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New York City to "Hide" Formula to Encourage Breastfeeding

By Katie |

I’m going to try to keep my temper in check for this one.

Mayor Bloomberg of New York City is getting local hospitals to lock up their formula as a method of encouraging more mothers to breastfeed. 27 of 40 hospitals in the city have agreed to hide their formula, as well as to stop giving out formula samples and bags, lanyards or other paraphernalia emblazened with formula logos. Because obviously that lanyard is the reason that someone will or won’t breastfeed.

And not only is the formula inaccessible to mothers, in order to get it, nurses have to document a medical reason for distributing it and every time a mother requests a bottle, they will receive education on the benefits of breastfeeding.

I admire that New York is trying to encourage mothers to breastfeed, but they could not be going about it in a worse manner if they tried.

Educating a mother on the benefits of breastfeeding is a fantastic idea, we should be giving all women the tools to make the best decisions for themselves and for their babies. But there is a time and a place. The right time for this education is at prenatal appointments, where women can discuss the benefits with a physician they are familiar with. The right time for this education is in a childbirth class where everyone has come to learn. The right time for this education might even be in the hospital, especially if a mother is on the fence or has not had access to prenatal care/education.

The time for this education is NOT after a mother has asked for formula. By that point she has made a decision for her child. Educating her on the benefits of breastmilk at this point in time serves only to shame her for her decision or to guilt her out of it. The days immediately following childbirth are not days where the medical personnel responsible for your care should be making you feel bad. I cannot imagine trying to heal, take care of my infant and manage a guilt trip from my nurse, even a well intended one.

I tried desperately to breastfeed my son. That was all I did his first 24 hours and despite the assistance of 4 nurses and a lactation consultant, Eli never latched on. At 24 hours, he started showing signs of dehydration and so, at the suggestion of the LC, we requested formula. I wanted nothing more than for him to be nourished only by breast milk, so I was devastated that his first food wouldn’t come from me, but I made that choice for his well-being.

I cannot begin to tell you how completely awful I would’ve felt if the nurse then educated me on the benefits of breast milk. That decision was already unbelievably difficult without “education” on top of it.

But more than that, if a woman doesn’t want to breastfeed, she shouldn’t be harassed or forcibly educated if she doesn’t want to be. Plenty of women know the benefits of breast milk and choose formula for reasons that are no one else’s business, least not the mayor of New York City.

There is a time and a place to promote breastfeeding, but there is also a time to support and respect a mother’s decision and it seems NYC and Michael Bloomberg may have those times confused and it’s a tremendous shame.


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Katie is a former teacher, part-time PT, wife, and first-time mother to the baby with the best ears on the Internet. You can find more of her grammatically questionable writing at her blog, Overflowing Brain. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katie's latest posts →

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9 thoughts on “New York City to "Hide" Formula to Encourage Breastfeeding

  1. Amanda says:

    I have a different opinion on this. I think moms throw in the towel too quickly because the formula option is easy. Breastfeeding is damn hard. I struggled a ton with flat nipples, mastitis, and returning to work full time. When I was at the hospital, I felt like I had to fight to breastfeed. I got 20 minutes with a lactation consultant and that was it. Fortunately, I took a breastfeeding class while I was pregnant, read extensively, and consulted with my mom friends. This self-education fueled my dedication to breastfeeding. I had no idea previously that breastfeeding helps prevent cancer (along with lots of other scary stuff) for the baby. It also lowers my risk of getting breast cancer and my mom is a breast cancer survivor.

    Babies lose weight after they are born and it takes a few days for a mother’s milk to come in. This is normal. If a baby’s weight gets seriously low, sure, maybe the baby needs an ounce of formula until the mother’s milk starts flowing. Then the formula’s job is over.

    I think if more people were educated and formula wasn’t so easy, more would stick with it. I mean, have you read the label of a formula can? I think though, that NYC needs to take the next step and provide the support of more lactation consultants, including consultations after the mother has left the hospital. A large number of my problems happened after I was at home with my daughter.

    American moms need to step it up when it comes to breastfeeding. We’re too quick to throw in the towel when it gets hard and the drug companies work overtime to make sure formula is everywhere. If a mom is having latching problems, she can see a lactation consultant and there’s always the option of pumping and feeding breast milk using a bottle. Sure, pumping is a pain, but breast milk is liquid gold.

    These are our children and we should be willing to struggle for the sake of their health. I’m glad NYC is providing more education and restricting overbearing drug companies that manufacture formula.

  2. katie says:

    Amanda, I think we have a fundamental disagreement in that you sound as though you believe that everyone can breastfeed and that people who ask for formula aren’t trying hard enough.

