NYC Mayor Bloomberg Latches on to Controversial Breastfeeding Program

Is the nanny state alive and well in New York City? Many residents think so, as they mouth off against mayor Michael Bloomberg’s restrictions on hospital baby formula meant to encourage women to breastfeed.

On the heels of his proposed ban on supersized sweetened beverages comes “Latch on NYC,” a citywide initiative that asks maternity hospitals to stop giving breastfeeding babies formula unless it’s medically necessary, restrict access to formula and track its distribution, counsel women on breastfeeding, and stop giving out free promotional formula and materials that endorse formula.

The initiative was announced in May and launches on September 3. The city’s health department said so far 12 private hospitals and 11 public hospitals run by New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. are onboard.

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While 90 percent of mothers start out breastfeeding, only 31 percent are still doing it exclusively after two months, a health department release says. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months or so, then breastfeeding along with adding food until at least a year. After that, breastfeeding should be a mutual agreement between mother and child.

The New York Post called the plan “the most restrictive pro-breast-milk program in the nation,” and judging by comments being left on stories about the program, New Yorkers are as happy about this as they are about having their mega-size sodas possibly taken away.

“What is next? Laws against caesarean births? How about laws prohibiting epidural or any other pain killer for the woman in labor?” one commenter wrote on the Post story.

Wrote another, “I have 4 sons and I can tell you from experience that you run a risk when you mess with a new mom. I walked on egg shells around my wife, so I want to see what the hospital does when a woman requesting formula says she doesn't want to hear the lecture before getting the formula. Good luck, administrators.”

“New York City is definitely ahead of the curve,” the Post quoted Eileen DiFrisco of NYU Langone Medical Center as saying. At Langone, the paper reported, the breastfeeding rate has gone from 39 to 68 percent since the program started.

Since 2007 the Health and Hospitals Corporation has banned formula from maternity swag bags and promotional materials from labor and delivery rooms in an effort to encourage women to breastfeed.

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CBS News reported that Massachusetts birth hospitals also agreed earlier this month to nix formula-enhanced goody bags for new mothers.

What do you think about restricting formula for new mothers to encourage them to breastfeed? Let us know in the comments.

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Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal, and has gotten in a boxing ring. Email Jeannine |