Latch-On To Reality In NYC

Yesterday 27 of New York City’s 40 hospitals officially adopted Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial “Latch On NYC” and I’m behind them 100%.

For those of you not familiar with the program, the basic controversy centers around these guidelines for hospitals:

  • Enforce the NYS hospital regulation to not supplement breastfeeding infants with formula feeding unless medically indicated and documented on the infant’s medical chart;
  • Restrict access to infant formula by hospital staff, tracking infant formula distribution and sharing data on formula distribution with the Health Department;
  • Discontinue the distribution of promotional or free infant formula; and
  • Prohibit the display and distribution of infant formula promotional materials in any hospital location.

When the Health Department issued its press release back in May, women everywhere cried out in rage.  “How dare you?” “It’s my child, my body!”  Some of my favorite snipes revolved around the request that Bloomberg grow breasts before he tell us how to feed our children.

Some people just love to argue.

It won’t make one damn bit of difference if you ask me.  I gave birth in 2009 and 2011 in one of these fine hospitals.  I can account first hand that the policies described to “encourage breastfeeding” have been in effect long before Bloomberg and the NYC Health Department thought up their clever title.

A nurse was in my room to instruct breastfeeding, swaddling, co-sleeping and every method of attachment parenting known to Dr. Sears’s disciples as soon as the baby left the womb.  There were countless programs and support groups for breastfeeding.   The nurses admonished their patients’ pleas to “supplement” with formula far more than Bloomberg’s initiative.  Right or wrong it was the reality I saw first hand in 2009 and 2011.

Besides the reality of the situation, what are these outraged moms really complaining about?  The fact that it might be slightly more difficult to procure formula if you had already committed to breastfeeding?  Let’s point out that the Latch On initiative has NO bearing on women who came into the hospital choosing to feed their baby formula for whatever reason.  If you came to this decision prior to the bleary-eyed, vagina-exploding, breast-throbbing act of delivery it would be honored without qualification.  The guidelines are aimed at mothers who intend to nurse but are having a tough go in the first days of motherhood.  The message is this: changing your mind is a last resort position.

Further, formula isn’t being banned from hospitals.  It’s being held within the control of the staff doctors and nurses, out of plain sight.  Aspirin is kept under the same “lock and key” protection but no one expresses outrage that you might have to ask someone to get a little headache relief.  If you are having issues with nursing that surpass typical early day struggles, your baby will be given formula if that is what you and your doctor deem necessary.

The Latch On NYC initiative aims to educate and support mothers who feel that formula is necessary for their children to thrive when there is no medical reason to draw that conclusion (healthy breasts/mom, baby sustaining weight).  That instruction and reinforcement begins in the hospital as soon as the baby is delivered.

According to Department of Health statistics, 90% of NYC mothers start breastfeeding their babies.  However, by two months, only 31% of NYC mothers are exclusively breastfeeding.  Two months post-partum marked the point when things finally started to make sense to me and by that time nearly 60% of nursing mothers have surrendered.  The top two reasons given for stopping?  “I thought I was not producing enough milk” (47%) and the similar “Breast milk alone did not satisfy my baby” (44%).

I chose to nurse my children and had relative success with both of them.  I feel blessed to have had those experiences and worked hard to achieve them.   I understand not everyone can breastfeed their child and firmly believe those moms should not feel badly about giving their babies formula.  However, there is a wide spectrum from one nursing extreme (breastfeeding is easy peasy!) to the other (breastfeeding is not an option for me) and most mothers in the middle could benefit from more education and more support.  The Latch-On NYC initiative intends to do just that; it’s not an attack on mothers and our choices.  Let’s stop using it as ammunition.

40 thoughts on “Latch-On To Reality In NYC

  1. I do applaud them for putting breastfeeding at the forefront. I think what is unsettling to some people is the way it sounds like formula is under lock and key. I don’t know how it was there before, but when I had my babies, it wasn’t just stacked up in the halls anyway. You had to ask for it. If they made the change and never said a word about this, I wonder if anyone would even know the difference? Is it that different from what is being done now?

