I'll Take That Formula Can, Little Lady

Last week was National Breastfeeding Awareness Week. To celebrate, the public hospitals of New York City served up a heaping helping of mommy guilt to many of the women giving birth in their buildings.

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.

7 Responses to “I'll Take That Formula Can, Little Lady”

  1. # Anonymous Shannon

    The guilt thrust upon mothers who can't or don't choose to breastfeed is truly unbelievable. I've read several bloggers who could not breastfeed due to some medical or physical problem, and even after explaining the whys and wherefores in their blog, they still got the guilt trip from the La Leche group! WTF?  

  2. # Blogger M

    Here here! I am one of those mothers who chose not to breastfeed for personal reasons. I was not breastfed and I turned out fine...for the most part...okay maybe the jury's still out on that one...come to think of it, SHIT! Maybe I should have breastfed after all! LOL  

  3. # Anonymous sher

    Excellant post! I so agree with you. I've seen friends weeping because they can't breast feed, (it didn't work for them). And they felt ashamed, like they were a failure--all because of the heavy pressure they were under from others.  

  4. # Blogger sunShine

    I wish I could have gotten the onesie in my goody bag instead of the formula. I did breastfeed for a year, but I know that a lot of people don't. I think as long as your baby is healthy, then who cares?  

  5. # Blogger Marie

    I'd probably have shoved the shirt down someone's throat...

    It never occurred to me that my child wouldn't take to the breast! And I didn't need anyone adding to my massive pile of guilt and sadness over it.

    He's thriving after all that formula now though! All that worry & guilt for nothing....  

  6. # Blogger Damselfly

    I got a goody bag in the hospital, too, even though I told the nurses I was breastfeeding. My Similac bag (nice to have) included a booklet with tips on breastfeeding, of all things. And when I had to go back in the hospital five days after Fly was born, I was happy to have those formula samples because I couldn't nurse Fly for four days (which I blogged about).  

  7. # Blogger Shannon

    Thank God that I had that formula when we got home... Lore never ever latched on... and I never made enough milk... I think the hospitals are taking the wrong approach to this... plus since Lore was lactard... I would have had to cut out all diary... and when you do that it causes a really harsh depression... geez just what a new mom needs... but I think it is awesome that you were able too... rock on girl!  

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