It’s funny how things happen in cycles. I’ll go weeks at a time writing about my dogs, husband, annoying people in lines and waiting rooms, and, I dunno, bees. And then a burst of woman-y posts spew forth.
Which brings me to New York City’s main man:
Last night I tweeted a Reuters article about New York state officials, and Mayor Bloomberg’s, newest ‘I-know-what’s-best-for-you’ initiative. In a nutshell, they want to dictate how new moms feed their babies. This morning I read several different articles on the topic to try and piece together the big picture, so while I clearly have an opinion on the matter, I will discuss both sides of the argument.
I don’t have children, and therefore people sometimes get all prickly whenever I write a post pertaining to parenting. But this isn’t just about parenting, it’s about choice, and women’s rights. Sure, breastfeeding is best for babies. I get it. But there are many reasons a mother might choose formula, whether it’s a medical issue, difficulties getting her child to feed, or her schedule won’t allow it. Or perhaps she simply doesn’t want to. And you know what? That is the choice of each individual. It isn’t for Mayor Bloomberg to decide. Motherhood, particularly for new moms, has the potential to be stressful and exhausting. Why should a mom have to request formula at the hospital, and then listen to a lecture from a nurse, who in turn has to sign out formula like medication? Are we really going to guilt women into breastfeeding? What’s next? Are you going to force mothers to use clothe diapers at the hospital, and if they want pampers they get a bad parenting ticket?
Okay, that’s one side. There are very valid arguments on the other as well.
First, we have the problem of marketing. Infant formula is given to hospitals for free in the hopes of locking down brand loyalty before a mother takes her child home. Also an issue is the fact that breeding a formula dependency early on poses the later problem of cost. Numerous programs assist in the cost of feeding children, such as WIC. But what about middle of the road folks that don’t qualify for government aid, and yet barely scrape by? Countless people fall into that category, and for them, breastfeeding is the most cost-effective option. If these women have a difficult time breastfeeding in the hospital and are given formula instead of proper support, their chances of breastfeeding afterward decrease. Eventually the free formula given to them by the hospital will run out, and the burden of paying for it is a heavy one for someone who lives paycheck to paycheck.
My initial reaction was to give the finger to Bloomie and his ‘I know what’s best for everybody’ attitude. But I do understand what they are trying to accomplish with the initiative. And it isn’t only in New York, similar things are happening in hospitals throughout the US, such as ceasing to send new moms home with diaper bags full of free formula.
Ultimately I don’t think this initiative is the answer. A woman’s body is her own. No one else, and certainly not Mayor Bloomberg, should have the right to dictate what she does with it. Just as I feel a woman has the right to choose whether or not to be a parent, and what birth control method to use, I also believe she is the person to make the decision whether or not to breastfeed. And that decision should be made without interference, and without guilt. Under this new initiative, a nurse must give a mandatory lecture about the benefits of breastfeeding before giving out formula. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but it’s probably the last thing a hormonal woman with a crying baby in her arms needs. She shouldn’t be forced to sit through a bunch of rhetoric before feeding her newborn.
Okay, now tell me what you think.