As my colleague Carrie Lukas pints out in her recent Wall Street Journal editorial, “Regulating what moms feed their newborns isn’t the government’s job.” One medical professional agrees.
Amy Tuteur, M.D., is a former clinical instructor at Harvard University, and she concludes in a recent Time column that “Mayor Bloomberg's campaign against formula feeding in hospitals is profoundly out of touch with the realities of motherhood.” According to Dr. Tuteur, the Mayor’s Latch On NYC campaign is:
… an exercise in excess. First announced in May, the campaign is asking maternity hospitals to 1. ban formula feeding of newborn infants unless medically indicated; 2. restrict access to formula for hospital staff by locking it up and reporting its distribution to the New York City Health Department.
Lock up infant formula and track it as if it were a controlled substance? That’s not only unnecessary, but is both demeaning and disrespectful of a woman’s right to make her own choice about how to feed her infant. It’s also based on an awful lot of wrongheaded assumptions. …
The “Latch On NYC” campaign explicitly attempts to prevent the use of formula even though many mothers successfully feed their babies with breast and bottle combined. A bottle of formula can soothe a frantic infant before a mother’s milk comes in, can spare a mother another painful nursing session during the early days when breastfeeding can bring blisters and soreness, and can allow a mother to get desperately needed sleep while someone else feeds the baby. …
Moreover, there is simply no evidence that the “Latch On NYC” policies will have any impact on breastfeeding rates.
This is what happens when we start handing over personal decisions because we convince ourselves that the Nanny State knows best.
It’s also worth considering what kind of message this scheme sends to foster, adoptive, and step-mothers and fathers. Must they be relegated to second-class parent status for their reliance on formula to feed their infants? How (perversely) ironic that Mayor Bloomberg chose May, which is National Foster Care Month—to launch this ill-advised campaign.