture that somehow influences women into NOT wanted to do something so second-nature.

    • Kylie

      July 30, 2012 at 10:42 am

      Thank you E! It is damned HARD and I don’t want to marginalize any woman’s experience, but when I see my friends give up because they have sore, cracked, bleeding nipples and then say “but it was easy for you, you had lots of milk” I wanna slap them, I too had the sore, cracked, bleeding nipples during those first couple of weeks, I also dealt with the fact I couldn’t lie down, or shower or cuddle my baby too close without leaking. I had her on the breast choking and coughing and spluttering because my let down was so strong. Yup, I had it easy because I had a good supply….. not!! Even now, when my baby is 7 months old and refuses to breastfeed (she was hospitalized and unable to feed for quite some time and we lost the impetus and she’s strong-willed) except during that one 3am feed, I still get up before she does in the morning to pump the milk she drinks for breakfast. I pump and I pump and I pump because that kid won’t latch on, but it’s OK because I had plenty of milk when she was first born. I have felt like throwing in the towel so many times when she refuses to feed and I didn’t have a bottle pumped and waiting for her (mostly while traveling) and I for one can tell you without a doubt that if there was a bottle of formula there, ready and waiting I would’ve given it to my daughter plenty of times before now!!! So I have no problem with someone who can’t and/or won’t feed getting a little bit of the Spanish inquisition before they get their formula! But I hope that just as much effort is going into supporting the woman who do choose to feed or who are having trouble feeding as goes into discouraging those who refuse to feed.

    • Tinyfaeri

      July 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      I have a few problems with this: “So I have no problem with someone who can’t and/or won’t feed getting a little bit of the Spanish inquisition before they get their formula!”
      It’s none of your business whether or why someone wants or needs to feed her baby formula. The last thing someone who has just given birth needs is “a little bit of the Spanish Inquisition” for any reason unless she is doing something that will harm her child. Formula is not poison, and will not harm the child. Encouraging breastfeeding is one thing, refusing formula and making a new mother feel like crap for wanting to feed her baby formula is another.
      As for your friends, they had no idea what your full situation was or is just like you have no idea what their full situation was. Try not judging everyone else so much and just worry about what you’re doing with your own child or children.

    • Lawcat

      July 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm

      Honestly. It’s no one’s business how someone feeds their child. Giving someone the “Spanish Inquisition” isn’t going to make them feel warm and fuzzy about trying to breastfeed; it just makes you look like an ass.

    • BigBlue

      July 30, 2012 at 11:11 pm

      Kylie, it’s official. You just won the Mother of the Year Award. Yay you!!!!

    • DMH

      July 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      I’d love to see you try and give me the “Spanish Inquisition” for formula feeding my son. Try it. Go on.

      You take care of your kid. We’ll take care of ours.

    • Cathy

      July 31, 2012 at 5:44 pm

      Just like the power-kicking teachers in schools, they’ll probably limit their bullying to those they feel they can get away with it with. They cowardly won’t dare lecture a loud-voiced minority lady with tattoos and 10 piercings. They’ll target the nervous, mild-mannered girls and walk all over them. All the moms, both nursing and not, should band together in objection the moment they start trying to push anyone against their will, then those hospitals will be forced to abandon these ridiculous policies and leave new mothers alone. It is the principle of the thing. Next the government will decide for itself that we shouldn’t be wearing make-up or perfume because it’s ‘environmentally hazardous’, and we’ll need a bureaucrat’s permission slip to visit the Maybelline rack or the Estee Lauder counter!

    • Cathy

      July 31, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      Kylie…you’re all gung-ho about breastfeeding because it’s research proven to be what’s best for kids, and you have no problem with the government coming in Spanish Inquisition-style to remove a woman’s choice to bottle-feed her child? Fine. I’M all gung-ho about positive discipline because it’s research proven to be what’s best for kids, and I’ll have no problem when the government soon comes in Spanish Inquisition-style next and removes your choice to SPANK.

    • Kazi

      July 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      Exactly!

    • JMS

      July 30, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      As a “formula feeder” I find it insulting that anyone thinks that it is appropriate to keep formula away from new mothers and their babies, or to “lecture” them for their choices. CHOICE! That word is used to define Mayor Bloomberg’s stance on abortion, so why isn’t it okay for a woman to CHOOSE to feed her child what she wants?

