In addition to campaigns against binge drinking, cigarettes and soda, Mayor Bloomberg launched a campaign in May to support breastfeeding.His citywide initiative, Latch On NYC, prods maternity hospitals to stop handing out gift packs of formula upon discharge, a common practice.
In an interview with the Times’ Amnemona Hartocollis, health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the program is working. 20-three out of 40 NYC maternity hospitals had already signed on, 11 of which had similar policies already in place.
Still, consumers are scratching their heads about what Bloomberg, purveyor of the soda tax, would want to do with newborns or breastfeeding.
“Human breast milk is best for babies and mothers,” Commissioner Farley asserted. “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.”
That the latter issue was mentioned offers a clue in that it speaks to the infant formula industry’s unsavory past.
In the late 1970s, a London group called War On Want published an expose, “The Baby Killer,” on the promotion and sale of powdered baby milks to Third World mothers. Not only did it find these women were swayed by the industry’s marketing practices to blow their weekly wages on pricey formula—they were diluting the formula with contaminated water to make it last longer. Countless babies fell ill from malnutrition as a result, which in turn sparked a worldwide backlash against manufacturers like Nestle.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has long been an advocate of mother’s milk—it recommends babies be breastfed during the first 6 months of life. So despite the Big Brother complaints from critics of Bloomberg’s plan, it’s hard to argue with doing right by your firstborn child.
And breaking from the infant formula industry in such a dramatic way does more than just reinforce Bloomberg’s image as a “health advocate.” To women, this move may prove he’s a viable candidate in the next election. In a country increasingly divided by wealth and education, women are taking the reigns on their careers, outearning men and commanding the family purse strings.
It may very well be that Bloomberg is just putting his money where his vote is, one newborn at a time.
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