Bloomberg boosts breastfeeding

Breastfeeding icon

Via Gothamist, New York City mayor Mike Bloomber has recently pledged $2 million dollars to city-run hospitals for the promotion of breastfeeding, with the goal of getting more women to breastfeed for six months or longer.

    “We don’t yet have any hospitals in New York City that meet national ‘baby-friendly’ standards,” Bloomberg’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden, said at a parenting conference last week.”That means getting formula out of the nursery. It means putting the baby on the breast immediately after birth. It means that every person who interacts with that mother and child is supportive and encouraging of breast-feeding.”

Well, three cheers for that! I can tell you, a boost like this is sorely needed, particularly in public hospitals, since research has shown that the rate of breastfeeding increases with income, education and age, and public hospitals most often take care of the women who have the least. I hope a fair portion of this money is spent not only advertising and promotion among the general public, but on education for hospital staff. Women need so much help and support in order to be able to breastfeed, especially during those early crucial days in the hospital, when both mother and baby are still learning how; the attitude and encouragement of the hospital staff, from the doctors and pediatricians on down to the PCAs and nurses’ assistants, is absolutely crucial.

For a long time, breastfeeding education and attention has been given short shrift, but thank goodness things are starting to change—from much-publicized public nurse-ins in places like Toys R’ Us to the Massachusets ban of hospital distribution of diaper bags loaded with formula coupons and advertising. The hospital where I am currently doing my clinicals (a public new york city hospital) has recently created a new policy where formula is never placed in a baby’s bassinet when the baby is brought out to the mother, even if the mother is breast and bottle feeding. If the mother wants formula, she has to specifically ask for it. Small steps like that, but the hopefully the overall impact is much greater.

Mothering magazine recently ran a competition to create an internationally recognizable symbol for breastfeeding. The winning symbol, created by graphic designer Matt Daigle, can be seen at the top of this post. This symbol has been made part of the public domain, so it can be downloaded and displayed anywhere, by anyone. The intention is not to segregate breastfeeding mothers, or to designate specific places for breastfeeding, but to simply indicate that breastfeeding is welcome and acceptable on the premises. Hopefully we’ll start to see this symbol cropping up all over the place, in restuarants and malls and airports and libraries, movie theaters and convention centers, maybe even on subways and buses….starting with our public hospitals (I’m going to print out a couple of these and bring them to clinicals tomorrow).

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