First giant cups of cola, now baby formula
New York is becoming the leader in beverage controversy, and this time it directly affects families with babies. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to end the sale of sugary super-sized sodas in an effort to trim the fat from the waistlines of citizens. Today he targeted moms in an effort to reduce the use of formula and increase the numbers of breastfeeding mothers. No more cute little packages of marketing-driven formula samples handed out in delivery rooms like summer-time parade candy.
Latch On NYC
The new health initiative entitled “Latch On NYC” is an effort to encourage mothers to choose breastfeeding over formula feeding. Hospitals in New York are going to be asked to keep infant formula locked up and only offered if mothers request it or it is otherwise necessary to offer the alternative feeding choice. In conjunction with the New York City Department of Health, Bloomberg hopes that by reducing the fervent access mothers have to formula it will naturally promote breastfeeding.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
The push for breastfeeding is also making its way to the subways of NYC and throughout various hospitals with a poster campaign. Nurses at participating hospitals will be encouraged to inform new moms of the benefits of breastfeeding.
- Breast milk is easier for babies to digest.
- Breast milk helps boost the immune systems of newborns.
- New moms can be more successful at getting back to a pre-pregnancy size by breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding helps reduce the risks of asthma and diabetes in children.
- Breastfed babies tend to be at healthier weight during childhood.
- Breastfeeding reduces the mother’s risks of ovarian and breast cancer.
- Breastfeeding is inexpensive (free!) and available prepared on demand (for most moms).
- The United States would save $13 billion every year if 90% of mothers breastfed because medical costs are lower when babies are breastfed.
- There is reduced pollution from empty formula cans and tubs.
- Infants and mothers are able to form close, nurturing bonds that can increase emotional attachments.
The Problem with Breastfeeding
Even though the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, it does bring about some challenges that this campaign does not address. Mothers who breastfeed are not supported by strong laws and regulations in the workforce that allow them to have the time and dedication it takes to be a working mom and a breastfeeding mom. In reality, breastfeeding also contributes to a more productive workforce because infants who are breastfed are healthier and moms miss fewer days of work for ill children. Insurance and medical costs for these children are also lower, benefiting employers as well. But until employers are forced to provide environments that support breastfeeding employees, removing formula samples from the shelves of hospitals seems to be a futile attempt at breastfeeding support.
Real Ways to Support Breastfeeding
Recent out-lashings against mothers who breastfeed in public are evidence of just how far society, especially American society, has to go when it comes to accepting breastfeeding as a normal, healthy, and preferred way to feed babies. The World Health Organization even recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies until at least age 2 for the nutritional and health benefits is provides – can you imagine American society accepting and supporting that?
There are many times when mothers can’t breastfeed – adoption, illness, inadequate milk supply, etc. – but for the majority of healthy moms and babies, breastfeeding is possible. While Bloomberg’s goal of increased breastfeeding is positive, it needs to coincide with laws and regulations that support breastfeeding moms in the workforce. With my first child I did not feel as though I was able to continue breastfeeding, especially after going back to work – I was in a building with a small bathroom and no place to pump – and only allowed a 10 minute break (which for my overflowing chest would have resulted in even more leaking and not enough time to pump both sides). To successfully breastfeed my other children for at least one year I had to surround myself with other mothers who supported that decision – which is not as easy as it sounds (and I became a stay-at-home mom).
Regulating and controlling access to baby formula samples does not empower new mothers. Teaching them about the health benefits, providing work environments that support breastfeeding, and socially accepting breastfeeding as a wonderful choice is empowering. What we need most are moms (breastfeeding or not) to step up and demand that women have the opportunity and support to breastfeed their children.