Mayor Bloomberg's Mammy State

Bloomberg’s new plan for encouraging breastfeeding by way of restricting the distribution of formula in hospital maternity wards has incited a lot of resistance. And rightly so. There are better ways to help women choose breast over bottle than limiting their options or shaming them into it.

At Slate’s Hanna Rosin writes :

Forward contributor Lenore Skenazy writes at the Daily News :

Everyone agrees, as Rosin writes, that breastfeeding, when a viable option, is better than formula. But that “viable option” bit is an important variable. When you run through all of the reasons why a women might not breastfeed — which I will get to next — it becomes pretty clear that more than 60% choose the bottle for reasons other than laziness.

A woman might not breastfeed because she has to go back to her job (or jobs), and those jobs don’t provide the time or space new moms need to pump. A woman might not breastfeed because, psychologicaly, she can’t manage the stress of feeding and tending to a newborn. Or she needs to go back on her anti-depressants to deal with postpartum blues. A woman might not breastfeed because she has to go to school. And a woman might not breastfeed simply because she has read the studies and has determined that there is not enough evidence concluding that it is essential for her baby’s health.

Most of these scenarios do not involve choice, but rather a juggling of work and childcare that simply does not leave time for the very time-consuming act of breastfeeding. You’d think that Bloomberg’s plan would try to take into account some of these problems new mothers face, instead of just locking up the formula.

Earlier this year, Save the Children released a report entitled the State of the World’s Mothers and in it the United States ranked last in breastfeeding support.

The report goes on to say:

There has to be someone in the Mayor’s office that sees the writing on the wall here. Yes, young mothers need more support with breastfeeding, or at least more education and support should they choose it.

But no, education and support by way of physically locking up what will inevitably be the most practical choice for many mothers won’t help. You want to help young mothers, Mayor Bloomberg? How about enforcing workplace lactation laws ? Or making sure more mothers get maternity leave? Or making lactation consultants more readily available? There are ways to help here, but the Mayor’s plan isn’t it.

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Mayor Bloomberg's Mammy State

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