The city's Health and Hospitals Corporation has opted to remove formula from the "goodie-bags" new moms take home with them. And in its place? A onesie with "I Eat at Mom's" emblazoned across the front. The idea is that by removing the cans of formula, more women will choose to breastfeed their babies.
In theory, it's a great idea. The benefits of breastmilk for babies are well-documented. However, there are several problems with the action taken by NYC Public Hospitals, namely that not all women are able to breastfeed, and some simply choose not to for myriad reasons.
I received such a goodie bag when Isabella was born. And inside, among other things, was two cans of formula. Over the course of the first few months of Isabella's life, I received cans upon cans of free formula in the mail. They collected dust in my basement until I donated them to a women's shelter. Why? Because I chose to breastfeed. Because breastfeeding was both easy and convenient for me. Because Isabella took to it like a champ at birth. Because I had the luxury of being able to be home for the past year to feed her, without having to pump much at all.But this isn't the case for all moms. I have friends who wanted to breastfeed their babies, but were physically unable to, either because they didn't produce enough milk, or their babies had trouble latching on, or because they were taking medication that precluded breastfeeding.
And what about the moms who choose not to for whatever their personal reasons may be? Many moms who work for an hourly wage as hotel maids, servers in restaurants, or bus drivers likely choose not to breastfeed because their jobs hardly afford them the time or the private room they need every few hours to pump in order to keep their children on breastmilk. It's just not feasible for many mothers. I know that had I been working in my office for the past year, I would have had to pump in the cleaning supply room or the bathroom because there were no private and unoccupied rooms available, and before my company moved buildings a few months ago, I worked out of a cube. Would I have continued to breastfeed if I had had to deal with these "accomodations" at least twice a day, five days a week? I'm not sure.
Yes, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies until they are at least six months old. But infant formula is hardly crack cocaine. And let's face it. The last thing needed by new mothers, who are already shaky and uncertain about the care of their newborns, is the guilt that will inevitably come along once they learn that they're choosing (or unable) to do what the health professionals at the hospital think they should if they "really cared about their babies."
Each woman makes decisions that she feels are in the best interest of her own children. What women do not need is a guilt trip because someone else is making a very personal choice for her.
I think we have enough of this kind of problem to deal with elsewhere.