    I will say that I was a mother who had a horrible experience with nursing, twice. Between both experiences, which were hugely different, I never had much of a milk supply for months. Much of it was hell for me. Formula was an emotional relief. I was given a bit of a hard time at the hospital when my son had a hard time latching on. The frenulum under his tongue was tight, they wanted to cut it but it was possible it would stretch on its own. Some of the nurses weren’t very supportive. Some people speaking up about this could be people who’ve had bad experiences or who’ve heard of them. A bad experience like mine could definitely turn people off to nursing, but I did try again (and it still didn’t go very well). Sorry that response was so long. I wasn’t offended by your post. Just wanted to give the perspective of someone who had a slight change of plans in the hospital.

    • Thank you! This is exactly what I want. The truth is that your situation would not be affected by the program. And like you said, you still had to ask for it. Just like Motrin or Tylenol. I don’t think there is any difference from the way things were before but everyone is using it as ammunition in the mommy wars.

      I’m really sorry to hear about the nurses lack of support for your situation. I think it’s awful and I’ve heard many stories like yours. However I don’t think the Latch On initiative will change those cranky nurses one way or the other. I am hopeful that it might help those mothers who simply want a break to power through those first rough days.

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  2. Oh wow… We may need to discuss this one over several brewskies! Granted my children were formula fed, but only after I learned the hard way that my body produced not one drop of milk. My problem isn’t with pushing the support and education needed to successfully commit to the breast, but more with the difficulty this presents a woman in the ability to change her mind. My girls were born in LA and even here I felt a level of failure in turning to formula- and I had a medical reason to do so. This position on behalf of the hospital would have made that even harder on me.

    • I would love to discuss over a few pints! I understand your position and have many friends that share it. The shame and disappointment has NO place in the hospital and nurses that unload that on you are terrible. But this initiative doesn’t, and no initiative can, regulate those nurses behavior. I want to look at the 60% of women in NYC who stop breastfeeding (to one extent or another) in the first 8 weeks and educate them that they can still get a break or that their child won’t go hungry — without introducing formula.

      This post, as I believe this initiative, is not meant to be an attack on formula. To me it boils down to this: BREASTFEEDING IS HARD, even in “ideal” circumstances, and people need all the support they can get. No one ever talks about how hard breastfeeding is because we’re so worried about offending the formula feeders. That’s what I want to say. Breastfeeding is hard and if that’s what you want to do you deserve more help and support. The extreme few seem to ruin it for all those who are just trying to get by.

  3. So first off: You know I heart you and your writing and nothing has changed.

    …But I can’t stand behind Latch On. Having breastfed one baby and pumped/bottle-fed another, I understand that those first two months are the most crucial and women need all the support they can get. I am all for support, particularly longer hospital stays until breastfeeding is established and home visits thereafter. Average hospital stays after births range from 2-4 days. The crucial period for breastfeeding is when mom and baby go home. If hospitals are already doing it, spend the money at home. Latch On appears to be a clumsy grab for low-hanging fruit. The media attention hasn’t helped because we’ve been fed a nice diet of misinformation and cannon fodder. I appreciate that you have summarized the actual program (Imagine that! Using facts to support your argument…weird), but I still don’t think the specifics of this policy will do anything but further stigmatize formula feeding and provoke more squabbling.

    I also have to take issue with nurses “admonish[ing]” parents. That approach is exactly the reason I can’t support the current breastfeeding public health programs. The change process that professionals should be using does not include belittling, judgmental or patronizing language. The moment a person hears a negative tone, she (or he) stops hearing the meaning behind the words. The problem is that in this area, there is so little time to develop therapeutic trust. Information is shotgunned at the parents during 15-minute consults. I can’t blame nurses for cutting some corners and being frustrated, but it is doing more damage than good. I hated to pull that little word out of your wonderful post, but to me it illustrates why there is such vitriol on this issue. I think most moms would have less of a problem with these policies if they didn’t have vivid memories of being told they were “lazy.” I was never told to “stick it out for my baby” when I asked for an Aspirin.

