The breastfeeding nazis descend on NY

The wheels of the breastfeeding propaganda machine are rolling furiously in the state of New York. The state has banned the distribution of formula samples and any material promoting formula feeding from the diaper bags hospitals usually send mother’s home with. In an effort to promote breastfeeding, the bags are now being filled with disposable nursing pads, a mini-cooler for breast milk and a t-shirt for the newly born baby that says “I eat at Mom’s.” One of the hospitals, Jacobi in the Bronx, tried to obliterate formula feeding all together in 2005. Mothers can still get formula, but they have to make a special request for it. And if the nurses and staff in New York are anything like the ones I encountered here in Indiana, I feel for the poor woman who has the guts to ask for formula.

 

I understand why doctors are trying to get more mothers to breastfeed. It’s natural. It contains antibodies that babies need. It is the food Mother Nature intended little babies to be brought up on, and hey, it smells better than formula. However doctors, nurses, lactation consultants and it seems like everyone else in America has gone past encouraging mothers to breastfeed and have started a campaign to force them to do it. I won’t go into my ordeal with breastfeeding again here, I have a whole other blog on it, but suffice it to say that everyone around me made me feel like a failure because I couldn’t breastfeed my son. I tried, but nature had other plans.

 

So, what happens to women like me who even though we want to breastfeed, can’t? Or what about women who just don’t want to? We will yet again be made to feel like neglectful parents when we ask for the formula samples. While I’m sure the nurses will eventually hand over the dreaded formula can, I wonder how long of a lecture the new moms of the Big Apple will have to endure to get it and how many will rethink their choice and potentially put their babies in danger because of the pressure to breastfeed.

For those of you who don’t have children, getting a formula sample may not seem like a big deal. Formula is expensive and for at least the first four months of life (preferably the first six), it is all babies eat. An average can has about 26 ounces of powder in it and the name brands run about $22 a can. At five months, my son eats between 28-35 ounces each day. Keep in mind that the for each 6 oz bottle he eats, I only put three scoops of powder in, which equals about an ounce of powder. Still, since he eats that much five times a day that means a can of formula lasts about 5 days. In an average month, that means spending $120 on formula. Those formula samples in the diaper bags also come with formula coupons for as much as $7.00 off a can of formula. They also have feeding information, and websites to sign up on for more coupons, answers to common baby questions and lots of other good baby information, plus the companies will send you additional samples when you sign up on their websites. All in all, I got five free cans of formula, which saved me quite a bit of money, not to mention all I saved with the coupons which even places like Sam’s Club take. Luckily my son is not a picky eater and is just as happy with the discount formula Target makes, so instead of costing me $22 a can, I only spend about $12. Many babies, like my nephew, have sensitive stomachs or other digestive problems that require special formulas, so the free samples and savings really come in handy.

 

I’m not saying hospital staff members shouldn’t encourage new mothers to breastfeed. It is the best food for new babies, but the idea of banning formula samples from gift bags is too extreme. Even women who do decide to breastfeed occasionally rely on formula to help them when they can’t pump enough and have to be away from their babies. Several of my friends do this. Why not help them out? If women decide they have no use for formula, they can always give it back to the hospital or donate it to a local food pantry. Simply not making it readily available is the bully’s way of trying to get women to do what a group of people deem is best for them.

 Although this is not the website I first read about the story on, if you want to check out the story as well as a lot of moms on both sides of the issue, you can go here. I thought about posting on that site too, especially since so many of the mothers who are so adamant about breastfeeding are saying that the formula ban is great because formula is bad for babies and the women who do it are terrible parents. Ok, not entirely true, but there is definitely an undertone of condescension toward those of us who have to, or chose to give our babies bottles. The one woman who said, “I assume, Sabrina, that if you’re a mother in NYC and you have a baby and you don’t want to breastfeed, you go out and buy formula. What a concept – buying things instead of expecting to just get it for free!” particularly pissed me off. Granted, I understand that choosing formula is pinning your family into a pretty hefty financial commitment, but if formula is your choice, and the companies are willing to give you free formula and coupons, why should mothers be made to feel like they are cheap, free loading individuals for wanting a little financial help for a product that is going to be a major expense for the first year? Breast milk is free and that’s great for families who want to do it, but why belittle those who don’t?  Another post that got under my skin is this one:          

