Breastfeeding Battle Scars

Celeste White is a 34-year-old mother of two who practices law in Lafayette and enjoys reading and running.

I’ve been breastfeeding my 8-month-old son since the day he was born, and I’m a true believer that breast is best. But I have to admit that when I heard that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg was pushing a controversial city-wide breastfeeding initiative to increase breastfeeding rates I immediately thought he was going too far. I had to fetter out the details to learn that it was more an encouragement than a demand. It didn’t sound so bad in that light. Included in the initiative are rules that, roughly, require hospital staff to: provide breastfeeding support (baby positioning, latching, recognizing hunger and fullness cues); ban putting formula in goodbye gift bags; and require notation in the baby’s file as to each formula feeding. The rules apply only to women desiring to breastfeed, allow supplementation for babies needing additional nourishment and, contrary to early reports, do not require hospitals to hide or lock up formula, nor do they restrict access to it for those who want it; mothers can request and be given formula at any time.

In my larger social circle, the rules predictably rankled “nanny state” naysayers, but it also prompted a debate among several of my friends whose positions I would not necessarily have predicted. One formula-feeding friend praised the initiative, making me wonder whether an unsupportive hospital staff in any way contributed to her decision to stop breastfeeding early on. A friend currently breastfeeding her 7-month-old said she would support breastfeeding initiatives when they included requirements that employers provide paid breaks for employees to pump and a safe/clean space for them to do it. “Until then,” she said, “the breastfeeding debate feels like classic mommy guilt.” Several women noted that it seemed that hormonal early motherhood was a really bad time to slather on the guilt. A couple others replied that when you’re that susceptible to suggestion, maybe a little restraint on the part of those around you could go a long way. Good points all, I say. What do you think? Join the conversation by posting a comment below.

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