By Amy L. Hatch
Some hospitals in New York City will shortly be eliminating the swag bags that nearly all new moms get when they give birth in a medical center — bags of goodies that are generally filled with items sponsored by makers of baby formula, including a sample of the stuff for them to take home.
On top of the bag ban, The New York Post reports that hospital staff will record a medical reason for every bottle of forumla fed to an infant as part of the city’s “Latch On NYC” program, a voluntary initiative in which 27 out of 40 city hospitals have agreed to participate.
Ah, breastfeeding, you offer me such wonderful fodder! Really, this is just too easy, people. This is like shooting fish in a barrel, isn’t it? A municipal government reaching out to monitor how moms choose to feed their newborns?
I mean, really?
Let’s pause for a minute and think about the mom whose best efforts at breastfeeding just aren’t working for her or for her child. Let’s pause for a minute to consider her frustration, her disappointment, her exhaustion, her raging hormones and yes, her shame (because we live in a culture that shames moms for bottle feeding, yes, yes we do). Let’s consider her sense of failure because she can’t make this “natural” and “best” method of feeding work.
And then, imagine that the staff taking care of her has to note her failure in her child’s medical records, with every single bottle that baby eats.
I know what it feels like to be unable to breastfeed. By my third day in the hospital my daughter was red-faced and screaming, so hungry was she. I was beyond frustrated and I had to finally tell the lactation consultant — nay, demand — that I get a bottle for her. The nurse pursed up her lips in disapproval, kicking off a year of sideways glances and intrusive questions.
No, I am not exaggerating. And that was almost eight years ago, well before the Lactivist movement reached its full force.
Breast might be best for some people, but as my physician brother-in-law has pointed out to me countless times, formula has driven the infant mortality rates down over the years — because it prevented babies from starving.
Moms vs. moms in this debate is one thing — after all, we have a few things in common, you know, like breasts and wombs. But for a municipal entity to stick its nose in my parental business is something else entirely.
The program is voluntary, and swag bags could be considered an inappropriate marketing push by over-eager brands. But here’s the thing: Parents can choose to leave them behind when they take baby home.
And there’s that rub, the one that keeps showing up again and again — personal choice.