Twenty-seven hospitals in New York City have signed on to participate in the Department of Health’s new initiative Latch on NYC, a program that encourages breastfeeding for new mothers by limiting access to formula. Ninety percent of mothers begin by breastfeeding, but two-thirds incorporate formula to some degree after two months.
The program, which will roll into effect September 3, will also require that infants not be supplemented with formula unless it’s indicated on their medical records. But not every mother is on board with the new initiative.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is the author of a new article in The Atlantic entitled "A Woman’s Right to Choose (Not to Breastfeed)." She criticizes the policy as both an infringement on personal rights and an invasion of mothers' privacy.
Under the new initiative, participating hospitals will be removed from maternity wards to encourage women to breastfeed. Breast milk offers numerous nutritional benefits, and the program is designed to educate mothers and families about those benefits.
In Lemmon's opinion, however, 'Latch on NYC' is pursuing the right goal in the wrong way. "Education is terrific; giving parents choices is terrific, but I think dictating choices and shaming new parents isn't helpful, and I don't think it actually achieves the end goal," Lemmon says. Having formula locked away, and requiring that parents give an explanation as to why they want to choose formula over breast milk, seems counterintuitive to Lemmon.
"I do think that offering formula as an option in the hospital, and easing parents into this transition of becoming parents without judging them and without stigmatizing them, but continuing to educate them is entirely different than making them feel guilty or shamed."
"I think the key to helping more moms to breastfeed is helping and encouraging, and not judging them," Lemmon says. She fears that the initiative will add guilt, shame, and discomfort to new parents who make the decision to feed their newborns with formula for whatever private reason.