Over the weekend, The New York Post broke a story that the as part of Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Latch On NYC initiative, participating hospitals will now start locking up and monitoring their allocation of baby formula, writing down each time a nursing mother is given formula.
With each bottle a mother requests and receives, she’ll also get a talking-to. Staffers will explain why she should offer the breast instead,” the Post explained. “Like most of Mayor Bloomberg’s health measure, this one came with a furious outcry, and a Post columnist wrote this week:
Lots of new moms are surprised at just how hard it is to get your bundle of joy to actually connect to a real nipple. (Somehow, it’s something all those experienced older female relatives fail to mention when they’re urging you to expand the family.)
Making formula more difficult to get in the hospital will only lead to frustrated staff and distraught mothers of hungry babies.
A Daily News columnist said much the same, writing “I remember electing a mayor — I don’t remember electing a mother.”
Today, the Bloomberg administration began pushing back. Debbie Kaplan, a top official in the Health Dept., went on CNN this morning, and this afternoon the administration sent out a “clarifying” memo to reporters in an effort to clear up any confusion.
The memo notes that mothers’ wishes, and that the measure only refrains from supplementing with formula for women who want to breast feed. And, the memo notes, “The initiative does not require hospitals to ‘hide’ or ‘lock up’ formula, nor does it restrict access to it for those who want it.”
They also note that many of the requirements in the initiative, like documenting when newborns are given formula and telling mothers the benefits of breastfeeding are already a part of state law or hospital guidelines.
The full memo is below:
· The initiative is designed to support a mother who decides that she wants to breast-feed by asking hospital staff to respect the mother’s wishes and refrain from supplementing her baby with formula (unless it becomes medically necessary or the mother changes her mind). It does not restrict the mother’s nursing options in any way – nor does it restrict access to formula for those who want it.
· This initiative is aimed at hospital staff, in that it is designed to ensure that they respect and support a mother’s request/desire to breastfeed. For example, showing a mother the breastfeeding positions, including how to get the baby to latch on correctly, and how to know when the baby is hungry and has gotten enough to eat.
· 90% of mothers start off breast-feeding so we know that the intent is there. The is a rapid drop off in breastfeeding within the first two months after the baby is born.
· There is not a mandated talk (or lecture) every time formula is given. In fact, New York State Law already requires that mothers be provided accurate information on the benefits of breastfeeding. This initiative simply ensures that hospitals are in compliance with State Law.
· If a mother decides she wants to use formula (or a combination), she will be supported in her decision and her baby will be given formula during the hospital stay. Likewise, if the mother changes her mind or requests formula at any time, her baby will be given formula.
· If a baby demonstrates a need for additional nourishment, whether in the middle of the nigh or not, or if s/he is hysterical crying or not, staff will not hesitate to provide formula to complement. Formula is readily available for use by staff at any time as needed.
· The initiative does not require hospitals to “hide” or “lock up” formula, nor does it restrict access to it for those who want it. Based on research showing that the dispensing of gift bags containing formula result in decreased breastfeeding rates once leaving the hospital, the Health Department recommends that hospitals not include formula in gift bags.
· Finally, regarding the “log,” hospitals already require new moms to fill out a log indicating not only every time she feeds her infant, but also every time s/he is changed and what the diaper contained.