Bloomberg’s Formula Ban Is The Right Move, Here’s Why

COMMENTARY | New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems to only get in the news lately for being bossy (except when he’s criticizing someone else’s bossiness) but a new initiative he’s planning in New York City has moms on both side of the breastfeeding debate all charged up.

Essentially, Mayor Bloomberg is proposing a plan that makes access to formula in hospitals somewhat more limited, in what Fox News called “the most restrictive pro-breastfeeding program in the nation.” Fox is not alone in deriding the program, which begins September 3rd, as most coverage of the “formula ban” in New York City is framing the move as a restriction of mothers’ choices by an oppressive health regime in New York City, or lack of access to formula.

The ban in New York City is not the only instance of this issue being debated — medical professionals are largely in agreement that formula swag is a bad idea, but every time the problem comes up, someone pops up to complain their freedoms are being limited. The American Association of Pediatrics, for instance, is against formula marketing in hospitals, including freebies.

Man, do the formula companies have us PR’d to death, or what? If you have personally breastfed or tried to breastfeed a baby, you’re probably aware of the battle of breast vs. formula, and the same talking points that come up on either side of the debate. And formula samples given by hospitals are a biggie, because nowhere else in the Western world are formula companies allowed to market in this manner to nursing mothers — due to the fact formula marketing in hospitals is proven to harm a breastfeeding relationship.

While the issue is being framed as formula being “locked away,” what’s really happening is that the access by makers of formula to a captive audience of post-childbirth or sometimes post-surgery moms is being shut down, the gravy train of women who will be beholden to their companies stopped in the first few crucial days of a potential nursing relationship is ending.

Formula is being treated as a drug, and nurses who dole it out will be asked to track it. It doesn’t mean anyone will be forced to breastfeed, no registry of formula users is being compiled and no access to formula is being ended. It simply means the use of formula in hospitals will be treated as the use of any other nutritional supplement in lieu of other foods would be treated — that is to say, breastfeeding will be established as the norm, and not the other way around.

While it may be positioned as a loss of freedom, when a mom is offered free formula instead of an expensive lactation consultant only to be stuck with huge grocery bills after she leaves the hospital, is there really very much to find limiting about stopping that practice?