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Bottlefeeding Becoming More Difficult in NYC

August 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Jennifer Hanes, DO

Bottle feeding your baby is about to become much more difficult in New York City. Starting September 3rd, under Mayor Bloomberg, Latch On NYC initiative begins through the department of health.

The purpose of this initiative is to encourage breast feeding over formula. As such, hospitals are no longer able to give any promotional formula products and need to encourage all mothers to breast feed, repeatedly if necessary. As a physician, I am appalled this program also requires a documentation to be made with each time a new mother requests a bottle to feed her newborn as well as documenting she was “educated” each time a nurse brings a single serving of formula to her room.

Hospitals are encouraged to keep the formula in a locked storage room, similar to medications so each dose must be tracked and recorded.

In hospitals outside of New York City, new moms are encouraged to try breast feeding and consult with a lactation specialist during her hospital stay. However, if she chooses to use formula, that decision is made with the help of her pediatrician. Under the new program, the new mom must request every single bottle of formula for every feeding and be lectured with each serving about why her choice is inferior to breast feeding.

Advocates of this program site the benefits of breast feeding such as providing immunity and closer bonding to mom. However, there are many negative consequences of forced breast feeding and this program should be stopped.

  • Postpartum depression occurs in as many as 25 percent of new moms. Knowing their baby is nursing, will these moms become less likely to seek help and take medication? How is bonding improved for a breast-feeding baby when her mom is too depressed to bond the other 21 hours of the day?
  • Breast feeding is more difficult for some moms than others. Many women want to breast feed and already feel tremendous guilt at their inability to successfully nurse. Will this new initiative including a lecture with each bottle delivery increase their feelings of failure as a new mom?
  • While breast milk is optimally the best nutrition, that is not always true. Breast milk varies greatly from mother to mother in composition and nutritional value. For a mom who chooses to eat potato chips and drink soda around the clock, is her breast milk really a better choice than formula for that baby?
  • Many mothers are drinking alcohol while nursing, as evidenced by an at-home kit to test breast milk for alcohol. Is it better for a beer drinking mom to nurse or give a bottle of formula?

I recently saw a patient and routinely asked if she was pregnant or breast feeding. Despite her children being teenagers, she still relayed a feeling of inferiority from her inability to nurse more than 12 years ago. I fear those in favor of this aggressive program are completely unaware of the potential consequences of such strict, guilt-inducing, restrictions.

Breast milk may offer benefits not found in any formula, but there are no indications of life long benefit. To clarify, breast fed babies have no benefit over bottle fed babies when it comes to grades in school, athletic ability, or peer relations. In fact, it has never been proven that breast fed babies love their moms more or become healthier people.

Raising children is full of decisions based upon very complex, highly-personal, reasoning. Perhaps rather than removing choices from moms, we should be supporting them. When moms feel confident and encouraged, they will naturally make the best choice for themselves and their baby.

Ironic, is it not, that at 19 weeks of pregnancy the government “has no right” to tell a woman what to do with her “body” and she can abort her baby. Yet, just a few short weeks later, she is no longer able to decide the best way to feed her baby.

The focus needs to shift from more regulation to more compassion. When new moms are empowered to make the best decision for her family, everybody benefits.

Bio: Dr. Jennifer Hanes is a board certified emergency and forensic physician in Austin, Texas. She shares her motherhood journey through Mommy MD Guides. She has lost 70 pounds and outlines those secrets in her eBook, Lady In Weighting. You can learn more at www.DrHanes.com.

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