COMMENTARY | New York City announced its "Latch On NYC" health initiative in a May 9 press release, but the program, aimed at encouraging new moms to breastfeed, is just recently drawing national criticism. News outlets, including the New York Times and TIME, report growing concern about what this initiative means for new moms. As a relatively new mom myself, I have to say, I don't doubt many are disillusioned by the program.
I know I sure am.
According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the voluntary initiative, which officially begins in September, requires participating hospitals to:
- Not give formula to infants unless medically necessary
- Limit staff's access to formula
- Stop distributing free formula to mothers
- Remove advertisements and other material promoting formula
What is so wrong about respecting -- and even more importantly, understanding -- a mother's choice when it comes to raising her baby?
Mardi Mountford of the International Formula Council told TIME that keeping formula from new mothers isn't the way to encourage breastfeeding:
"A way to help mothers is to be supportive of the feeding choice they make for their infants regardless if they choose breast-feeding, formula feeding or a combination of both. For infants who are not breast-fed, infant formula is the only safe, nutritious and recommended feeding option."
As a former formula-feeding mother, I couldn't agree more with Mountford. I'm certain my feeding choices would not have changed had the hospital withheld formula and subjected me to breastfeeding lectures. Scare tactics and intimidation don't work.
I'm not denying that breastfeeding is best for babies. What I am denying is that locking formula away and harassing exhausted, hormonal mothers is an effective way to get them to do it.
What I'd like to see is an initiative that educates women about the benefits and disadvantages of both breast and bottle feeding -- because both choices have their positives and negatives -- in an environment that is neither intimidating nor stressful.
Most of all, what I'd like to see is politicians and the public supporting mothers, not because they choose one feeding method over another, but because motherhood is hard enough without adding the pressures of community and institutional criticism.
Laura Sauer is a high school English teacher, mother of two young boys, and pediatric stroke awareness advocate.
- New York City