      As a woman who suffered from preeclampsia (which has a side-effect of reduced milk supply), I was lectured and made to feel guilty at such a vulnerable stage of motherhood, which brought me to tears on too many occasions. After attempting to breastfeed and pump for my twin daughters, I realized the damage that I was doing to myself and my girls by making these fruitless attempts to feed them breast milk. Of course I knew it was the best choice for my children. But I could not do it. I didn’t think it was “not easy” and I didn’t fail to give it enough time – I could not do it. Today, I am the mother of two healthy, well-behaved, intelligent six year old girls that give me hope and pride with every breath they take. How dare someone make me feel like I’ve done them a disservice.

    • E

      July 30, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      To be fair, I’m not MAKING you feel anything.
      Your situation sounds OVERWHELMING. Twins sound exhausting. And I totally understand not pumping – I’m already looking to see if I can just get away with water as a liquid for my daughter when I go back to work 3 days a week at six months. I’m really not out there to harangue any specific person or situation. Motherhood is difficult, plain and simple.
      But we’d be fooling ourselves if we said everyone was perfect, everyone gets a gold star for each individual snowflake thing they choose to do. I know I make a less-good decision when I let my 4 month old sit there in front of the TV with me instead of taking her to playgroups, etc. It’s something I need to be a bit better at. Same with feeding – I choose to breastfeed and all the research backs me up in that being the best way to feed my kid. I feel proud of that, and want to encourage other women to do it as well.
      I have no doubts that your girls are fine. Feeding is just one thing out of many that has an influence on how your kids turn out. But to say formula feeding is an equal choice and one not massively influenced by industry and culture is false. I would say that yes, we have the luxury as a society for breastfeeding to be a choice, but I think we’re being too gold-star-for-everone when we don’t at least state the facts, that breastfeeding is the better option for your infant.

    • JMS

      July 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm

      Mayor Bloomberg is “urging hospitals to hide its baby formula so that more new moms will breastfeed” and, in your previous statement, you indicated that you have no problem with formula being kept to the side. I never stated that I think that formula feeding is an equal choice. In fact, I stated just the opposite. What I have a problem with is that someone, who is not me, my husband or my physician, wants to CHOOSE what to feed my children, wants to DISCOURAGE me from making the best choice for me and my family’s situation, and wants to HARASS me (and yes, I was harassed by lactation consultants and it appears that is just what they will be doing in New York) for making such a choice.

    • Jamie

      July 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      I would actually argue the opposite, E. I’m not sure what culture you live in, but I would argue that I live in a culture where women who choose to formula-feed are CONSTANTLY berated for the decision to do so. Someone once told me that women who choose to formula-feed their children shouldn’t have been allowed to procreate in the first place! That might sound like an extreme opinion, but I’d venture to say that there are more individuals who hold that type of opinion than you think.

    • Tinyfaeri

      July 30, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      I’m an EBF mother and I don’t get up in arms about formula feeding. I wish women would be more supportive of each other and less judgemental. It’s frankly none of my business what another woman chooses (or needs) to feed her child. Never judge someone until you walk a mile in her shoes.
      I also have a massive problem with Bloomberg’s mandate, and I also find it insulting to women and their ability to make a choice over what to feed their children. A better route would be more comprehensive prenatal education that provides a full list of pros and cons of both breastfeeding and formula feeding. Make them accurate, though, not just scary, anti-formula propaganda.

  3. Lastango

    July 30, 2012 at 9:55 am

    The old saying is that “a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality.”
    Anyone feeling mugged by ubercarer Bloomberg yet?

    • Frances Locke

      July 30, 2012 at 10:50 am

      I actually campaigned for Bloomburg at one point but after the last 8 years or so I would never vote for him again. Once again I think his heart is in the right place but the way he is going about doing it is overbearing and scary considering we live in a free nation.

  4. Frances Locke

    July 30, 2012 at 10:47 am

    As someone who has given birth in NYC I can tell you that what hospitals need is a better lactation program, not this crap. With my first and last children I had the benefit of a wonderful lactation specialist but with my middle girl it was completely different. The head nurse straight up told me that she didn’t think I was old enough to have the maturity to breastfeed and she worried my daughter would starve.

    Meanwhile, with my oldest daughter I successfully nursed until 14 months and would have gone till at least 2 years if I hadn’t been forced to take a life saving medication that prevented it. This nurse in NYC went behind my back and gave my daughter a bottle even though I forbade it and it took me over a year of calls and letters to even get an apology from hospital administration.
    People kept telling me to sue because the formula my daughter was given really seemed to mess up my nursing schedule but I think there are enough frivolous law suits out there. All I wanted was an apology and a guarantee that the nurses would be given training on lactation.

    • Emily Caldwell

      August 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      If you read the actual initiative you’ll see that what you’re saying NYC needs is what this is doing. Hospitals that commit to following it (and participation is voluntary) forbid nurses from “supplementing” with formula IF the baby is exclusively breastfed. A nurse did that to my niece too. My sister was very upset 🙁

      Babies that can’t breastfeed aren’t going to be denied formula under this initiative. The problem you had is exactly the problem it’s addressing.

