Hello BlogHer12, New York City, Most Breastfeeding-Friendly Capital of the US?

So I'm off to BlogHer12 in New York City and instead of networking on my mind, I can't stop thinking about breastfeeding. 

Blame it on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's new breastfeeding initiative, Latch On NY.  Yes the breast and its milk has now moved beyond the personal to the political.  Congratulations to public health officials and politicians who simply cannot leave their political hands (or minds) off women's breasts. 

Oh yeah it's a nightmare from start to finish:

Enforce the New York State hospital regulation to not supplement breastfeeding infants with formula unless medically indicated and documented on the infant’s medical chart

Limit access to infant formula by hospital staff

Discontinue the distribution of promotional or free infant formula

Prohibit the display and distribution of infant formula advertising or promotional materials in any hospital location

Additionally, the Health Department is launching a subway and hospital poster campaign highlighting the benefits of breast milk, such as reducing the risk of ear infections, diarrhea and pneumonia.
What's next, stopping and frisking women with visible bottles?

Fining women who can't produce their "medically-approved formula" papers?

Banning the sale of infant formula within a half-mile of a medical facility?

Banning the sale of infant formula on weekends.

Requiring prescriptions for adults to purchase infant formula.

Requiring women who choose not to breastfeed to watch a series of "informational" presentations on the benefits of breastfeeding?  And make them take a series of parenting courses that focus on the risks of formula.

And what happens to the medical staff and/or parents who provide formula in the absence of medical necessity?

Now some of this sounds absurd but as a mother with daughters that might one day be subjected to even more stringent political and legal recommendations it makes me nervous. If you're not yet nervous read about the formula lock down as decribed by The New York Post:
Under Latch On NYC, new mothers who want formula won’t be denied it, but hospitals will keep infant formula in out-of-the-way secure storerooms or in locked boxes like those used to dispense and track medications. With each bottle a mother requests and receives, she’ll also get a talking-to. Staffers will explain why she should offer the breast instead.
Excuse me but since when has infant formula become a controlled substance?

Excuse me but since when have my breasts or yours become the property of public health officials?

Excuse me but where are all the women (and men) who were so appalled by medically unnecessary vaginal probes? They sitting in the same crowd cheering this ridiculous campaign?  Where are the women who argue so ferciously for the right to decide what to do with their bodies (hand raised) but who don't seem to equate the stringent recommendation to breastfeed as a violation of their privacy.  Where are the researchers and scientists who don't think breastfeeding is all that? I know you're out there, why have you kept silent?

No surprise, this is enough to give the Fearless Formula Feeder nighmares too. She envisions scenarios involving other potential parenting decisions and behavior that usually don't receive the same level of scrutiny as how we first feed our children (i.e. breastfeeding or not).  Here she imagines the authorities deride a single mom for her risky behavior:
They tell me that my child will be taken into custody because she watches far more television than the AAP likes, and plus, children of single mothers are far more likely to end up on drugs or with severe psychiatric disorders. They know it will be painful for me to give her up, but it really is for the best. She'll be better off in a clean foster home with organic food and no screen time allowed. Maybe I should consider getting a puppy to fill the void.
Anyhow she's waiting for a revolt.  Yeah me too.  Who's ready?  

All is perhaps not lost though for those of us who have watched and watched as less than stellar empirical evidence has been used repeatedly to make women feel they must breastfeed or risk harming their child - here's possibly a small moment of optimism here in Jane E. Brody's latest column in the New York Times - The Ideal and the Real of Breast-Feeding.

Honestly, why can't anyone with expert credentials here in the United States ever critique the current APA recommendations? Let alone  discuss in detail the limitations of the scientific evidence.

I've been accused of being anti-breastfeeding but remember I breastfed all three of my children and in a hypothetical scenario where I give birth again I would do it again.  I am glad for people who choose to breastfeed and please, do it for three years if you want to but I beg you, do not feel obligated due to the purported significant health benefits. 

As for Mayor Bloomberg, you're a real boob. 

Maybe you should stop thinking about breasts and concentrate on more significant health issues, hey I know, mental health services for families.  I know, it's a lot less glamorous, not nearly as easy to do something about and you wouldn't be able to have such a warm and fuzzy poster with a cute baby on it.  So much harder putting a positive spin on all those families living on the edge with inadequate services and real health conditions.


Awesome Mom said...

Well said! I think this has gone too far and we need to chill out and let parents decide what is best for their family. All the money being spent to study how awesome breastfeeding is should be moved over to making formula the best it possibly can be.

Alison said...

