I was riding the subway the other day and couldn’t help notice the rather impressive breastfeeding poster splashed up there between ads for online degrees and affordable acne scar removal. I snapped this picture.
Our mayor has been making the news lately for his proposed ban of super-sized sugary sodas. Though he came under attack for this particular move, most New Yorkers and healthcare professionals would agree he’s done his constituents a huge service by banning smoking in restaurants and bars. Reminding New Yorkers that sugar can kill, just like smoke, was presumably a part of a preventative medicine strategy.
The push for breastfeeding– which includes “Latch On NYC” a citywide initiative to support breastfeeding mothers via changes to hospital policies regarding formula supplementation and a subway poster campaign via the Health Department– seems to be part of this overall plan to build infrastructure to help citizens make healthy choices.
We can all tell women to breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed (and we do!) but if the hospitals are going to provide lousy support and supplement most babies with formula (and, in doing so, convince moms that they are not *able* to provide enough food for their newborns), women are not only not going to breastfeed, they are going to feel like crap for failing and possibly (reasonably) resent the breastfeeding propagandists for cheering on something that is impossible to achieve.
About 70% of NY moms start breastfeeding but only 30% stick with exclusive breastfeeding after a couple months. Most of the women who supplement with formula early on because they fear they don’t have enough milk, according to a city press release. (This is sometimes inevitable–not all moms can make enough milk– but most often they can and low supply–or perceived low supply–can be prevented with good education and support for moms.)
Last year a report from the CDC showed that 96% of US hospitals fail to support breastfeeding. They do this with inconsistent and misinformed practices and policies, and by not implementing WHO’s 10 step plan to become “Baby Friendly.” The NYC initiative has asked regional hospitals to voluntarily step up with improved services for breastfeeding mothers.
I hope this campaign helps bring the words and images of breastfeeding into the broad NYC public consciousness in a generally positive way but more importantly I hope the PR campaign is married to real changes in the hospitals and doctor’s offices around the city.
Photo: Ceridwen Morris