New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg just unveiled a health initiative that he hopes will encourage new moms to breastfeed. The plan? Ask hospitals to treat formula like any other regulated substance, keeping it locked up and given out only under certain conditions.
I applaud NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg for taking this bold step forward. For too many years, mothers who wanted to breast feed have gotten mixed messages and inadequate support from hospitals. This has come about by having the same practice standards for 2 very different types of moms, the standard of giving all moms formula at delivery and formula plus promotional products at the time of discharge.
When a mother expresses a desire to breastfeed, she needs the hospital and perinatal staff to support her decision. Having that same staff put bottles of formula in the baby’s crib is a mixed message. It says “we don’t believe you can do this, so we’ll have this formula at your bedside.” It then becomes much easier to give the baby a bottle when mom’s milk has not yet come in or the baby is having difficulty latching on. This is an inappropriate response to the problem. These moms need encouragement and information. They need to be told that it is normal for it to take 2-3 days for your milk to come in. Meanwhile, baby gets good nutrition from your colostrum. If you bottle feed your Infant during this time, it will take longer for your body to produce a good milk supply. If baby has an improper latch, nursing staff or a lactation consultant need to be available to help teach appropriate latching methods, rather than popping a bottle into the baby’s mouth.
In a few days the breastfeeding mom is discharged to home with her little one. Why does she need samples of formula? Why does she need a baby bag advertising that company’s product? How is that more important than a timely follow up appointment with her baby’s physician or a lactation specialist?
Locked up formula is not unavailable formula. The mom who chooses to give her baby formula will still have adequate access to formula. It may be under lock and key, but it will still be on the ward. The baby formula supplied to hospitals comes in 6 packs of ready to feed bottles. Mom will be given at least 6 bottles at a time. These mothers’ needs and their babies’ needs will be met. Furthermore, the program is voluntary. This means that hospitals that do not have the necessary staff will not be forced to participate.
~Dr Nan N~