I'm glad you were alluding to the fact that this is limiting the choice to formula feed by limiting access. I too find it disturbing that some people who would fight tooth and nail against some of the degrading things women are being forced to do to access abortion (and view it as another way of limiting choice), are not connecting that this in its own way is limiting choice for parents. Instead some of them congratulate Mr. Bloomberg on caring for the health of children. They tell parents that they can access formula at almost all stores. They use the words "entitled", "selfish" and "lazy". They tell moms that formula is still available, it will just be controlled like narcotics are.

I hope you still have fun in NYC even with this crap going on and I hope it doesn't taint your conference.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Hey Awesome, good point or maybe spent money on other more significant health benefits or issues, say childhood obesity. Again I am amazed and saddened that we've lost the plot here in concentrated so ferociously on what a child eats in the first few months if not year of a child's life at the expense of so many other positive things a parent can do to make their kid health - for years and years past the breast (or bottle).

Obviously this is about so much more than breastmilk (and/or formula).

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Hi Alison, I know, the irony of women who can't stand the thought of anyone limiting their decisions about their own bodies (and hey, hand up there, way high up) - who also do not question health authorities and now politicians who tell them how to feed (or not feed) their children or when it comes down to it, use their own bodies.

Alecia Clark said...

To me this is simply opening a window for a whole slew of government interference in the parenting decisions we make and to take away our choices. There are so many controversial topics that we as parents wrestle with that could ultimately be mandated because of "medical need". To vaccinate or not, , to circumcise or not, natural childbirth or medicated- the list goes on and on.

I am a proud formula feeding parent (by necessity, not choice) who does vaccinate her child and had two all natural childbirths, but those were MY choices for MY son!! Not the governments!

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Hi Alecia, oh now you've really scared me. Can you imagine hospitals providing epidurals only in the cases of medical emergencies? Hadn't even thought of that one.

You free to march on Mayor Bloomberg?

Alecia Clark said...

I wish! I'm in Lexington, KY- but I am following this story closely. It is truly frightening because of the "War on Women" that seems to be happening.

I believe that parents should make their own educated choices. (and not just with Wikipedia or MSN) However, I do see the irony in the fact that many of the "anti formula" groups who are pushing and loving this initiative, are also in the "anti vaccination" groups. They obviously have not thought the potential of this through enough.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

How true, Alecia, that both anti-formula and anti-vax campaigns involve bodily choices and you'd think the former wouldn't want anyone telling them what to do with anyone's body but that's why I think it has more to do with the natural aspect of both choices. But I also suspect the anti-formula folks merge with the anti-vax crowd in bashing any industry be it Big Pharma or Big Formula.

Anonymous said...

Some women can't produce enough breast milk to feed their infants. What the heck are they supposed to do?

Anti-vax is a whole different issue; their choices actively affect other people and can actually kill them. Pretty big difference there.

Julie said...

This law really is very inconsiderate of women who can't breastfeed. This applies to my own sister who is a doctor herself. She has given birth to two underweight babies (at about a month) because she tried to breastfeed and actually did not make enough milk to support the growth of a child. Does the government realize that not all of us are actually capable of breastfeeding?

Jean Weinberg said...

We read your blog posting with interest and wanted to respond and address several inaccuracies.

The piece says women who chose not to breastfeed will have to watch a series of "informational" presentations on the benefits of breastfeeding?

This is actually not the case:

• Parents who want formula will not have to convince a nurse to sign it out by giving a medical reason. Parents can and always will be able to simply ask for formula and receive it – no medical necessity required, no written consent.

•For 3 years, New York State Law has required that mothers be provided accurate information on the benefits of breastfeeding. The City initiative does not require that mothers asking for formula receive a lecture.

Ultimately, our goal is to support a mother in whatever decision she makes when it comes to nursing her baby and this initiative specifically is designed to support a mother who decides that she wants to breast-feed by asking participating hospital staff to respect her and refrain from automatically supplementing her baby with formula (unless it becomes medically necessary or the mother changes her mind).

Bottom line: It does not restrict the mother’s nursing options in any way – nor does it restrict access to formula for those who want it.

Anonymous said...

I also find it strange that many feminists who are pro choice are very anti bottle-feeding. It's a strange message. You many kill that unborn baby but if you don't you better breastfeed it. I myself are are prochoice even though I don't think anyone should take abortion lightly. I don't want to start a debate. It's a message I heard from a self proclaimed feminist in my family after I struggled with breastfeeding. Love your blog!

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Thanks for the comments, Anonys, Julie and Ms. Weinberg. Unfortunately I've been too consumed with talking about blogging to actually blog over the last few days- that and my inability to use Blogger on my iPad successfully...uggh.