   I am pretty sure most of you are missing the point; the formula companies present new moms with gift  packs of formula – it is a method of branding the mom and it is an easy way in the beginning to get the mom to use the formula instead of sticking it through. How often have we been in the position that we have a new baby, been very tired and thought about the rule that breastfed babies feed about every 2 hours, bottle fed every 4 hours. Every four hours, four hours… I could sleep!                 Or we worry that the fussing is about hunger and if the formula is next to us, we use it.                Or its just an easy thing to turn to if you worry. When these “gift packs” are given to new moms we                 are given an out at a vulnerable time, when we need help to follow through with what is best for our   babies. So, to not willy nilly give out the “free” formula will boost breastfeeding, but I am positive that since there are times when infants need formula doctors are going to have it on hand and since it is so incredibly lucrative for the industry they will seed the doctors with packs like other pharmaceutical companies do with their drugs. The only thing this law will do is make sure those of us who do not ask for formula are not given it, and that’s it. 

This is exactly the mentality that will keep new moms from asking for formula. The assumption that all formula mothers are dumb enough to fall for company “branding” is insulting. Yes, I used Enfamil for the first few months of my son’s life, but that was because I got a lot of free samples of it. When I was sure my son was adapting to it and not going to have bad reactions, I moved on to the discount formulas. I am intelligent enough to think for myself. The second assumption that moms who use formula are lazy is probably the most insulting of all, and also the general attitude I ran up against every time someone who didn’t know me saw me pull out a bottle. The gift packs, ironic quotes aside, are given when new moms are vulnerable, that is true. I wanted to do what was best for my son, so I only breast fed him because that’s all I’d been told to do. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly (and yes, I know, a bit like a broken record), what was best for him was formula. Knowledgeable doctors, nurses and lactation consultants didn’t stop my son from coming home despite the fact he wasn’t thriving. In their enthusiasm to keep me breastfeeding, they overlooked the fact that my baby wasn’t eating properly. Formula wasn’t any kind of quick fix for me, but even if it was, what does it matter to anyone else? It’s attitudes like the one above that crush new moms and make us feel inadequate. It’s attitudes like these that bring about bans on perfectly legitimate nutritional options for children.  

All New York is doing is adding stress to otherwise overstressed new mothers. While I am totally in support of any mother who chooses to breastfeed, I’m in equal support of any mother who reaches for formula. We’re all doing what we thing is best for our babies, and sometimes, whether breastfeeding advocates like it or not, that is providing our children with happy, healthy, sane mothers who don’t spend their days crying their eyes out due to breastfeeding difficulties. I’ve talked to a lot of new moms and haven’t met a single one who has shown any disdain for breastfeeding moms. I have not, however, encountered the same reaction when talking about formula feeding babies.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “The breastfeeding nazis descend on NY

  1. Yes, new moms should not be made to feel badly–we all just do the best we can. But here is the thing no one is talking about. . .it is substantially cheaper for a hospital to ban formula than it is to hand it out. I’m too tired (LOL and lazy right now) to post links and gosh, if I don’t hate it when people do that in my blog. . .but here’s how it works:

    Statistics show that breastfed babies are healthier (yes, I know–lots of formula fed babies are healthy too but let’s remember statistics refer to large groups) so out of 100 breastfed full term babies. . .about 1 ends up the hospital from RSV, asthma, or dehyration. Out of a group of 100 formula fed babies about 7-10 end up in the hospital for the same things. Without going into all the variables, hospitals who participate in the Baby Friendly Initiative (basically a ban on formula) estimate that they save more than 2 million dollars per year by NOT handing out formula! From the hospital’s perspective–why would you hand out formula? Not to mention the fact that the Baby Friendly Initiative works to substnatially increase breastfeeding rates.

    The other thing that I’m not sure any one would know unless they lived in NYC was that along with banning formula, they are improving services to moms that include the necessary support (bc we all know that breastfeeding is natural but doesn’t always come naturally) as well as parent counseling (and in these areas this is crucial.)

    So I say hooray for the breastfeeding Nazi’s! No one can make you feel guilty without your permission!

  2. beetqueen

    It’s interesting that you bring up RSV since my breastfed neice and nephew both have it, and along with their brother they spend more time in the hospital emergency room and doctor’s office than any kids I know. My formula fed nephews and neice have never been sick except for minor colds and one case of pink eye, which is, of course, not related. My breastfed baby also almost ended up in the hospital for dehydration, but since he’s been on formula, has had no problems. I realize these may be exceptions to the rule, but I still find them interesting that several exceptions exist so close to me.

