Anger greets New York’s plan to restrict baby formula access
Published Tuesday, July 31, 2012 8:29AM EDT
A plan by New York City health officials to keep baby formula under lock and key in hospital maternity wards is being greeted by anger and dubbed the ultimate example of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “nanny state” run amok.
Bloomberg has already banned trans fats in restaurant food in New York and is working to ban super-sized soft drinks too. Now, the New York Post is reporting he’s a leading a new initiative to encourage more new mothers to breastfeed instead of bottle-feed.
Under the program, called Latch On NYC, city health officials will keep tabs on the number of bottles that participating hospitals stock and use.
While new moms won’t be denied baby formula outright, the formula will be stored in “out-of-the-way secure storerooms or in locked boxes like those used to dispense and track medications,” the Post reports.
With each bottle a mother requests and receives, she’ll be explained why breastfeeding is a better choice. Hospital staff will be asked to document “a medical reason for every bottle that a newborn receives.”
Lisa Paladino, of Staten Island University Hospital, says the thinking is that if moms believe it’s easy to switch to formula, they will.
“The key to getting more moms to breast-feed is making the formula less accessible,” she tells the Post. “This way, the RN (registered nurse) has to sign out the formula like any other medication. The nurse’s aide can’t just go grab another bottle.”
Another part of the plan will see 27 of the city’s 40 hospitals agree to give up “swag bags” of goodies that feature formula-company logos. Hospital staff will also toss out formula-branded equipment such as lanyards and mugs.
Few dispute that breastfeeding is beneficial. Studies have shown it’s the best way to protect a baby with the mother’s immunities. It also helps the mother recover from childbirth and lose her baby weight faster.
But many point out that not everyone can breastfeed, even when they want to.
Many mothers run into problems with their milk production, or with their baby’s suckling. Other moms who know they will need to return to work quickly after childbirth decide it’s easier to feed their baby with formula.
The city’s plan to make that choice more difficult has incensed many, who say that shaming mothers who choose formula is no way to encourage more breastfeeding.
Manhattan resident Lisa Tacy says the city shouldn’t take away mothers’ rights to make their own decisions.
“It’s up to the mother to choose what’s right for her and her child. I don’t think the government should be doing anything to prevent the mom from being a mother and making her own decisions,” Tacy told the local CBS New affiliate.
Chicago Sun-Times writer Kara Spak says New York should instead focus its efforts and money on more nurses and resources to help new mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding.
“Most problems, if caught early, can be solved, but many women need affordable guides to help them,” she says.
Gawker writer Doug Barry suspects a plan that asks nurses to lecture and nag new moms is simply going to backfire.
“Nobody likes a lecture, and being told that there's only one correct way to care for her newborn is probably the easiest way to anger a mom,” he writes.
“…Suddenly restricting a mother's choices is the most patronizing way to effect change there is.”