    I can tell you in no uncertain terms that that is untrue. There are women who cannot physically breastfeed. Who do not produce enough milk or like me, whose babies simply will not latch. I requested formula not because I didn’t try hard enough, but because I needed to make the best decision for my child who had become dehydrated from drinking nothing in his first 24 hours of life. Nothing. I didn’t need to try harder, nor did I need more education. I was well aware of the normal weight drops as well as the time it would take my milk to come in. My child would not breastfeed. I cannot understand how it is okay for other women to judge me for that decision. My child needed sustenance that he could or would not get from me. It was a decision for his health, and had nothing to do with the easy availability of formula, it had to do with the availability of a product that would nourish and hydrate my child. Those horrible drug companies, how dare they offer adequate nutrition?

    “Sure pumping is a pain” It sounds as though it’s not something you did when your baby was very small, because pumping once or twice at work is not the same at being an exclusive pumper, not by a long shot. Having to hand your child over to someone else 8 or more times a day to hook yourself up to a mechanical device, which only serves to remind you that you failed at breastfeeding, isn’t a pain. It’s awful, it’s nearly impossible to keep your supply growing with your child and it’s a very easy trip to PPD. It’s not a pain.

    I can assure you that formula feeding mothers struggle for the health of their children and it is sadly judgmental to say otherwise. I’d love for any state to provide more breastfeeding education long before a mother has delivered her baby, but I’d also love for more mothers to stop publicly judging and shaming anyone who makes a decision different from theirs.

  3. Paula says:

    My experience in the hospital (that has lactation consultants on staff) was very pro-formula. I had an unscheduled c-section and after I was finally able to hold my baby, I asked the nurse to show me how to feed my baby. She didn’t really know what to do, but tried to help. Later, an older nurse talked me into letting them give her formula and spend the night in the nursery, so I could rest and recover. I was really hesitant, but went along with it. I ended up figuring out how to breastfeed and still am 10 months later, but I think the attitude in the hospital was “why bother? Here is a bottle of ready made formula, give it to her and she will stop crying”. Which wasn’t a helpful attitude at all.

  4. katie says:

    Paula, that’s a terrible situation. It sounds like to me that the hospital staff if who needs more education there. I was blessed to deliver in a hospital where all the postpartum nurses are trained to help with breastfeeding and there is no nursery option (and I still ended up using formula). The environment is critical, so maybe the education of nurses is a better first step to encouraging breastfeeding.

  5. Amanda says:

    Nope, I never said that I thought that everyone could breastfeed. I understand that some can’t but the facts are that most can. I mean, formula didn’t really take off until the 1950s, so before that time breastfeeding was the only option. Now, I just think people are way too quick to resort to formula as soon as they hit the smallest roadbump.

    Of course I don’t understand your particular situation. It sounds like you are in that tiny percentage of moms who just can’t. Personally, if I couldn’t feed at the breast, I would pump and feed. Plenty of women exclusively pump, including some bloggers on this site. There’s support online and resourses to help keep up your supply. is incredible as well as the La Leche League. I pump 3 times a day at work and also an additional time in the evening after my baby goes to sleep to keep up my supply. I’d do it more if I had to. You of course have a choice and chose not to go that route. I’m not suggesting we force people to breastfeed. I think we need a culture shift towards reserving formula only for extreme circumstances and we should provide oodles of support who moms who want to breastfeed.

  6. katie says:

    I am currently exclusively pumping, and have been for my son’s entire 11 weeks. I do have to supplement with formula occasionally because it is extremely difficult to keep my supply growing without him nursing. I wouldn’t wish exclusive pumping on anyone, but it is important to me. See that’s the funny thing, I don’t feel my child formula when I can avoid it, but I believe other women should be free to feed their babies formula without hassle.

  7. Jasmin says:

    Mothers should stand together ínstead of judging other moms. Breastfeeding is wonderful and healthy, I agree. But if a woman wants to nurse and can’t, it’s awful to be commented by other mothers who have more luck with berastfeeding. And if a woman decides not to breastfeed or stops for her personal reasons, we should respect that.

  8. grey says:

    i gave birth in,a baby friendly hospital which means no formula i also happened to have a baby with hypoglycemia that i couldn’t see for the first 6 hours of her life they feed her once that was it when i came out of anesthesia i still couldn’t breestfeed they keep pressing me to breast feed meanwhile my baby got sicker cause she didn’t get enough to eat my point is government shouldn’t get

  9. grey says:

    i gave birth in,a baby friendly hospital which means no formula i also happened to have a baby with hypoglycemia that i couldn’t see for the first 6 hours of her life they feed her once that was it when i came out of anesthesia i still couldn’t breestfeed they keep pressing me to breast feed meanwhile my baby got sicker cause she didn’t get enough to eat my point is government or doctors shouldn’t get involved in how i choose to feed my ban

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