Bloomberg Defends Breastfeeding Initiative

Says Critics Are Crying Over Spilt Formula

Monday, July 30, 2012

Critics are saying it’s another nanny state intrusion: the city Health Department is asking hospitals to put away the packaged formula and give newborn moms in the maternity ward the hard sell that “Breast is Best.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday defended the voluntary “Latch On, New York” campaign, which gets underway next month. Some 27 hospitals have joined and will begin taking a number of steps to encourage moms to nurse their newborns. Among other things, hospitals will store formula under lock-and-key, like other medications, so nurses don't just give bottles to babies, and instead work more with mothers to develop breastfeeding skills.

“Women who can’t do it, or don’t have the time to do it — you go for the formula,” Bloomberg said. “But I think most public health officials want to encourage women to breast-feed for the first couple weeks, because the outcomes are better, and if they can do it, that’s great, and if they can’t, they can’t.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have been encouraging nursing over bottle-feeding for years.

But opponents say exhausted mothers in the maternity ward shouldn't have to jump through hoops to get formula — and often just getting a nurse’s attention can be a challenge.

They also argue that improved health outcomes among breast-fed babies may have more to do with the higher socio-economic status of mothers who nurse than the nutritional content of milk.

But one 2007 "meta-study" by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of thousands of other studies concluded that even adjusted for income and other differences, babies who nurse have significantly lower rates of ear and stomach infections, bronchitis, eczema and asthma, among other things. There is also some evidence for better long-term outcomes — including reduced risk of Type I and Type II diabetes, obesity and leukemia — but those associations are not as strong.

Nationally, 73 percent of women initiate breast-feeding. At 6 months, 42 percent are still nursing, and at 12 months, that number is 21 percent.


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Comments [12]

Bena Booth from NJ

We hope that the Mayor's support of breastfeeding is as successful as his anti-smoking campaigns over the last 30? years. We are so grateful that our four breastfed, NYC born children do not have to inhale second-hand smoke in offices and bars anywhere in the country.
The breastfeeding issue should be defended and, similar to smoking bans, people will come around when they see the societal benefits, no matter what party they belong to. Thirty years from now, infants everywhere will be healthier because of this man's commitment to promulgating the truth about infant health.

Aug. 25 2012 08:11 PM

"“Women who can’t do it, or don’t have the time to do it — you go for the formula."

Hah! Mr. Bloomberg, have you ever tried to get an aspirin in a New York City maternity ward? It takes hours. So new moms have to try to handle hungry infants until the formula can be cleared and released?

Here's the deal. Bloomberg, if you want to legislate breastfeeding, do it by requiring lactation consultants at hospitals or require that all nurses be required to know how to teach breastfeeding using the same technique. I don't know why my baby never could latch. God knows I tried for 9 months. I supplemented, pumped, bottlefed and attempted to breastfeed. My baby developed jaundice and had to spend three extra days in the hospital. Nobody I came in contact with could show me how to get that kid to latch, and each nurse had her own technique. I can't count how many times nurses shrugged, walked away and said, "it's cultural."

You really want more moms breastfeeding? Do things that make it possible, not things that shame them and make the nurses roll their eyes at the PITA lady who won't lay off the call button. After all, it's mom's fault, right?

Aug. 06 2012 11:47 PM

After having two children born in NYC hospitals I welcome this initiative. We had to fight with hospital staff to keep formula out of both children. Independent midwives helped with initial breastfeeding and latching on. No support from hospital staff. That the default proscription for newborn nutrition comes from a cow indicates something is awry. There is a place for formula and a parents right to choose. Now, can Bloomberg slip the co-sleeping initiative past the crib lobby!?

Aug. 01 2012 06:07 PM
Elizabeth from St Louis

I was born lactose intolerant. This means my mother's breast milk, from day one, was making me very, very sick and it nearly killed me. My mother thought something was wrong but, being a first time mother, wasn't sure what it was. I was a miserable, screaming baby and cried constantly because I was in pain. The doctors and nurses pushed breast was best and ignored my parents concerns saying they were sure things would clear up in a week or two. My parents continued to raise those concerns over the next year but the doctors insisted it was fine. I was a newborn. Babies cried. Some were small. It was fine. My mother was a terrible parent for questioning breastfeeding. As first time parents they believed every word the doctors said. Then they had my younger brother a bit before my first birthday and at 3 months he was bigger than I was at 15 months and was sleeping through the night with few problems. I still screamed all night, because I was in agonizing pain. By this time I was malnourished, underweight and dehydrated. My younger brother's health gave my parents the confidence they needed, something really was wrong with me. They put their foot down and the doctors finally had me admitted to a hospital. I had to be fed intravenously for a month to get up to a healthy weight and at the end of it was given soy formula to take home. The first night home my parents slept through the night and in the morning realized I hadn't woken them. My mother sent my father in to check on me because she couldn't bear to, they both thought I was dead. I wasn't. I just was laying there, smiling and laughing. My mother told me I became a totally different baby overnight.