    You know it’s a good post when I respond before 9am :)

    • Thank you Liz. The feeling is entirely mutual. I think you hit it all on the nose. I very deliberately used that word “admonish” (in connection with the nurses I encountered in 2009) so I am thrilled you picked it out. I want to separate this initiative from the hospital staff. Those nurses are going to behave the way they behave no matter what the NYC Dept of Health says. As I said, I had the “don’t be lazy nurse” in 2009 and 2011, well before Latch On was on the table. That has nothing to do with Latch On and I don’t think the nurses I met will let Bloomberg dictate, one way or the other, the way they treat the millions of moms they see. No where in Latch On does it promote belittling, judging or patronizing. It may be implied from experience, but those experiences, like mine, stem from times before this program.

      You have truly great points about home care being far more crucial and, to go with my experience, NYU has a nursing hotline that was on my speed dial. It was invaluable for me with my first born. They were so much more helpful than LLL. I wish those hotlines were highlighted as part of Latch On. Alas, it was not. You call it low hanging fruit, I call it a decent start. I think it’s a little of both.

      • Public health programs frighten me because they are the proverbial road paved with good intentions. The people who write the programs and the people who actually carry them out are usually from very different worlds. I agree that nurses are probably going to say what they were going to say before the program. I think that’s why I feel the money could be used elsewhere, still promoting breastfeeding. With my first baby, I had a home nurse that visited and I had multiple sessions with lactations consultants at the birthing center which were scheduled the day I called the warm-line. With my second baby, different hospital, no home visit, one meeting with an LC that lasted 15 minutes, subsequent calls were returned 2 days later. There were definitely other reasons why I gave up, but it certainly didn’t help.

        I just feel like this is an issue public health has to “park” to use a group facilitator term. It is too hot. People have been riled up (again, completely clinical term) to the point of irrationality. Still work towards goals, but no more large-scale, controversial grand plans. Good leadership works without people knowing they are being led. Of course, funding doesn’t work that way, unfortunately.

        • I agree on the public health programs, but this initiative is about information. The hospital portion, the piece that has created the most controversy, involves absolutely no funding. Not a single dollar goes into not having samples of formula in recovery rooms. Or pulling back formula pamphlets.

          It is a hot issue. It’s sad that many moms will use this to feel vindicated in their lack of empathy for mothers who don’t exclusively breastfeed. It’s sad that many formula feeders will use this as proof that nursing moms judge them as inadequate. I truly wish we could move past those stereotypes, even inch by inch.

          It might be something that public health should table for the time being but I am grateful for the opportunity to have a discussion like this.

          • Me too. Any opportunity for a calm discussion on this topic is gold. I hate the stereotypes as well, because so few moms fit in to either side. The exact problem the initiative is trying to address makes that clear: Moms start breastfeeding, but don’t continue. The question is when do they stop and why? We need more qualitative data, not labels.

            Sometimes I wonder if the push for “exclusive breastfeeding” is actually counterproductive. I love when I hear nurses and LC’s say “Anything is better than nothing.” Based on WHO standards, I never “exclusively breastfed,” but my babies both got breastmilk. That’s better than nothing, right? No need for extremes. Every mom can find what works best for her family.

            I guess I’m a cynic, but I think the controversial hospital part of this bill was intentional. It motivates and inspires the base, even if it isn’t directly funded. The fact that there is a “base” is what blows my mind. It is weird to me that breastfeeding is political, because it was a part of my life growing up. Everybody breastfed. Even now, most of my friends breastfeed. (Just an aside, nobody “exclusively breastfed,” even my mom, who breastfed my sister past 2.) I understand that isn’t the norm, but I still have trouble accepting that it is really a turbulent social issue. It is a personal (not life-or-death, at least in this country) decision a woman makes related to her body and her family. Few things are that intimate and yet people get really heated about other people’s choices. I think you said it best, “Some people just love to argue.” And I would add that some people just love (live?) to be in other people’s business.

