Do Women Have A Choice To Breastfeed?

By Elisabeth Dale

It’s World Breastfeeding Week (August 1st through 7th) and August is National Breastfeeding Month, but the media is focused on a more controversial issue: the banning of baby formula. New York’s Mayor Bloomberg was accused of mandating that all women hospitalized after giving birth in the Big Apple exclusively nurse their infants. His legislative method of coercion: locking up infant formula. Despite upsetting numerous bloggers, the NYC breastfeeding program follows what most countries already do to promote breastfeeding. In part, it discourages the distribution of free formula, including sending gift bags home with new mothers.

Bloomberg’s policy is based on the World Health Organization’s Baby friendly Hospital Initiative, which outlines steps that make it easier for women to succeed at breastfeeding. Sadly, only 2 percent of hospitals in the US have been certified “baby friendly.” In fact, our country ranks last on all measures of breastfeeding support. There are many other challenges facing new nursing moms beyond those involving handouts of baby formula. “Latch On NYC” seems to be a very small, voluntary step in the right direction.

What to you think? Is New York’s new policy too stringent or not enough?



4 Discussion to this post

  1. V. Mayer says:

    As an internationally board certified lactation consultant, I was interested to read the comments after finding this article. Our hospital is currently pursuing Baby Friendly status, so I’m very familiar with the myriad steps required to achieve this goal. The three very intelligent and insightful comments above are exactly the reason why at our facility we strive to educate and assist, but not to bully or proselytize. Some well-meaning folks don’t take into consideration the physical, environmental or personal limitations of their clients and instead of a comfortable. open dialogue, they slam the door on effective communication and any chance of breastfeeding. Thank you for presenting your opinions in a clear and objective way. Hopefully some of those “breastmilk police” will take heed.

  2. Elisabeth Dale says:

    I agree with you, Shelley. Breastfeeding should be a personal choice. Unfortunately, most new mothers are discharged from the hospital even before their milk comes in. They don’t have any support at home or can’t afford the services of a professional lactation consultant to help them through the process. If it wasn’t for one caring and thoughtful nurse, I would have given up before I even tried to breastfeed my first child. But I only had the luxury of extra time on the maternity ward because my first son as born by c-section. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is about giving women choices, not just a bag full of free formula to take home with them. There should be more education on all sides of this issue and more support for new mothers, no matter what they decide to do (and many choose to nurse and supplement with formula, so it’s not always one or the other).

  3. shelly says:

    Breastfeeding is a personal/family decision. It is good for baby, yes, but it needs to be good for mum too. In hospital, I overheard one frustrated mum trying to get the hang of breastfeeding day and night. No country should legislate what should be a private matter unless there is a national crisis that permits the government to get involved. A baby friendly hospital is one that looks after mum and baby well, in my opinion. It promotes what is good for BOTH of them. Not all women want to breastfeed. I think some nurses at these BFH can be subtle bullies when it comes to breastfeeding. When you choose not to breastfeed it’s almost like you feel they are going to go behind your back and call the “breastmilk police”. It feels like once you get pregnant you have no control over your body. There’s someone inside you taking over and people around you placing pressure on you as well. The pressure to breastfeed is like the climax of that power struggle. It’s enough to make you want to make placards and burn a load of nursing bras! Let women who want to breastfeed enjoy it in peace and let women who want to bottle feed enjoy it in peace. I would rather give my child a bottle in a state of love and adoration than let him suck on a pair of “resentful boobs”. And people wonder why women have baby blues. Before any man legislates what a woman should do with her boobs he should grow a pair.

    • Ellen Lewis says:

      Shelley, Hurrah for you! As a woman who could not breastfeed due to a multitude of issues, including surgery, I salute your comment. Although my children are all grown, this conundrum was an issue even 30 years ago. It still haunts me, even though the choice was not mine to make.

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