I am sharing this in response to the comments saying there are nothing but health benefits to breast feeding. I wanted to point out how this just isn't true. A year with no real nutrition took it's toll and I have had life long health problems from it. There were no health benefits for me, instead I ended up in the hospital on an IV.

Law makers legislate with the best of intentions in a one size fits all fashion. Health care cannot work that way. It will get some babies sick, it might get them killed. An initiative that requires doctors and nurses to put on blinders and focus only on breast is best is not best for everyone, this exact kind of thinking is why I ended up in a hospital. The doctors and nurses need to be free to focus on each patient and give them the best care they individually need to the best of the their medical knowledge. They cannot be limited to the best of their mayor's medical knowledge.

Aug. 01 2012 05:06 PM
Nancy from Illinois

Human beings learn skills by watching others engage in them and then describe the experience. Nobody is born knowing how to have sex, for example, but after seeing animals or other people doing it (or drawings, or movies) and hearing that the participants find it very rewarding, even a couple of virgins can figure out what to do. Smoking cigarettes is a VERY unnatural and repugnant behavior if you think about it, but people take it up because they see others doing it and getting rewarded by (they think, anyway) "looking cool." Alcohol tastes wretched the first time you drink it, but people sure get past that fast for the "fun" of getting wasted.

Where in our society are comparable images of women savoring nursing their infants? Breastfeeding your baby ideally is as pleasurable as sex and a lot more satisfying than smoking or drinking, as plenty of moms well know, but where does the general public learn that? It's amazing that as many women breastfeed as do, because society still conceals it as if it's a vaguely pornographic activity, as unpleasantly noble as donating blood yet as distasteful as defecating in public.

If Mayor Bloomberg wants to encourage breastfeeding, he should make clear its enormous emotional and physical satisfactions TO THE MOM, not just its medical virtues. Invite happily lactating mothers and their infants to Central Park for a mass nurse-in. Encourage some of the many film-makers who set movies in New York City to write in a few scenes of a mother enjoying nurturing the baby at her breast, or even a new mom and her newborn learning how to do it. In other words, show breastfeeding correctly as an experience new mothers can relish, not just another task they really ought to make themselves do.

Aug. 01 2012 04:38 PM
Alana from NYC

@Eve From NJ, I think breastfeeding is GROSS. I find the idea revolting and cannibalistic, and don't care in the slightest that YOU 'dislike' my attitude and think it needs to be changed. Who are you to change me? I 'dislike' it that you and the government are dictating what is or isn't a proper view for me to have about my own chest, and insisting I MUST change to your way of thinking, and do something that goes entirely against my grain, because YOU think it is what's best. Milky fluid leaking into my brassieres from my nipples? Crusting on my clothes and smelling sour? Having to open my brassiere so I can be sucked on by a wet mouth every two hours?--DISGUSTING. NAUSEATING. And, no doubt, extremely PAINFUL, enough to make one's head spin. No, thanks. You're all for it? It doesn't bother you? GOOD FOR YOU. GO TO TOWN, HONEY. Just don't come telling ME I have to do it when there is a perfectly good alternative that's been in use for generations!

I also resent people who imply that my total worth as a mother is entirely defined by my willingness to use my breasts: it's matterless how wonderful a mom I might be in every other aspect--without breast involvement, I am no kind of mother? I strongly disagree.

I, for one, do not believe that breastmilk is so much better than formula. Millions of babies have thrived fine on formula. What were the rates of infant deaths before formula, when breastfeeding was all that was done? If breastfeeding is so magnificent, how come countless children in the Victorian and Tudor eras died before age 3? How come many mothers buried more children than they had surviving ones? Why didn't breastmilk save them? Weren't those babies getting the absolute best nutrition and immune system formation on earth? WHY THEN DID SO MANY OF THEM NOT EVEN LIVE INTO TODDLERHOOD?

