Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, has caused a stir with “Latch On NYC” — a mandate to keep formula marketing away from new mothers in the city’s hospitals. Formula will still be available for moms who make that choice, but healthcare workers won’t just offer it anymore.
Less access to formula
This September, participating hospitals in New York City will limit formula supplementation to breastfed babies who have a medical necessity for it — in other words, nurses and other healthcare workers will not have the ability to offer formula to breastfeeding moms unless it’s requested or in their medical charts.
Participating hospitals will also be discouraged from handing out formula freebies and will reduce or eliminate formula marketing that appears in the form of promotional posters and magazines, in addition to other media.
In participating hospitals, formula will be held behind locked cabinets, similar to medication that needs to be checked out by staff, recorded in a chart and reported to the health department. The hope is that formula will cease to be routinely given out or offered to breastfeeding mothers — formula that often tempts new mothers who are attempting to establish a successful breastfeeding relationship. Rest assured, formula will still be available to moms who prefer to feed their babies that way.
“Human breast milk is best for babies and mothers,” said New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. “When babies receive supplementary formula in the hospital or mothers receive promotional baby formula on hospital discharge it can impede the establishment of an adequate milk supply and can undermine women’s confidence in breastfeeding. With this initiative the New York City health community is joining together to support mothers who choose to breastfeed.”
Blown out of proportion
Some feel that the mandates have been greatly exaggerated in the media, with some feeling that formula and formula-feeders are being demonized — but that isn’t the case. “They just aren’t allowing formula companies full access to new moms for marketing,” said Kelly, mom of two. “We do so much complaining that new moms don’t get enough breastfeeding support… so now we are saying, when a woman asks for formula, let’s help her with the breastfeeding if needed, and give her some education before handing the formula over. It’s not like they are saying you need a prescription for it!”
Unethical formula marketing
Breastfeeding advocates have noted for many years that the marketing tactics of formula companies are highly unethical. Formula marketing is specifically addressed by the World Health Organization and its code is continuously violated by formula companies in the United States. Of note, it reads: “Facilities of health care systems should not be used for the display of products within the scope of this Code, for placards or posters concerning such products, or for the distribution of material provided by a manufacturer or distributor.”
“Parading formula in front of new moms who might be struggling emotionally and learning a new skill (breastfeeding) is like a trap,” explained Heather, mom of two. “It is highly unethical and these things aren’t allowed in other countries.”
“Latch On NYC” may be misunderstood by many, but the good news is that New York is taking steps to bring its hospitals into alignment with the World Health Organization’s recommendations, which have the best interests of babies and their mothers in mind.