            This discussion has made my morning!

          • You are so right. Some people love to be in other people’s business. You are the cynic and I am the (hopeless naive) optimist. I’d like to believe the hospital part of the program was intentional because that’s where it all starts – in the labor and delivery room. I don’t want to be in anyone’s face about their decisions but I think breastfeeding moms need more support than before. There aren’t villages or communities to support nursing the way there once was. I find myself in a relative minority having breastfed my children. Our opinions often stem from our experiences – and I know I wished I had more support. Since no one is offering it up in a positive way (LLL has its serious issues), I’ll take Latch On, even with all its faults.

            I also wished that someone told me that breastfeeding is hard (or it was for me). All I’ve ever heard is “it’s best” and “it’s natural”. That didn’t help me when I was waking up at 2am to pump because my son decided he would sleep for a longer stretch or when I woke up in a pool of my own breastmilk for the first 8 weeks because my body hadn’t adjusted to supply and demand yet. I wanted to quit every day. I just want someone to say “I’m hear to help you troubleshoot” and “I promise it will get better.” I found those in a few friends, my mom and the NYU hotline. Without them I would have quit simply because I was overwhelmed and I think I would have really regretted that.

            Can we start an initiative that says “breast is best but this shit is hard”?

  4. If you were to poll moms who work out of the home, very often 6-8 weeks is when they go back to work as their short-term disability benefits have run out… I can attest (even in companies which provided nursing rooms) the change in schedule and priorities is really difficult.
    As to the hospital situation, it really depends on who your nurse and lactation consultant are. It’s great that this is an initiative, especially for moms who have had C-sections, so that while they’re in recovery and away from the baby, there’s not the errant bottle-feeding which may have not been the mom’s choice…

    • You make some really great points here Kate. Going back to work when my daughter was 11 weeks was one of the biggest obstacles I had to face — and I was lucky enough to have an ideal environment for pumping every 3 hours. I found work or any work related answer noticeably absent from the top reasons that NYC women stop nursing.

  5. I live in Canada and these intiatives are already in place. Breast feeding is pushed pretty hard but formula is not limited (you can get some if you ask). Is breast best? Sure I don’t think anyone argues that but where I think initiatives like this ultimately fail is not in what they are trying to promote but the lack of training nurses and lactation specialists receive. My biggest issue is that not once did any nurse or specialist sit down and LISTEN to my concerns. There was an unspoken understanding that breastfeeding is NATURAL. In many people’s minds Natural equates to Easy. If someone, anyone had said to me, “Hey, this stuff it’s hard. You are NOT the only one having difficulties”. I might have stuck it out longer with my first child. (I breastfed him until he was four months old – and was rewarded with an abscessed nipple).

    Is the initiative in my country and now your state meant to make formula moms feel inadequate? No. But does it through lack of education to the people pushing the initiative. YES.

    I do believe in breastfeeding (i have three kids and breast fed them all – my first until 4 months, my second until 11 months, my third until 16 months). But that was due to two major factors.

    One I’m a stay at home mom (obviously BFing is easier when you have time to learn)
    Two I’m as stubborn as all hell.

    It didn’t have a thing to do with the intiative set in my hospitals or in my province. It was a deeply personal choice.

    Will NY States intiative change that? No, in my humble opinion.

    I think more education and lowered expectations of what breastfeeding entails would work better. “Breast is best, but don’t fool yourself, this shit is hard”

    • This comment speaks to my core. I am constantly preaching that nursing is so hard. That’s what I really needed to hear. I also agree that my decision to continue nursing was a deeply personal one, however I did (at least partially) rely on assistance from lactation consultants and the best ones, the ones I found most accessible were the ones from the hospital where I gave birth. That’s the only reason I like the initiative.

