Over the course of seven years, I breastfed all four of my children, so it might not make sense that I’m offended by Mayor Bloomberg’s “Latch On NYC” initiative, which asks hospitals to keep formula samples under lock-and-key and requires canned breastfeeding speeches under the guise of encouraging moms to breastfeed.
Sounds more like 1950 than 2012.
We moms have had the “breast is best” message hammered down our throats so much so that when we can’t, or just don’t really want do, we end up swimming in a sea of guilt that can often do irreparable damage.
Because if we couldn’t or wouldn’t breastfeed, well, then we must be terrible mothers.
And as proud as I am that I was able to breastfeed my children, it was my choice—a hard choice—and one that not everyone is in the position to make. A choice that women should not be forced to make.
I agree with Bloomberg that this is an important issue that needs attention, but his solution is lazy. And quite frankly, it’s insulting.
To say that mothers who see the formula sitting on their nightstand might somehow be tempted to use it instead of breast milk demeans our intelligence. To think that a reminder from a nurse that “breast is best” will do anything but make a vulnerable new mother feel judged is naive.
And to somehow believe that the answer to a complicated issue with a myriad of social, cultural and economic factors can be found by turning formula into contraband is just downright ignorant.
For all the manpower and resources that will be used to institute this initiative, Bloomberg could actually use it to make a real difference for babies, mothers and their families:
- By providing thorough education about the benefits of breastfeeding by OB/GYNs and midwives as well as maternity hospital staff
- By supporting breastfeeding mothers with free or inexpensive resources, like nursing bras and breast pumps
- By creating citywide PSAs showing his intolerance for the shaming of mothers nursing in public places
- By lobbying for better maternity leaves, affordable child care and breastfeeding resources for working mothers
And let’s not forget that while breastfeeding might be the healthiest choice for babies, it’s not always the healthiest choice for mothers. And by failing to address their physical and emotional health as well, they might not be around to feed their babies at all.
When government puts its hands down our shirts to monitor and mandate something like our choice on how to feed our baby, it’s messing with a delicate bond -- an intimate experience between a mother and her baby--whether she’s feeding him with her breast or a bottle.
And it sends the message, right from the beginning, that we moms don’t know what’s best for our own children.
So on behalf of women everywhere, Mayor Bloomberg, do us all a favor and keep your hands out of our bras.