    As for the idea that no one can make you feel guilty if you don’t let them, I totally disagree. Both my sister and I were racked with guilt by the constant harrassment and rude comments we recieved from nurses, doctors and lactation consultants. They truly made us feel we were hurting our babies because we could not breastfeed them. I didn’t want to feel guilty, but there is so much pressure these days to breastfeed that not being able to naturally do it made me feel like a failure as a mother. I felt inadequate and unworthy of my beautiful son and while a lot of that was pressure I put on myself, the total lack of support I got from the medical profession (with the exception of my pediatrician, who was understanding, although still repeating how much better it would be if I could breastfeed him), did nothing to help me through the ordeal.

    I’m all for encouraging breastfeeding. I think it is great to promote it, however treating non-breastfeeding moms the way I and a multitude of formula moms I’ve talked to were treated shouldn’t be tolerated.

  3. GB

    Please stop writing about gross things. Thanks.

  4. My friend Annie went through the same thing. There just wasn’t enough for her daughter.
    Luckily, she warned her friend Abbie, who just had a baby yesterday, about the breastfeeding Nazis.
    At the hospital I guess they tried to make her feel really guilty about not feeding practically upon giving birth. They were shoving the baby in her arms an hour later and shouting “She’s HUNGRY!” But she hadn’t even started to produce milk yet. Abbie plans to pump but does not want to breast feed and people are freaking out about that, even.

  5. Twinzplus3 makes absolutely zero sense. The hospital doesn’t save a dime for not handing out formula. The statistics provided, if true, might mean that hospitals _estimate_ they save 2 million dollars but it makes three grand assumptions.

    1) That all babies _can_ be breastfed.
    2)That handing out formula encourages formula feeding, which may be true, but to what extent?
    3)That passing a law was the right way to handle this “problem.”

    Points 1 and 2 might conceivably be included in the statistics that generated the potential savings report but that doesn’t address point 3. Kmart could stop carrying Angelsoft brand toilet paper without requiring a law be passed first.

    Furthermore, would Twinzplus3 be so quick to jump up and defend the hospitals _economic_ interest if the formula corporations got together to pay each hospital 2 million and 1 dollars to continue to handout formula? Or was that just a cop out to avoid addressing the issues that Beetqueen brings up in the post?

    Of course, I’m just an ignorant blowhard who won’t continue reading about this issue until it gets closer to home. So feel free to ignore me.

  6. Julise

    This is about women trying to control other women. Its that simple. Breastfeeding nazis think all women should be able to breastfeed their child until the child is four years of age, or older; and if a woman doesn’t do it, she’s a bad mom and a bad person.

    In fact, these women want to push for a legal ban on all infant formula. This would mean women who couldn’t breastfeed, would have no options at all for feeding their child. And buying another woman’s breast milk can be very expensive and there can be long waiting lists for it.

    These angry women who are lashing out at formula feeding moms, really need to get a life – in a hurry.

  7. beetqueen

    Not to mention that buying someone else’s breast milk isn’t necessarily better for the kid. One purpose of breast milk is to pass on the mother’s antibodies and such. If it’s not from the kid’s mother, it doesn’t have quite the same effect. Plus, that mother may eat something your child is allergic to. There are a host of potential problems with that.

  8. Kelley422

    Thanks for this blog! I am pregnant with my 2nd kid and am really dreading the onslaught of the breastfeeding nazis. However, this time around I am a lot more confident about what I can and cannot do and have absolutely no problem telling these idiots to butt out.

    In fact, I am looking forward to it!

  9. Sandra

    The trouble with the breast feeding proponents is that they usually have very good milk supply and generally it is effortless for them. I think they under estimate how much of a problem under supply for most women is. Alot of women HAVE to back up with formula because our babies are still HUNGRY. The breast feeding association is setting the bar too high – Exclusive BF for the first 6 months of life is all they need. HELLO – not for the majority of women I have spoken to when I actually did dig around and ask questions. 6 months of BF only would have left my child starving. I started solids at 4 months and my son could not stop eating food since. He at 7 months is still in the 50-60th percentile for his age – so I am not over feeding. If i had BF solely till 6 months he would have ended up starving under weight and crying.