      Breast is best but this shit is hard – must be the winner slogan because I said the exact same thing in another comment. I’m all over that movement!!!

      • I totally agree with your statement that it is imperative to find a good lactation specialist. My first son was premature and the rhetoric was (for the 2 weeks we were in the NICU with him) “Breast is best”. Okay, yeah but he’s hurting me with his arching (preemies tend to arch and tense and he was tearing my nipple)
        “Can I get a nipple shield”

        “No it creates nipple confusion”

        So I stopped earlier that I would have liked because my nipple was so damaged from his tugging that I got an abscess. Had they allowed me a nipple shield I might have been able to feed him longer.

        By the time I had my third I was used to the strict rhetoric and a hell of a lot more confident in my ability to be a good mother. When the lactation specialist phoned and asked how my baby was taking to the breastfeeding and how his health was I told her, I’m pumping and bottle feeding him because he’s too weak to eat from the breast. She didn’t let me get two more words out about it before telling me that breast is best “And nipple confusion” yada yada yada. I had to tell her that HIS CARDIOLOGIST gave me the advice because we were desperately trying to get him to gain weight (he was born with a heart defect).

        At four months old I switched him back to the breast and the nurse at the cardiology unit questioned whether that was a great decision or not. (It was a fine decision, he thrived)

        The biggest problem (at least here in Canada) is that the mother is treated as though she’s a breast and not a human being who can think for herself. And that needs to change. Otherwise I am completely on board for breastfeeding intiatives.

  6. I have absolutely no problem with educating women as to breastfeeding, but it is one thing to have support at the hospital, and completely another at home. Latch On fails because it ends when you step out of the front door of the hospital. Sure, it was great when I had nurses helping me with my newborn, but sprint forward three days and I was home, with cracked and bleeding nipples and frantically finding a lactation consultant (who was NOT cheap) and there was no support from anyone other than family. The hardest part of breastfeeding occurs AFTER you go home (like when your breast engorge, you get mastitis, you go to work and you cannot pump enough) and there is simply not enough support to really push breastfeeding effectually. I was blessed with enough money to get a lactation consultant three times, and have 4 months off of work to establish breastfeeding, but most women do not have such luxuries, and Latch On does nothing to address the realities that women–especially working women–face everyday.

    • But where can we start? I choose to believe Latch On is good because it starts somewhere, notwithstanding that it fails because it ends when you step out the front door. Hospitals are where babies are born and it’s where the breastfeeding relationship begins – it’s the right place to start. Could you imagine the outrage if Bloomberg and the Dept of Health said they were sending someone to your house to help? Invading my home, demanding to inspect my breasts! That would be the battle cry of those receiving that initiative. Can you imagine? But I’m with you 100% – that’s where we really need the help. I think we agree on most everything – especially the practical inadequacies – but I choose to ultimately say “let’s start here and keep working in the right direction” (which is not the popular sentiment).

  7. First, I would have reported the “don’t be lazy” nurse to her supervisor, and made sure to follow up. How unprofessional.

    I was in hospital in Boston and none of the nurses I met expressed an opinion regarding breast feeding or formula. My kid was formula fed from the get go, and I was happy to leave with a few cases of samples.

    I think the trouble with the initiative in NYC is that it’s all well and good to encourage healthy breast feeding in a hospital setting, but realistically, keeping a child off the bottle for months is unfeasible for many poor/working class moms. Those who have to do factory shift work, wait tables, answer phones, etc. starting when their child is sometimes as young as 2-6 weeks of age have more pressing problems than formula. It’s one thing for an educated professional to stick up for her rights in the workplace, quite another reality for someone with no savings who lives check to check.

    I’d rather see NYC, my home city of Boston, or any other forward thinking metro area use its limited social services resources to push for longer mandatory paid leaves instead of dallying around with first world problems like breast versus, clean and safe bottle. Time with baby is more important than what milk baby drinks.

