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Modern Parenthood

Bloomberg breastfeeding plan: This mom wants choice, not nanny

Breastfeeding, whether a mother chooses to do it or not, is the focus of the "Latch On NYC" campaign, a new way Mayor Michael Bloomberg flexes the long arm of the nanny state. Why won't he butt out of a mother's personal choice?

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According to the AP the New York initiative is part of a national effort involving more than 600 hospitals, says Marsha Walker, a registered nurse and executive director of the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy, a nonprofit based in Weston, Mass.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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Then, however, we get the nanny goat on a much steeper incline and the rocks start to come loose on treacherous ground – when Bloomberg shuts the latch on the cupboards holding the formula. The idea presumably is to reduce temptation for nurses to push formula, but the image is a bad one.

Also, I am not sure how that message will translate to nurses who may then feel it's a chore to have to go through whatever the process becomes in order to sign out the formula. Will mothers who ask for formula be put in a position of feeling like bad moms for asking for the alternative? Having a baby is an intense emotional and physical experience. Giving a hospital the added prison matron image is not going to help a woman's body achieve the relaxed state it requires for the milk to "let-down."

Over 18-years and four sons, I have always had my babies room-in with me so that nurses would not bottle-feed them while I struggled to get them to latch on, because once a baby experiences the ease of the draw and richness of formula it's much harder to get them on task with mama. It's like raising a child on health food and then taking them for that one trip to McDonalds that hooks them on the wrong, er, udder. But that only led to tremendous pressure by hospital staff for me to go to the bottle because they feared the baby would not thrive.

In another New Jersey hospital with our third child, I insisted he room-in so he could nurse, but this hospital did not have a room-in policy and looked with deep suspicion on my insistence that the baby stay with me. The pressure nurses exerted trying to bottle-feed the baby was intense.

When a pediatrician who had not attended the birth noticed the baby's collarbone was broken (a common birth injury that the pediatrician attending the birth had not notated) the nurse who was coming in to try once again to force me to bottle feed called Child Protective Services. My husband called the doctor who delivered our son and barricaded the door with an armchair and sat in it until the OBGYN could get there to tell them the collar bone break was a common birth injury and breastfeeding was not evidence of bad parenting.

So today the pendulum swings. The formula is on lock-down and nurses are encouraged to be militant for the noncommercial cause.

I feel badly for the me 2.0 who may be in a New York City hospital being eyed as a potential formula cat burglar or feeling hovered over by well-meaning authorities who need to know that sometimes the best way to help is to give the information and then just butt out.

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