New York City Plan Will Lock Up Baby Formula in Hospitals

Cheryl Lock

New York City Plan Will Lock Up Baby Formula in HospitalsTo breastfeed or not to breastfeed—that is a new mom’s question.

If you’re a new mom in New York, though, the option to formula feed straight from the delivery room may have just gotten a little harder.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s new voluntary Latch On NYC initiative, which goes into effect in September, means that nurses in participating hospitals will be instructed not to give formula to babies unless there’s a medical reason to do so or unless moms request it.

Under this new plan, baby formula will now be locked away like other medications are, requiring a staff member to sign it out, track its distribution and report that information to the Health Department.

Twelve private New York City hospitals have already made the commitment to the initiative, according to the Latch On site, and all 11 public hospitals run by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation also joined (which is not surprising, considering their previous ban on formula from gift bags and promotional materials in 2007).
(Editor’s note: Time Healthland reports that 27 of the city’s 40 hospitals have agree to participate, so it seems even more hospitals have signed on to the plan since the city’s press release back in May.)

We talked all about the marketing that takes place in the maternity ward—to include those handy, dandy gift bags—here, and your comments were split. One mom commented that “the formula marketing is very insidious,” while another wrote, “I ended up donating the bottles of formula. I hear you can leave that behind to be donated as well in some hospitals. I think the bigger issue is the targeting of toys and media outlets for infants …”

New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said in a press release, “Human breast milk is best for babies and mothers. When babies receive supplementary formula in the hospital or mothers receive promotional baby formula on hospital discharge, it can impede the establishment of an adequate milk supply and can undermine women’s confidence in breastfeeding. With this initiative the New York City health community is joining together to support mothers who choose to breastfeed.”

What do you think? Is this a good idea, or would you prefer the formula samples?

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  • NYC Health Department

    We read your blog posting with interest and wanted to respond and address several inaccuracies.
    The piece states “Under this new plan, baby formula will now be locked away.”

     This is actually not the case:
    ·       In fact, the initiative does not require hospitals to “hide” or “lock up” formula, nor does it restrict access to it for those who want it.
    ·         Parents who want formula will not have to convince a nurse to sign it out by giving a medical reason. Parents can and always will be able to simply ask for formula and receive it – no medical necessity required, no written consent.
    ·         For 3 years, New York State Law has required that mothers be provided accurate information on the benefits of breastfeeding. The City initiative does not require that mothers asking for formula receive a lecture.  
    Ultimately, our goal is to support a mother in whatever decision she makes when it comes to nursing her baby and this initiative specifically is designed to support a mother who decides that she wants to breast-feed by asking participating hospital staff to respect her and refrain from automatically supplementing her baby with formula (unless it becomes medically necessary or the mother changes her mind).
    Bottom line: It does not restrict the mother’s nursing options in any way – nor does it restrict access to formula for those who want it. 

    • Powerdawg

      While the medical facts on the benefits of breastfeeding can’t be argued with, I do have an objection to this policy based on my experience with my first son.   The milk nazis immediately latched on to my wife and I coming from the delivery room and went into the whole song and dance about breastfeeding.  Our newborn vommitted after his first feeding, and then refused to take to his mother’s breast.  These milk nazis then would NOT allow us to try formula, and pulled out all the stops to get our son to latch on to his mother’s breast, even going as far as physically shoving his head into the breast.  He would eat and then puke.  We went through this for three days before a doctor finally figured out that our son had an allergy to the proteins in the breast milk.   The point is that if a newborn doesn’t immediately take to the breast, formula shouldn’t be ruled out.  To this day I feel bad about letting these people basicaly starve my son in the name of breast feeding.  I strongly believe in the benefits of breastmilk, but not at the cost of the health of a newborn. 

  • CherylMLock

    To the NYC Health Department, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on our article–we appreciate your feedback! Having said that, the inconsistencies that you mention in your comment actually do not appear in our article. We already do make mention of the fact that moms can get formula now through one of two ways, either by medical necessity or by asking, but we never mention a lecture by a nurse. Again, thank you for your input, and we hope to see you back here at LearnVest again!