    • Frances Locke

      August 1, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      I was simply sharing my story, no need to be condescending. My point was that locking up formula like it’s pain medication is silly. There is nothing in the initiative about the serious re-training that some nurses need, especially older nurses who were trained at a time when people thought breastfeeding was unhealthy or unnecessary. Simply making restrictive rules isn’t going to change people’s attitudes about it. I do agree with forbidding nurses from supplementing with formula without the parents consent and I definitely agree with getting rid of the swag bags that hook so many babies onto formula, but the rest seems overly restrictive and will probably lead to a lot of resentful nursing staff at the hospitals that choose to participate. As with most of Bloomberg’s other initiatives, I think the idea is sound but the execution is lacking.

  5. Courtney Lynn

    July 30, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Right on, sister! It was just over two months ago that I felt “vulnerable and out of control”. It seems like the moment a woman is pregnant, she suddenly becomes a child who doesn’t know what’s best for her. My situation was the opposite, they were telling me that I wasn’t producing enough (I was!) and that I needed to supplement. I spent the day in tears, unable to eat because they upset me that much. However, I know many women who have a problem breastfeeding. I knew I had no problem just like other women know they do. We know our bodies best and I wish that hospitals AND government would stay the fuck out of it. Our bodies are smart and we’re not idiots!

  6. ChubberStein

    July 30, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    This makes sense. Arch-harridan wannabe Bloomberg does want to turn us all into a bunch of nanny state t**suckers, and so what better place to begin than 0 hour in the maternity ward.

  7. Ellen

    July 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    It is absolutely nobody else’s business why we aren’t breastfeeding. And NY needs to keep their noses out of it.

  8. DMH

    July 30, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Fuck you, Bloomberg.

    I’m formula feeding my son. And I’m not ashamed of it. Flame away.

  9. BigBlue

    July 30, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    FINALLY! A savior has come to save all those poor, unfortunate women from themselves. Everyone knows that women can’t be trusted to make important decisions, such as how to feed their infants. Praise be to the boobie gods!!!

  10. Katia

    July 31, 2012 at 3:13 am

    Unfortunately, some newmothers are the same age as the kids who need the liquor cabinet locked. Also low income moms healthcare might be Paid for by the govt. And if bf increases immunity that is good for whoever provides healthcare.. is formula totally free for the hospitals or will they save money by reducing access to free formula ? And if youre sure you want to formula feed why not go ahead and bring your own formula? Seriously does no one see the problem with tons of teen moms being given formula for free? Sure their kids will be fine but maybe they should be doing something else with their money instead of giving to huge companies like nestlee who cleverly let them try formula for free and now the milk is gone and theyll buy formula for at least a year. Yes this is sure worth it for you to not get a “Spanish inquisition ” , is it that hard to be assertive with a nurse?

  11. Brandy

    August 1, 2012 at 11:15 am

    The entire debate is ludicrous. Many mothers cannot breastfeed–even when they want to–for medical reasons, because the infant is resistant or unable, or a whole host of other reasons. The breast may be “best”, but come on–if it weren’t for formula I would have starved to death (I was born with a severe Cleft and my mother was underweight due to a kidney infection late in her pregnancy). Whether I choose to breast or bottle feed, I sure as heck better not be criticized or harassed over my choice.

  12. Emily Caldwell

    August 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    It’s a public health initiative, not a government mandate. Articles like this one are so reactionary. If anyone is interested in reading the actual text of this public health initiative you may do so here http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/ms/latchonnyc.shtml. And while the first bullet point may sound scary, I think this is more a response to the fact that many nurses will “supplement” breastfeeding with formula against the mother’s express wishes. People choosing to formula feed isn’t the problem: health care providers pushing them to formula feed or doing it behind the parents’ back is the problem.

    Also, hospital participation is voluntary. Not all hospitals are required to participate. Undoubtedly some will choose not to.

    You’ll still be able to get formula to feed your baby. If your baby is unable to breastfeed, then formula is “medically indicated” and therefore the restriction doesn’t apply. And if you’re choosing to formula feed exclusively with no breastfeeding supplement, then you absolutely should receive some nutritional counseling about the benefits.

    You can still make the choice for yourself. And you can always choose a hospital that doesn’t participate in LatchOnNYC. Hell, most of these commenters here don’t even live in New York. Many of NYC’s hospitals participate in the “Baby Friendly” hospital program and it has resulted in increased breastfeeding rates and decreased C-Section rates.

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