Mayor Bloomberg of New York has launched the "Latch-On NYC" program, which -- according to its website -- asks New York hospitals to do the following:
- 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
Now, I agree with the premise of this initiative. I believe that breastfeeding is best for babies, and if you can do it, and you want to do it, you should be given all the support possible. However, as a mother who chose to formula feed my twins, I deeply resent the manner in which this initiative is trying to accomplish its goals. It is one thing to educate and promote benefits -- it is another to limit access and promote shame.
As a mother who tried to breastfeed her twins and failed, and then tried to supplement by pumping and chose to quit and move to formula, the Latch-On initiative feels patronizing and lacking in empathy. Formula feeding was the best choice for my family. Do I wish breastfeeding had worked for us? Sure. But I am not going to be made to feel like I made a "bad" choice.
I chose to formula feed because a) due to the shape of my nipples (I will leave out the specifics so that I can continue to pretend that I am a lady) breastfeeding was difficult, b) I was exhausted, and c) I had a nearly debilitating case of post-partum depression. Rather than continue to lose sleep in order to push breastfeeding, which was painful for both me and my children, I chose to move to the safe and completely acceptable alternative of formula feeding. The babies thrived, and I was able to start taking better care of myself and, by extension, my children.
If I had been in a hospital that treated formula like it was a dirty word, that constantly reminded me how much better breastfeeding was, that made me feel like one of the first decisions I was making as a mother was a mistake, how much harder would I have been on myself? How much longer would I have put myself and my babies through the struggle to breastfeed? How much more depressed would I have been?
Hospitals are there to provide the best care possible for their patients. And therefore I would agree that the promotion of breast-feeding fits with that mandate. But if it is done by pretending that formula doesn't exist, or by trying to hide any reminders from women that there IS another option, then I would argue that hospitals are not doing their best for ALL of their patients. Women need to be told openly and honestly about their CHOICES. Give us the respect we deserve to make the right choices for our families and ourselves.