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Moms Talk: Formula vs. Breast Milk?

New York City hospitals vow to quit offering baby formula to new mothers.

Breastfeeding a newborn can be challenging. Add to the mix a well-meaning nurse who pushes formula, and it can be enough to make a confused new mom give up breastfeeding all together.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg believes moms need support and that having formula readily available at the hospital interferes with a woman's choice to breastfeed. So, he is inviting NYC hospitals to participate in the city wide initiative, Latch On NYC.

According to a press release issued by the New York City Health Department, the program involves both a hospital commitment to limit infant formula promotion and a public awareness campaign on the benefits of breast milk. Hospitals joining Latch On NYC have agreed to:

  • Enforce the New York State hospital regulation to not supplement breastfeeding infants with formula unless medically indicated and documented on the infant’s medical chart.
  • Limit access to infant formula by hospital staff.
  • Discontinue the distribution of promotional or free infant formula.
  • Prohibit the display and distribution of infant formula advertising or promotional materials in any hospital location.

Twelve private New York City hospitals have already made the commitment and all 11 public hospitals run by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation also joined “Latch On NYC” in an effort to encourage new moms to stick with breastfeeding.

The CDC reports that most babies in the US start breast-feeding, but within the first week, half have already been given formula, and by nine months, only 31 percent of babies are breast-feeding at all.

It's well known that when a mother leaves the hospital, she'll most likely be given a diaper bag filled with baby goodies such as coupons for baby wipes, a handful of disposable diapers, and a can of formula or two.

I remember cradling my starving newborn baby with one arm and rummaging through a gifted diaper bag with the other. It was my first afternoon home alone with my son and he just wouldn't latch on to feed. In desperation, I resorted to grabbing a bottle of formula that the hospital had sent home with me. My exhausted brain filled with worry; would one bottle ruin our breastfeeding success?  

Suddenly, I looked down to see that he had latched on on his own, moments before I was going to feed him the formula. I left the full bottle on the counter and never looked back. Latch On NYC aims to minimize those moments of doubt for mothers who wish to exclusively nurse their baby.

Breastfeeding advocates praise the move as a way to prevent formula manufacturers from influencing new mothers. Not everyone is thrilled with the new policy though. Many skeptics question if it will shame women who choose not to breast-feed and that the state should not step in.

The New York City Health Department insits that formula will be fully available to any mother who chooses to feed her baby with formula but will no longer be offered to breastfeeding mothers who had not requested it.

Do you believe that hospitals should stop offering promotional formula to new moms? Do you feel that the initiative will alienate mothers who choose to bottle feed their babies? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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