August 2, 2012 — At least 27 New York City hospitals by Labor Day will implement the main provisions of the Latch On NYC initiative, which aims to encourage new mothers to breastfeed and reduce the influence of formula promotion, MedPage Today reports.
The city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene launched the voluntary program in May, which requires limited staff access to formula that is kept in locked storage areas. Participating hospitals must provide the health department with monthly records stating each time formula was used and for what reason.
The initiative also enforces current state hospital regulations that say breastfeeding infants should not receive supplemental formula unless medically indicated. In addition, participating hospitals agree to stop distributing formula samples, as well as to stop displaying and distributing related promotional goods.
Latch On NYC also includes a public awareness campaign to promote the benefits of breastfeeding, such as lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers in mothers, and lower risks of ear, respiratory and gastrointestinal infection in children (Neale, MedPage Today, 7/31).
Responses to Criticism
The initiative has received some criticism from women who say it stigmatizes formula and interferes with a woman's choice about how to feed her child. Barbara Wallace, the state health department's director of chronic disease prevention said, "We recognize that there are women that won't be able to breastfeed or chose to not breastfeed for a variety of reasons and that is a choice they should be able to make (Sanchez, Reuters, 8/1).
A spokesperson for the city health department said, "If a mother comes into a participating hospital with the intent to formula feed her baby, Latch On NYC does not require her to be counseled on the benefits of breastfeeding," rather she "may receive education on breastfeeding at any time during the hospital stay upon her request" (MedPage Today, 7/31).
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