THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Anastacia Kurylo Headshot

Bloomberg Pushes the Breastfeeding Trend

Posted: Updated:
Alamy
Alamy

Listen, I live near Tribeca, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the United States and the wealthiest zip code in New York. I know about trends.

It turns out I also live nearby two of the most family friendly neighborhoods in New York: Battery Park City and, of course, Tribeca. These are two of only three Manhattan neighborhoods that made the list. I know about parenting trends.

When I had my kids in 2007 and 2009 I was up to date on the latest parenting trends, products, and issues. For example, when I had my kids pacifiers, crib bumpers, and baby walkers were all considered items to avoid if possible. When my sister had her children about ten years earlier, these were all recommended for children.

Natural processes were particularly starting to be in vogue when I had my children. My husband made the baby food for my kids. And, between the births of my two children, BPA in plastic baby bottles became a concern so even though the kids were only two years apart and I could have easily used the hand-me-downs for my second child, I bought an entire new set of BPA free baby bottles instead. FYI -- Just last month the FDA officially banned BPA in baby bottles and cups.

The mindset in my part of town is that breast is best. The stereotype this communicates, intentional or not, is that mothers who don't breastfeed are bad mothers. With this pro-breastfeeding mindset as part of the overall pro-natural processes trend I was following, it goes without saying that I wanted to breastfeed my children and was able to. So, of course, I was listening intently when I heard on the news that Mayor Bloomberg of New York City is launching his Latch On NYC initiative. At first I was excited by the idea, cheering on Bloomberg in my living room. But, then, as I heard more about the program my enthusiasm turned to concern. Here are some of the major components of the initiative, which is expected to be implemented at 27 New York-area hospitals by Labor Day.

1) Overall promoting, encouraging, and supporting breastfeeding initiatives.

Check. Wonderful. At NYU Langone Medical Center's maternity floor I received a tremendous amount of round the clock support for breastfeeding including a drop by/at-request lactation consultant and breastfeeding classes every day. I needed it. I assumed my brand new baby would know what to do. I was wrong! Clearly that was a bit too much pressure on a new born. The first three weeks were painful. So I was grateful for the support and lasted ten months breastfeeding as a result. But I've heard stories of nurses who simply said, "then try formula" when the mom was having a hard time breast feeding!

2) Prohibiting display and distribution of promotional materials for formula.

Okay. I get it. Subliminal messages on these promotional materials may make women more likely to resort to formula more quickly. I would prefer to see the studies that say there is a direct correlation here, but I get it. For me, the promotional materials amounted to great freebies I could take home with me. Coupon for formula was good to have handy in case I needed it, but I was way more interested in the free changing pad, diaper bag, insulated bag each of which came with that coupon (at least the ones that were available at the excellent Madison Avenue High Risk Pregnancy Obstetrician's office I used for both births). I could afford to buy my own, so these were nice extras. My mom had her own diaper bag for a while thanks to these promotional materials. So getting rid of these promotional materials seemed like a reasonable technique to combat pro-formula mindsets. After all, since no one makes money off of breastfeeding -- except the family that chooses to do it -- there is no counter promotional material for breastfeeding.

3) Discontinuing the distribution of promotional or free infant formula.

Ok. Lost me on this one. Again, I breastfed, but I could certainly see the value of free formula for someone who didn't want to breastfeed. And there's the catch. Bloomberg's plan gives free formula to mother's who need to use formula because there is a medical reason that they cannot breastfeed. The hospital is required to document the need. Bloomberg's plan does not give free formula to mother's who want to feed formula. "Want" is such a strange word. "Want" suggests choice, free will, preference, options. Listen, I recognize that I come from a place of privilege. And I also recognize that as mothers, regardless of life circumstance, "want" to breastfeed because of the health benefits of doing so. So for me, not having access to free formula would not necessarily be a burden. But, consider each of the following:
  • a mother who works.
  • a mother who works at a place that does not comply with workplace lactation laws.
  • a mother who works at two jobs simultaneously.
  • a mother who is poor, regardless of her work situation.
  • a single mother
  • a mother of multiple children of various ages.
  • a mother of twins, triplets, and so forth.
  • a mother who is going to law school or medical school.
  • a mother who is going to college.
  • a mother who is going to high school.
  • a mother who is feeling signs of depression or an anxiety disorder.
  • a mother who is still debating whether to give her child up for adoption.
  • a mother who lives with or near a physically abusive partner.
  • a mother who lives with or near a psychologically abusive partner.
  • a mother who is physically or psychologically abusive.
  • a mother whose new baby is a product of rape.
Listen, trends -- like societal support for breastfeeding -- are for those with the luxury to financially, physically, and psychologically afford them. New moms may "want" to feed their babies formula because of the palpable real life constraints they face against breastfeeding each day. These mothers are not likely to be able or willing to provide document-able medical reasons for that choice and, so, will suffer under Bloomberg's Latch On NYC .