Latch on to reality 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 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.

About Carinn Jade

Mother, lawyer, yogi, writer, non-sleeper. Published @NYTMotherlode. Contributor @Mommyish @Moonfrye @HuffPostLive. I like beer (not wine) & tea (not coffee) & being a contrarian.
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8 Responses to Latch on to reality NYC

  1. muddledmom says:

    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.

      • muddledmom says:

        I had one fabulous nurse who finally told me to go ahead and give formula also. If not for her, I think I would have had a breakdown right there. I still tried but with a baby who couldn’t even drink from a bottle the right way, I know I did the right thing now.

        One thing our hospital did was push pumping and you could rent a pump to take home. That was great. I got whatever I could, little as it was, and my kids at least got that for as long as I could handle it. I assume other hospitals do this as well.

      • I know you did the right thing because years later you remain a devoted, loving and fantastic mom.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I had great experiences nursing both of my kids (who are now ages 5 and 2). It felt pretty natural to me but I’ve known other moms who found it nearly impossible. I’m sure it’s even harder for working moms. While I firmly believe that nature is best, if you choose formula don’t beat yourself up. Focus on your new baby and enjoy every moment, boobs or no boobs.

  3. Taryn says:

    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?

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