When I read the article about New York City’s new campaign to promote breastfeeding I got angry.
The Latch on NYC program is to support new mothers and promote breastfeeding.
I bet right now you’re confused, because I nursed my son to almost 10 months and am a strong supporter of breastfeeding.
But locking away the formula? Having staff restricted access and waiting for it to be on the chart before allowing it? And news sources are mentioning before each bottle a mother will be given a lecture every time they give a bottle why breastfeeding is better.
Now, New York City policies already protect mothers who want to nurse their babies from having supplementary feed unless it is medically necessary or at the wish of the mother.
I get it, some parts of the program are great.
The Latch on NYC supports not giving away free formula, and the program will help alleviate the large amount of NY births that have breastfeeding babies being supplemented with formula without medical reason.
The program gives support to new breastfeeding mothers, and it is sorely needed for that reason.
But, New York policies also state it is the mother’s right to choose which way they feed their child.
And since they mention that a large portion of nursing NYC women introduce the first bottle by the time their baby is a week old, they feel that the hospital is the best place to drill it in.
Cue the guilt, cue the fear, cue the stress.
I remember the sadness when my son needed to be supplemented in the hospital- I was a cesarean birth, like a good third of the births in the United States, and my milk supply started late. Let’s also talk about how it took 9 hours of my son not nursing before a consultant could come help me fix his latch. he became dehydrated so we supplemented the entire time I was in the hospital, and felt guilt and frustration every time.
After being discharged, my milk came in and while I was able to feed him without supplementing, I spent the next weeks and months worried about my son and how much he was getting.
Which, I know, every breastfeeding mom I became friends with also did.
The only thing that I found comforting and supportive was finding a free breastfeeding support group, Mother’s Breastfeeding Circle at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. Two lactation consultant nurses, each with multiple breastfed children offering encouragement and support, congratulating every ounce our babies drank, because any was better than none.
I felt supported and educated, and while I had a couple blips before my supply came tumbling down I had a well-fed, happy baby.
Unfortunately, all this had come after I tried what my hospital offered- paying to sit with a bunch or real new moms with babies and get a little help from my son, who was definitely older than the other babies and was mostly ignored, even though I really needed a lot of help.
Two years after our sons were born, one of my friends told me about all of the pushing to get her to be able to nurse her son exclusively. She attended a nursing support group for months trying. The marathon pumping sessions, the foods, the tricks, everything and nothing made her supply better.
Instead of having support she had more pressure and guilt laid on her as the ‘breast is best’ and was scared to talk about her struggles.
I’m proud of her for caring for him- proud of her for working so hard to get a couple ounces daily while mostly bottle-feeding. I think I was one of the first people to tell her that, two years after the fact.
90 percent of NYC moms start breastfeeding exclusively but by 2 months only 31 percent are still exclusively nursing.
Imagine how many mothers will have even more guilt as they struggle at home, after having breastfeeding exclusively statistics drilled into their bed, hiding and crying and feeling guilty and eventually heading down that same road that NY is trying to avoid.
Those first weeks is where they need support, not just the first couple of days.
The answer, NYC, instead of creating more guilt and stress there should be more free programs where moms could meet for free (not for $20 weekly) and get real support from medical staff. The two nurses that helped at our group also gave answers about other facets of new motherhood and were so helpful the first year, although that just happened as part of our discussions.
Imagine, those mothers who get help once, maybe twice in the hospital, have access to the same support when they need it, how those breast-fed baby numbers would rise.
I hope you latch on to that idea, NYC.