Seventy-five percent of moms in the United States breastfeed their babies. However, only 33% still do it after three months and only 13% are still breastfeeding up to six months -the recommended period to obtain the benefits of breastfeeding.
Mother’s milk has huge nutritional benefits, and its power to prevent ear infections, diarrhea, vomiting and breathing problems in infants is well documented-not to mention the effect of breastfeeding in reducing the risk of ovarian and breast cancers.
Many formula manufacturers have figured out pretty aggressive ways to promote their brands. Their invasive marketing efforts, which have overtaken delivery rooms and include free samples for new moms, may be encouraging many mothers-especially the youngest ones and working moms under pressure to return to work-to think that formula is as good as mom’s milk and disregard the benefits of breastfeeding.
A new NYC initiative being implemented in September addresses this cause for the decrease in breastfeeding. It prevents hospitals from providing free baby formula to women who don’t need it, unless it’s medically appropriate.
The plan, called “Latch On NYC,” also asks hospital staff to inform mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding, before agreeing to provide them formula. Women who choose the latter will be able to, and if they can’t afford it, they’ll be referred to programs that distribute it for free.
The reasons why women decide to stop breastfeeding vary and there is no doubt that in some cases, using formula is the right choice. But data from City studies shows that the three main reasons women quit breastfeeding early involve confusion or misconceptions that can be cleared up through education.
Contrary to what many have tried to point out, this isn’t government intervention in women’s decisions. No one knows better than a mother what is best for her child. But in a world filled with advertising and corporate interests, education is critical for those moms to make informed decisions.