    Our neighbors across the border in Canada get it, and moms there get six months of paid leave. Short by some European standards, but light years ahead of us.

    Sadly I don’t see longer mandatory paid maternity leaves on the horizon.

    • I am with you 100%. My argument was never that the initiative was perfect (FAR from it!) but that it was a start. Especially if it starts discussions like these among mothers. The one interesting point was that no where in the NYC statistics did it say that mothers stopped nursing (all or in part) because of work or work related reasons. The top three were concerns about milk production and baby’s hunger need. Doesn’t really jive with what a lot of commenters perceive as the biggest obstacle.

        • So, since I was considered one of the women on the lower rung (we received WIC, which has it’s own breastfeeding initiative, at least in my state), I feel like I should add that work/school was in the top 3 reasons I started supplementing. I think, though, that this initiative is more about getting women to get past that 1-2 week mark and into “established breastfeeding”, where work/school concerns come a bit later (except for me, because I went back to school at 2 weeks). I don’t know this for a fact; I’m deducing it from the focus of the campaign and the issues they are addressing. Usually, by 3 weeks, if breastfeeding is established, milk quantity and subsequently hunger concerns aren’t as much of an issue. When breastfeeding is established is when structural social obstacles to continuing, like work, become more crucial.

          I have no studies to back this up because I refuse to Google “breastfeeding studies,” so my disclaimer is that this is all based on my personal experiences, my friends’/family’s experiences, and my work with post-partum women.

          • Yes, yes to everything Liz said, except I don’t think going back to work with a two week old is all that unusual. Many workers don’t get paid leave. The paltry three months many professional women can take is unimaginable pie in the sky to many American moms.

  8. How has it taken me 14 hrs to respond to this insightful and researched post? You tackled the mother of all issues with balance and compassion. I love how you do that. As for the initiative, it does sound like a start. I didn’t know they peddled formula to moms like Doritos to kids. I want to have more thoughts on your substance but my brain fell out in the preschool parking lot. You did a great job joining and furthering the discourse.

  9. When I was in the hospital with my second child, the nurses were amazing. Every single one of them came in and helped me. It was a terrible start to nursing. My milk wasn’t coming in and she screamed and screamed and screamed. The pediatrician kept saying I should give her formula, but I refused. However, I was in the hospital for five days. She lost a pound and I had not slept AT ALL. On my last night, the night nurse came in (as I was bawling in bed) and sat down on my bed. She looked at me and said, “I’ve been with you every night. You haven’t slept. You are a mess. The baby is a mess. I know you want to breastfeed, and you should still breastfeed. However, you need to sleep. I am going to take the baby into the nursery from midnight until six am. While she’s in there, I will give her a bottle. You will sleep. One bottle will not ruin everything. One bottle will give you six hours of solace that you need.” I tried to argue, but I couldn’t. So she took her into the nursery, and, for the first time in five days, I slept. When she brought the baby in at 6am, the baby was still asleep. I slept for another two hours. When the baby woke up, I went to feed her and magically, my milk had come in. She gained three ounces that day. She was passed her birth weight by the end of the week. The six hours that nurse gave me were a gift. They gave me confidence. They gave me my milk. They also allowed me to let go of the guilt. it turned out, I could only breastfeed on one side. And you know what? It gives her plenty of milk. And, I also hate to pump, so when she’s with my sitter, she gets formula. It was that nurse that made all the difference.

  10. Wow Carinn! Great post and you got some really great comments as well. I have to say, I have the same issue as many others who posted – (copied from Dairie because it fit so well!) the lack of training nurses and lactation specialists receive. My biggest issue is that not once did any nurse or specialist sit down and LISTEN to my concerns.

    I had a very negative experience in the hospital when I was having trouble breast feeding and it sounds like that’s more the norm than the rule from what others are saying as well. I think most women also feel so pressured from all angles about motherhood to be a “good” mom – from keeping a perfect home, not letting kids watch tv, always having enough energy and being put together all the time….the list goes on and on. I think women just want to be heard and understood and may feel this is another pressure and judgement being pushed on them with no support or understanding behind it.

