So-Called 'Formula Ban' Helped Me Breastfeed My Babies

newborn breastfeedingIt's hard to imagine anyone being opposed to something that is good. Something that benefits babies, gives them the best start in life, and also is amazing for the mother. But often people have far too many issues with breastfeeding and everything and anything involving the topic. NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg is facing massive criticism about his Latch On NYC campaign. But his campaign -- the entire reason behind it -- is to help women like me who want to breastfeed but may need a little help.

I had my twins at NYU Langone Medical Center, which was a Baby Friendly hospital. That basically means they have lactation consultants available to help. My doctor knew I wanted to breastfeed my twins, but I ended up having a traumatic birth after getting preeclampsia/HELLP syndrome at 36 weeks. I didn't get to have that moment after birth of nursing my babies, but I was able to later with help from the nurses and lactation consultants.


Because of how sick I was, my twins were both formula fed and breastfed. And not one person made me feel guilty about that. Formula feeding and breastfeeding was what was best for my babies at that time -- what was best for me.

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As all parents know, something clicks in us the moment we become responsible for another being and we feel guilty about every little thing. It becomes our job -- this guilt. I wanted to breastfeed but because I was sick, I couldn't. The medicine I had to take was affecting my milk coming in, so I asked for help from the nurses and lactation consultants who were all so encouraging and kind. Without their support, I believe I wouldn't have succeeded at breastfeeding. Those early moments just after birth and soon after is critical. Breastfeeding is supply and demand. If there is no demand, there will be no supply. If baby isn't at the breast after birth or soon after, it can be more difficult for mama's milk to come in. It can affect production. It's during that critical time that new moms need support the most. This is how Latch On NYC will help moms.

NYC's Health Department initiative is to support mothers who choose to breastfeed meaning if you go in saying you want formula, you will get as much formula as you want without any hassle. But if you say you want to breastfeed, you will get help in achieving that goal. This is to be celebrated, not bashed. Just like I went into NYU with the goal of delivering healthy twins and they did everything to make sure I reached that goal. Moms who choose to breastfeed shouldn't be undermined by nurses pushing formula. There is no ban on formula. It's not locked up with a thrown-away key. It just needs to be signed out -- procedure. This is protection for the breastfeeding mother because a nurse will be less likely to give formula to a baby whose mother has said that she wants to breastfeed. Giving formula to a breastfed baby won't help mom out; it will do just the opposite. We pay to have our babies in hospitals -- it should be every breastfeeding woman's right to get more out of what we pay so much for. This initiative is all about support.

My twins were in a bassinet with a little card that said "I'm a breastfed baby", which meant that at each feeding I would try to breastfeed. I wasn't always successful in my five day stay at the hospital and never once did I feel pressure to nurse or formula feed from anyone. I tried each time and sometimes I just couldn't do it. My babies got formula without issues. The nurses and LCs and my husband supported me -- they encouraged me and told me how great I was doing even when I had my babies at my breast for less than a minute. They told me how it would get easier as I felt better, how I was doing a great job. They showed me positions to try that might be more comfortable for me because I was recovering from surgery and still had IVs and an almost constant blood pressure monitor. They showed me how just having baby at my breast would help -- they wanted me to have as much skin-on-skin as possible so my babies would continue to thrive and my milk would come in. They supplied me with a hospital grade pump to encourage more milk production. All of this worked. It was because of them and my desire to breastfeed my twins that I was successful. This will be something that all women under Latch On NYC will benefit from -- or from one of the many hospitals around the country that are offering more to help women breastfeed.

I breastfed my kids until they were 16 months old. And they had to quit me. They both self weaned, and while they were ready, I certainly wasn't. Breastfeeding, for me, was one of the most amazing things that came with being a mother. I could have easily been denied being a breastfeeding mom if formula marketing and tarnished agendas were involved like it is in many, many hospitals.

Free formula with an agenda to target mom doesn't belong in a hospital. New moms shouldn't be an agenda. A hospital's job should be to make sure their patients are getting the best care. And the best care for not only the new mom but the newborn baby is to help moms who want to breastfeed succeed at breastfeeding. Succeeding at breastfeeding doesn't include pushing formula. It does include having support. And having the support of a lactation consultant and the offering of a breastfeeding class is often just what a mom needs. Private visits from an LC can be expensive, but with this initiative it's all part of a new mom's care while she is in the hospital.

It's just like the first time you try riding a bike -- you can succeed with encouragement from mom and dad. But if your parents don't believe you can do it and just keep the training wheels on, it may take you much longer to learn. Sometimes breastfeeding doesn't come easy. Maybe you don't know anyone who has successfully nursed a baby, so you need help and support. That's why Latch On NYC is vital. That's why we need encouragement from the staff at the hospital. And that encouragement has to happen at birth because if you don't breastfeed while at the hospital, chances are you won't be able to once you get home.

The minute women become pregnant we also become targets for formula companies. It makes sense. They make a product and it has to sell for them to make money. Which is why it's so beautiful to see a campaign of any kind anywhere promoting breastfeeding. It's free. It saves money because breastfed babies are often healthier, meaning less doctor visits and need for treatments or medicine. Why would anyone be opposed to promoting and encouraging all the good that comes from breastfeeding?

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Those who don't believe in the power of subliminal advertising or that free samples don't persuade people into buying a product clearly are of the few who are immune. It happens. Plus, if the only formula baby had in the hospital was formula A, then you take baby home and try formula B but baby gets fussy, maybe even constipated, you go back to formula A. Of course formula A really wants to be the formula peddled at the start of baby's life.

But while far too many complain about Latch On NYC, not enough complain about the emails pregnant women get from formula companies pushing their product or the free or discounted formula given to hospitals to give to new parents or how wrong this all is. Formula companies need to sell, and new mothers shouldn't be prey. If you want free formula though, you can get it. I did! Just sign up for it on almost any formula company website and you will get free samples. We have to remember that a hospital is still a business and sometimes businesses get corrupt and there are maternity ward nurses in bed with formula companies pushing product on moms. Some even give out your email or home address and then you end up with free formula showing up on your doorstep. Look at all the free stuff my friend's sister -- a breastfeeding mom -- received unsolicited so far.

free formula

The key here is that hospitals agree to support women women who have chosen to breastfeed rather than quickly give them formula. And women who decide to formula feed get as much formula as they want without any hassle. This isn't a tirade against formula or moms who choose it. Formula is an amazing thing, if anything I think it should be regulated more as to ensure its safety for babies. This campaign just removes formula marketing from a place it doesn't belong. Actually, this whole campaign is really all about support -- support of mothers and babies. Positive, healthy, incredible, and very needed support. Yet many are getting hung up on what the campaign is not. Let's focus on what it is -- a campaign much like the practice I directly benefited from -- breastfeeding support for moms who want to breastfed. Moms deserve it.

I was just as much of a loving formula feed mom as I was a loving breastfeeding mom. And this type of support is what helped me be both.

What do you think of Latch On NYC?

Images via Michele Zipp; Vicki Buscemi; Daily Momtra

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