Formula has such terrible chemicals? Look at the hormones put into meats and dairy products, look at the chemical ingredients of a simple piece of store bought bread or a can of soup--all that is passing through to breastmilk--all that is NOT in formula.

But, the main point is, you're not paying my bills or getting up in the night to feed my child, and my nipples are not yours to command, nor is it for you to say what attitude I should have about what is to be done with MY NIPPLES. They are MY nipples.--Got that?--Not yours, not Mayor Bloomberg's, and not some hospital nurse's. If I say they're for show only and I don't want them sucked, THEY ARE FOR SHOW ONLY AND THEY ARE NOT GETTING SUCKED.

Bloomberg, you want my baby breastfed so badly? SEND ME A TAXPAYER PAID WET NURSE. Don't you DARE try and tell me I'm doing something that repulses me and you are taking it upon yourself to remove my choice in a free country!

Aug. 01 2012 12:39 AM
Ms. Mom Chicago from Chicago

Sometimes, the decision to not breastfeed is not a "choice". Some mothers are just not able to do so.

Jul. 31 2012 03:54 PM
Kelly from NJ

I tried breastfeeding when I had my son but didn't produce enough milk. He was jaundiced and lost a little too much weight during his first few days but no one told me to try giving him some formula after breast feeding to see if he was still hungry. It was only when he refused to breast feed a couple of days later (probably wasn't getting anything) that I started giving him formula, which allowed his jaundice to clear up. I still feel guilty that I didn't think of it sooner but I was too tired to think at that point. I tried pumping in hopes of increasing milk production but it didn't work. Sometimes parents have no choice but to give formula.

Jul. 31 2012 12:53 PM
Eve from NJ

The American Pediatric Association, the CDC, the WHO, the list goes on of people in the medical community who say that there is compelling evidence that feeding babies powdered, modified, predigested cow's milk or soy is not the same as feeding them breast milk. We are still mammals. Wealth and all, companies that make and profit from formula cannot argue with millions of years of evolution. For goodness sake, it's a basic argument. All this mayor (who I find myself in a serious like/hate relationship with most of the time... Scott Brown, indeed)... Is just trying to give some more attention to the FACTS.

If you want and child (and I do think it's a choice you should make b/c if you say yes there are some serious sacrifices you'll be making for at least the next two decades, breastfeeding the least of them), then you should know the FACTS about what is best for that child. Let's not beat around the bush now. We can have plenty of babies born to people who just want babies for the je ne sais quoi of it, but let's at least let them know that the choices they make for them today will impact their health and the future of our society as a whole.

I'm not saying there are not circumstances where we need to give babies formula. I had a really difficult time breastfeeding. It killed me to do it for a year. I supplemented to make sure my baby was getting adequate calories, but I tried for the sake of my baby. I dislike it when I hear, "breastfeeding, no way, totally not for me..." before the kid is even born... wow! That's an attitude that I think needs to be changed or addressed. It should be part of the preconception conversation. Let's call it a preparation for the all sacrifices to come.

Jul. 31 2012 12:00 PM
Sam from NYC

Only in NYC would it be a controversy for a major's endorsement of breastfeeding - and more importantly endorsing a policy to has health benefits for both baby and child - be news. Another word for "opponents" are = "companies selling formula" or clueless parents.

Jul. 31 2012 12:19 AM
Barbara Cohen from NYC

This initiative by the NYC Health Department is meant in part to remove corporate influence from the decisions that new families make regarding the feeding of their newborn babies. How is this viewed as trampling on the rights of new mothers to chose formula or breastfeeding? If anything, taking the industry incentives out of the picture is putting more choice in the laps of new mothers, not less. Health care providers are in the business of helping patients make informed choices. Nobody can force a mom to put her baby to sleep on his back, but it is still the job of the nurse to give the pre-discharge "back-to-sleep" lecture. Some mothers will choose to have their babies sleep on their tummies and some mothers will choose to formula feed. That does not mean that it is not the job of the health care provider to give the best evidence-based information to new parents regarding optimal and safest sleeping positions and optimal and safest nutrition for their babies.

Jul. 30 2012 10:03 PM
Margaret Sciarrino from New Jersey

Encouraging mom's is one thing - treating them like criminals is another. Mr Bloomberg, why don't you revisit the abortion issue if you are so concerned about what is best for babies... You make no sense at all.

Jul. 30 2012 07:43 PM

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