    I do agree, breast is best when/if it is your choice but that choice should be respected and supported no matter what.

    Great post!

    • I think you got it Anna. This is exactly how I see it – “breast is best when/if it is your choice but that choice should be respected and supported no matter what.” And I’d add that it would be nice if everyone had a boatload more empathy. Like you said, there is a ton of pressure and judgment in so many aspects – we should be able to expect professionals to hear our concerns.

  11. I’m late to the party here, so most of my feelings have already been covered in the comments/replies. And let me start by saying that I love you and this article is beautifully written :) I’m a huge proponent of breastfeeding, though I only did it for 4 weeks. My rocky start was made worse by getting very little breastfeeding support in the hospital (in the SF Bay Area of CA…the hippie capital of the country, WTF??). What’s happening in NY is wonderful, but as someone mentioned above, it is very directive and coercive. You mentioned that women who have decided to formula-feed already are allowed to, and left alone to do so. How is it determined that a woman has “decided”? When she comes in with a birth plan? Many don’t. When she holds her baby for the first time? Many women are not coherent/conscious/focused enough at that point to clearly state a decision. How do nurses determine when a woman should be left alone to formula feed in peace? When you are in labor, or on an operating table, or holding your baby for the first time, or watching as your baby is being worked on, should you be expected to clearly advocate your feeding choice? Those that can clearly state their choice get left alone or brought formula, and those that don’t get persuaded to breastfeed? Of course breast is best. But as a former mental health care professional, I also know that the best “advice” you can give someone, is the ability to make their own decisions after giving them UNBIASED, fair, respectful information about ALL choices. There is shame involved in asking for formula. It’s really no one’s business how a woman feeds her child. Asking a new mom to advocate for her feeding choice from day one sets moms up for a lifetime of shame and embarassment. Non-directive, non-coercive counseling usually goes like this “You can breastfeed and we’ll have someone come in to show you how, or you can formula feed and we’ll have someone come in to show you how. The choice is yours, and we’re here to help support you in feeding your baby. Let us know what feels best for you.” But that’s not what the mayor wants women to hear. What a shame. But not suprising considering he’s never popped a baby out and been tasked with keeping it alive by nourishing it from his own body. Women’s bodies. Women’s choices.

    • You are positively one of my favorite people to debate with. You push me to think of new perspectives and always remind me that intelligence and respect spans every point of view. So let me respond to two points. 1-yes, I think that women can decide before giving birth whether they want to try breastfeeding or try formula feeding. It is a decision you can educate yourself about while pregnant. That said, we know that even the best laid plans get thrown to shit (see my first delivery) and you have to play with the hand you are dealt. In practice, neither decision is perfect or without issue. Everything can be re-evaluated at that time and you can continue to make informed decisions with the help of other professionals. I don’t think that is an undue burden. 2-and more importantly with respect to this initiative — the statistics are there — 90% – ninety percent!! – of women come into NYC hospitals wanting to breastfeed. Are you telling me 90% of women are making that choice out of shame of asking for formula? I’d be shocked. So if the 90% is a real number, then hospitals need to be prepared and informed to help nearly ALL of the women who come in to give birth to breastfeed. I’m with the women’s bodies, women’s choices. This is about education and support. It’s really hard to breastfeed and I think people are demanding more support to make it happen. I truly don’t believe, and no evidence in the materials of the initiative show otherwise, that this is intended to interfere with a woman’s decision. I believe he’s basing it on what people are telling him – 90% of us want to do this but we don’t follow through the way we intended. Why? And how can we help? That’s the way I see it. Trust me, I don’t want anyone in my body or my decisions, I just don’t see this as a conflict.

  12. What bothers me is that this type of policy is even needed in the first place. Why are hospitals even allowed to promote formula so heavily? Why aren’t they heavily promoting- and supporting- breastfeeding, and then supplying formula as an alternative when necessary?

