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Locking up baby formula in New York City

August 3, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
NPR had a story tonight about 27 New York City hospitals that will start locking up baby formula in September and stop handing out bags to new parents that contain formula samples.

New moms can still get the formula if they ask for it or if there's a medical reason for them to have it, but they'll probably have to listen to a lecture beforehand about the importance of breast feeding.

The directive is called "Latch On NYC" and is being pushed by the health department as well as by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Hospitals agreed to take part.

One young mother quoted in the story said she's breast feeding because it's healthier for her new daughter and will be more convenient and cheaper for her. Another woman quoted in the story was miffed because she thinks too much of a guilt trip is being put on women who can't breast feed physically or because their work schedules don't allow it.

The story also points out that Bloomberg is the guy who has also campaigned to ban smoking and Big Gulp sized soda pops sold at restaurants. Since this is about babies, it gives media a perfect excuse to use the term "nanny state."

I know there's been a huge push in favor of breast feeding in the last 20 or 30 years and when I was covering health I did my share of stories on La Leche League meetings and home childbirth and attachment parenting of the sort that encourages mothers to breast feed kids in some cases until they start school. Those moms were the outliers; most seem to breast feed for six months or a year. Breast feeding advocates often complained that new mothers weren't being encouraged to breast feed and that they shouldn't be given formula samples at the hospital.

Some of my cousins who have kids talk about breastfeeding and it seems to be positive for child and mother. On the other hand, I can't say being fed by bottle did me any significant damage or that it has hurt anyone else I know either. Some women simply don't want to do it and in those cases a bottle probably is a perfectly adequate substitute. I'm not sure what I think of them locking up formula like a controlled drug or requiring hospitals to keep a log recording how much is distributed and on what date, either.

What do you think of New York City's new health initiative?


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