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Breast milk vs formula: NYC Mayor Bloomberg weighs in

Jul 31, 2012

NYC's Mayor Bloomberg wants moms to use breast milk instead of infant formula.
Credit user wax115 / morgueFILE

Got milk?

Breast milk, to be specific.

Beginning next month, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (of soda ban fame) is now making the push for mothers to ditch infant formula and use breast milk instead. The New York Post reports:

Starting Sept. 3, the city will keep tabs on the number of bottles that participating hospitals stock and use — the most restrictive pro-breast-milk program in the nation.

Under the city Health Department’s voluntary Latch On NYC initiative, 27 of the city’s 40 hospitals have also agreed to give up swag bags sporting formula-company logos, toss out formula-branded tchotchkes like lanyards and mugs, and document a medical reason for every bottle that a newborn receives.

The article goes on to say that moms who want to use infant formula can still do so, but they'll have to ask for it because the infant formula will be kept "in out-of-the-way secure storerooms or in locked boxes."

Over at The Atlantic, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon takes issue with the move by Bloomberg. She says women opt out of breastfeeding for all kinds of reasons, and they should not "have to justify their reasoning" if they want to use infant formula instead.

"Indeed, women should receive all the education available in the least judgmental environment possible. Who could possibly oppose that? But once the discussion is done, women who decide breastfeeding does not work for them should be able to make their decision in peace and without prying. The real reason the Gotham policy is so objectionable is it infantilizes women by telling them they are no longer adult enough to decide for themselves what is best for their families and themselves."

New York isn't alone in its quest to encourage breastfeeding. Rhode Island and Massachusetts have also stopped giving away free formula "goody bags" to new moms when they leave the hospital.

Beaumont Hospital - Grosse Pointe is currently the only hospital in Michigan to receive a "Baby Friendly" designation by the World Health Organization and UNICEF - meaning they encourage new moms to breastfeed exclusively. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, and cites numerous "short- and long-term medical and neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding." But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Breastfeeding Report Card, while 69 percent of Michigan babies start out breastfeeding, only 43 percent are exclusively breastfed at the end of six months.  

At St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, Dr. Paula Schreck is running a breastfeeding support group for low-income moms. St. John's is working towards becoming a "Baby Friendly" hospital. Schreck says when it comes to improving health outcomes for babies "where best to start than hour one of life, providing optimal nutrition that's free."