  13. I don’t know how I feel about this one. I agree that breast is best, but I don’t like the way the whole issue is approached. I had a horrible breastfeeding experience. Absolutely horrible. And what bugs me more than anything is when people say things like, “Oh, you did the best you could. You just needed more support, more education.” I think people use this whole “I’m going to educate you” thing as a way to condescend. I’m not saying that you are doing that, of course, but it has been my experience with many people.

    I researched a ton about breastfeeding while I was pregnant and was SO ready. I knew it would be hard, and I knew I’d have to work on it, and I wanted to. My husband was in the room whenever LCs came in. When we got home, he literally was getting up with me every feeding trying to help ensure the latch was correct. He would literally grab my boob and help position it correctly the way the nurses and LCs did. Even with support it was just one of the most traumatic and awful experiences of my life. It made me hate my baby. I dreaded every feeding. After almost 3 weeks, I had a complete nervous breakdown, and honestly–however much I may get chastised for this–if those formula samples had not been on my kitchen counter when I finally broke down crying and shaking at 2am, I can’t honestly say what I would have done. Could I have sent my husband out to the store? Probably. But I have to tell you, I don’t know that I had those 20 minutes to spare. And I worry about moms in that place. I worry about the moms for whom those insignificant little details are actually a lifeline that keeps them from hurting either themselves or their baby.

    Granted, I was unknowingly dealing with postpartum depression, so my circumstances and feelings are probably different than the average woman. But that is what bothers me about the entire breastfeeding conversation: too many people talk about it under the assumption that every woman is coming from the same place with the same resources, same set of circumstances, same mental state, etc.

    I felt incredibly judged when I opted to stop breastfeeding. I felt like a failure. And all of that was only exacerbated by the amount of people who treated me like I was less educated or somehow had less support–like it wasn’t a choice I considered carefully, but something I was forced into because I was too dumb and unsupported to do better. It made me really, really angry for a long time. I slowly started to get over it, and now I am finally to a place where I feel good about my choice. My child is healthy and thriving, has never been sick or had so much as a sniffle, and I am in a 100x better place mentally.

    Anyway. Sorry for the novel. I know half of this doesn’t even pertain to what your post was about. I just really wish the parameters of the entire breastfeeding conversation could change. I wish it wasn’t a fight. I wish there was more understanding. I wish there was a lot less judgment…from both sides.

    • Just wanted to add that I love how you approached this post. Very much free of judgment and very much a step in the right direction for the entire conversation. Wish all moms could handle it this way. The “Mommy Wars” would disappear forever (as they should). :)

      • Thank you for adding this. Your story is a really interesting (can I say good?) one. I know that education and support couldn’t have helped you. I know that you did the best PERIOD. Not just the best you could or the best for your situation, etc. However I still have to agree that your set of circumstances is rare…though it makes the message even clearer. Mothers in general need more support and NO judgment. I still believe it’s possible.

  14. Wow, girlfriend – you rung the bell on this one! I’m impressed and inspired by your knowledge and well-rounded thoughts/opinions on this issue. Great job beginning/adding to the discussion. I’m thinking you could send this post in to the NYT as an op-ed or letter to editor – it’s really well done.

    I’m not sure how I feel about this specific program and can see both sides. What I am clear about is your primary point that nursing is hard and moms would benefit from knowing the reality and the nitty gritty up front. Not to scare us off breastfeeding, but to manage our expectations and sustain us when the going gets tough. Thank god I had a good friend who told me that it would take six to eight weeks before nursing “clicked” and felt natural. She informed me of all the difficulties and walked me through when I experienced most of them. She also encouraged me to hire a lactation consultant to visit me at home and give me additional support. She was an angel and I never would have stuck with nursing had she not informed and supported me through those first many weeks. I wish every mom was as fortunate and informed.

    Great issue/great discussion – well done!

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