    I was told in classes that babies can cry up to 3-4 hours in total in a day. And that this is ‘normal’. My son has never cried that much in a day. I seriously think the babies that cry that much must be starved from lack of nutrition due to mothers that persist in BF exclusively – martys for the cause. I think the babies that cry incessently like that the mother seriously has to consider whether her supply is low and if her child is STARVING. Yes it is about the BABY and if the child is STARVING and we cannot go to the village wet nurse then I for one will say it – thank god for formula and that we live in the modern age where the formulas mean we don’t have to run like idiots in our city villages looking for the local milk maid (aka wet nurse).

    I tried everything under the sun and could only produce about half of what my son needed. And I mean I tried everything. I exclusively pumped every 2-3 hours for a week to increase my supply and to see exactly how much was coming out. I still only ever made half of what he needed. I was feeling like crap and a ‘failure’ and then my own father and mother in law set me straight.

    Many years ago when a woman did not have enough milk in my dad’s village they would supplement with the village wet nurse – you know those women that are just blessed with abundant milk. Believe it or not BF nazis – nature does not always work to supply and demand for all women. So that you will produce exactly enough milk for your baby is a total myth. I saw it on myself and many of my friends and the women in our mother’s group.

    As for my mother in law in her village those who did not have enough milk or a wet nurse back up fed their baby – wait for it – cow’s milk. Yes from birth as a back-up. And guess what. All her 6 children 40-50 years on are here still living and breathing with no allergies.

    And you know what – thank god for formula. Cause if there is no wet nurse, no goat or cow in the village then our babies do not have to starve. You know 100 years ago babies use to get sick and die. Maybe lack of good milk from any source or a formula was a contributing factor.

    So BF nazis. Nature does not always provide. Stop setting the bar so high and making me feel less woman. I am sick of it. I

    Some babies out there are going really really hungry due to the BF bullcrapola propaganda. People have been supplementing in history when there was no such thing as formula. Nature does not always fully provide to every mother. And where nature cannot fully provide – baby was at risk of hunger and death.

    Thank god for the modern age.

    BF nazis – lower that bar and stop telling us that all women are capable of producing exactly enough milk for their babies. IT IS NOT TRUE for a bigger number of mothers than they would care to admit as it kills their propaganda message.

  10. Sandra

    to moderator . I gave the wrong email address above. I have now added my correct one

  11. Pingback: More breastfeeding snobbery « beetqueen

  12. Lilwing

    Sandra,
    You’ve claimed that exclusively breast fed babies cry mostly because they’re hungry. Absurd. How can you possibly access the needs of all breast fed babies? Sounds to me that you’re just as hostile toward breast feeding mothers as you claim the “nazis” to be against mothers who chose not to nurse. I have a four month old daughter who has been exclusively breast fed from day one. Admittedly, I have a plentiful supply. Nursing has been the easiest thing I have ever done. I recognize that I am lucky and many women who wish to breast feed, cannot. My daughter had many fussy days, crying almost all the time, not due to hunger. She has maintained a steady weight gain, and has been in the 94% for weight since birth. Her crying spells were due to gas, tiredness, boredom, etc. Just like formula fed babies.

    I feel the need to make it clear that while I support breast feeding and believe it’s best, I would never look down on anyone who can’t breast feed, or choses not to. The decision to breast feed, or to not, is personal and related to no one but mother and child. I recognize that most women who do support breast feeding have a “holier than thou” attitude, which is wrong. However, non breast feeding mothers making inaccurate accusations is equally laughable.

  13. beetqueen

    I do agree that both sides need to focus on tolerating each other. I’d prefer empathy or sympathy, but as that doesn’t seem so possible, it would be nice if both sides could just say, “yup, you are doing what is best for your kid, that’s great.” I just wish this didn’t bring up so much anger and criticism.

    Both sides make illogical and unreasonable arguments. Both sides expect too much.

  14. ddschoen

    I can attest to the fact that nurses take the formula out of the gift bag. I delivered my baby in Brooklyn and told the nurses that I would give breastfeeding a try and if it worked for me I would continue, if not I would either try to supplement with formula or give my daughter only formula. Before leaving the hospital, the nurse handed me a black diaper bag with the seal broken so she could remove the formula sample. I left with a previously opened bag with some coupons.
    After crying with my starving baby for 6 weeks straight, I finally listened to my sensible sister and switched to formula. I was producing about 2 ounces of breast milk while my baby was drinking up to 6 ounces of formula.
    That free sample would have been nice. Especially considering it was a gift for ME, not the nursing staff at the hospital.

    It is so important for there to be a community of loving mothers who formula feed.

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