Health Department Launches Breastfeeding Support Initiative
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has launched Latch On NYC, a new citywide initiative to support mothers who breastfeed their infants by asking city maternity hospitals to voluntarily sign on to support a mother’s choice to breastfeed and limit the promotion of infant formula in their facilities which can interfere with that decision. Twelve private city hospitals have already made the commitment and all 11 public hospitals run by the Health and Hospitals Corporation have also joined Latch On NYC, going beyond the significant steps they previously took to support breastfeeding when they banned formula from gift bags and promotional materials in 2007.
Additionally, a new health department subway and hospital poster campaign showing the benefits of breast milk, such as reducing the risk of ear infections, diarrhea and pneumonia, will launch next week. Commissioner Thomas Farley made the announcement on May 9 at Harlem Hospital, where he was joined by Health and Hospitals Corporation President Alan D. Aviles and other executives representing more than half of all maternity hospitals in New York City.
“Human breast milk is best for babies and mothers,” said Farley. “When babies receive supplementary formula in the hospital or mothers receive promotional baby formula on hospital discharge it can impede the establishment of an adequate milk supply and can undermine women’s confidence in breastfeeding. With this initiative the New York City health community is joining together to support mothers who choose to breastfeed.”
Ninety percent of city mothers start breastfeeding. However, by the time the baby reaches two months, only 31 percent of mothers are still exclusively breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life. Breastfed babies are much less likely than formula-fed babies to get ear, respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, and are also less likely to develop asthma.
Breastfeeding is also beneficial to mothers because women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancers.
In the city, the most common reasons women stop breastfeeding are due to concerns about milk supply. Approximately 47 percent of women report they stopped breastfeeding because they thought they were not producing enough milk and 44 percent because they thought the infant was not satisfied with breast milk alone. These concerns, although common, are largely unfounded because most mothers do produce enough milk to meet their babies needs if they exclusively breastfeed. These concerns can be addressed while the mother is still in the hospital.
However, without the support and education these mothers need, many of them turn to formula.
Beginning to breastfeed from the start is also important for planning a baby’s diet for the first year of life. If the baby is not given anything but breast milk, especially in the first month after the baby is born, almost every mother will make enough milk for her baby. Using baby formula during this time can decrease the production of milk, and consequently make the mother reliant on formula.
By joining this voluntary initiative for city maternity hospitals to support mother’s decision to breastfeed participating hospitals have agreed to:
•Enforce the NYS hospital regulation to not supplement breastfeeding infants with formula feeding unless medically indicated and documented on the infant’s medical chart;
•Restrict access to infant formula by hospital staff, tracking infant formula distribution and sharing data on formula distribution with the Health Department.
•Discontinue the distribution of promotional or free infant formula; and
•Prohibit the display and distribution of infant formula promotional materials in any hospital location.
Latch On NYC has been formally endorsed by the state Department of Health, Greater New York Hospital Association, Academy of Family Physicians, New York County Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics, District II, New York state and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, New York state chapter.
For more information on breastfeeding please call 311 or search “Breastfeeding” at www.nyc.gov/.