Trans fats, sodas, and now baby formula. In a new initiative, Mayor Bloomberg is encouraging New York hospitals to lock up baby formula, in the same way that drugs are, with nurses forced to sign it out before it can be given to mothers for their babies. It’s not compulsory yet, but given his track record, it would hardly be surprising to see attempts to move in that direction.
The reason, of course, is that breast milk is good for babies. The city has therefore decided it should make baby formula less accessible in order to encourage mothers to breastfeed. It’s an attitude that’s insulting and patronizing to mothers, as if the city thinks it knows better or cares more about children’s welfare than mothers do.
A decision about how and what to feed a baby is a personal one, influenced by a variety of factors. The notion that the city of New York, or any other bureaucracy, is better placed to make that judgement than are individuals and families is absurd. Mothers may need help with breastfeeding, or information about the pros and cons of formula. Those are things hospitals can provide. But children are the responsibility of their parents, not the state. Mothers love their babies more than the Mayor does. And only individuals and families can weigh up all the personal circumstances and make decisions that are appropriate for particular children.