Mayor Bloomberg of New York City has recently asked local hospitals to participate in a new initiative to support breastfeeding called, “Latch On NYC.” This means that hospitals will no longer give away “goodie bags” filled with formula samples and coupons for more. Formula and formula information will no longer be placed throughout the patient’s rooms. If a mother comes in intending to breastfeed, the nurses and doctors will fully support her decision and help in every way possible to be sure that she succeeds. Formula won’t be offered or ‘pushed’ and the medical staff will abide by the mother’s wishes on how to feed her child. Finally.
If a mother goes into the hospital expecting to feed her baby formula, all she has to do is tell her medical team. The doctors and nurses will abide by her choice, too. They will give the mother accurate information regarding the differences between formula and breastmilk, but they will not push her either way. They will simply offer the health information and move on. If the mother wants to formula feed, the nurse will provide her with formula to feed her baby.
Does this really sound so bad? Does it sound like the “crazy lactivists” have taken over the hospital? Does it?? Because reading and hearing comments about this initiative and campaign recently have nearly sent me to the looney bin.
Here are just a few of the real comments I’ve heard and/or read in recent days:
“As a mother who didn’t breastfeed, it is no one’s business how we feed our children as long as they are healthy!”
“all the way to the top with no legal recourse..get your gun, take him out of office..its the only way while still time..”
“wow….yet another male dictating what women should do with their bodies. I’m glad I don’t live in NYC, I don’t believe in breastfeeding.”
“I read these comments and I hate my gender more and more. Women are more obsessed with feeding their kids breastmilk than seeing how being a good mom has nothing to do with it. No wonder we constantly hit our heads on glass ceilings. Stay home and breastfeed, but don’t hold back the rest of us. And all of you are too stupid to not see this is more about women’s rights than feeding your baby, we’ve failed as American women.”
“I think moms should decide for themselves and everyone else should mind their own business.”
These comments aren’t even the worst ones. These are more ‘middle of the road.’ Sure, I read some positive and even supportive comments. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of encouraging comments on some particular news sites, but most were similar to the comments I’ve shown here. I was left stunned nearly every time. Did most of these commenters even read the initiative?
The way most people are discussing it, you would believe breastfeeders have united with Mayor Bloomberg and are planning a coup to steal all the formula in NYC and dump it into the Hudson River! It just isn’t so!
If you want to give your baby formula, you are still free to do so! No one will take away your choice and no one wants to! You can even bring your own formula in before your child’s birth and no one will bat an eye. You haven’t lost your choice. Nothing negative is happening here. Nothing.
This campaign will prevent nurses from sneaking formula into babies when their mothers have expressly spoken against it. It will prevent mothers who are too tired to care, but may regret later, from reaching over and giving a pre-made formula bottle to baby. Or grandma. Or daddy while mommy naps. It will give new mothers the support and encouragement so many desperately need nowadays and simply aren’t getting for an array of complex reasons that I won’t go into right now.
There are countless women I speak to daily who feel guilt and sadness for not breastfeeding their baby longer, or at all. And so many mamas who did not fully understand the range of benefits breastfeeding brings to both mother and child.
I am one of them. And I regret it every day. I don’t dwell. I’ve moved forward. It saddens me to know I gave my children less than I wanted to give without knowing what I was losing though. This kind of program might have changed that for them .. and me.
My experience and the thousands who ‘gave in’ to formula during their hospital stay is what this initiative is trying to prevent. They (nor I) are out to prevent you from feeding your baby however you choose. You are still the mom and it’s still your choice. But isn’t it nice to know now all new mothers will get the information necessary to make the best decision for their life and their child’s? There is nothing worse for me as a mother than to look back on my choices and know I made a bad decision based on false information. The goal here is to make sure the information you get is accurate and shows you the whole picture, not just one piece.
In regards to the government stepping in where it “doesn’t belong,” I am not sure I want to comment on that. We all have our own ideas about what the government should be or what it can do. I get it. But I genuinely think this exact thing that Mayor Bloomberg has opted to do for the city is his job! It’s what he was hired to do! It is his job to encourage citizens to make the best choices they can. And if they choose not to, so be it! He’s not going to force you and neither is anyone else!
I implore you, if you are against this move, read the facts. There is a lot of misinformation flying around out there and so much of it is incorrect. This really is a good move!
Lastly, I want to speak to all the formula feeding mothers out there who insist this is bad, wrong, and butting into your business. Can I ask you how it effects you?
Every time you turn on the TV, you see support for your choice to formula feed. Every time you walk downtown or read a magazine, you likely pass by more support for your choice to formula feed. A lot of your friends likely formula feed or supplement. Your mother may have. Maybe your grandma, too. They may have encouraged you to do so. Your significant other might have said something about milk in breasts being gross and not wanting to share your body with the baby. Maybe you yourself feel that breastfeeding is gross and that only enforces your idea to formula feed and be comfortable with it. When you feed in public, women and maybe even some men walk up to the baby and smile and coo. You feel supported because your choice is accepted by most. Even if you know some friends/family/strangers that disagree with your choice to formula feed, the majority don’t mind that you do and would never dream of telling you not to.
As a breastfeeding mother, I have been called a pervert for allowing my child to wean when he was ready, instead of forcing him because he was “too old.” I have been given dirty looks for breastfeeding my child in my car, not even in ‘public.’ I have had friends walk up while discreetly feeding my child and jump back when they realize what I am doing as if we will infect them with some deadly disease. I have been told to quit. I have been told it wasn’t worth it. I have been told formula is “just as good.” Over and over and over again.
As if the social stigma associated with breastfeeding isn’t enough, there’s also the fact that in the beginning breastfeeding can be hard. Crazy hard. When you are postpartum and feeling an unbelievable range of emotions and new experiences, and you are faced with yet something else to overcome it can be difficult to proceed. Painful, cracked nipples, incorrect latch, screaming baby, engorged breasts, too little sleep, and there is a simple solution that would fix it all. How do you continue when you can stop it all with one simple change in choice? It is so much easier to grab a bottle and go, to hand baby off to daddy or a close friend so you can get some necessary rest. I understand the temptation because I have been there 5 times! I understand women who do it and are happy with their decision, but I also understand women who do it and feel regret soon after.
This initiative and campaign is for those women. The ones who want to succeed, no matter what it takes.
Many, many women like myself have to fight the stigma that exists regarding breasts and sexuality and initiatives and campaigns like the one in NYC (and Massachusetts) are meant to help women like me succeed at doing something we desperately want to do for our child. It is not meant to hurt you. It isn’t even meant to effect you really. Unless you happen to change your mind about how you want to feed your child, in which case these actions will help you too.