I was surprised by the complete lack of discussion on NYC's Latch On Campaign earlier this week, but I guess either everyone agreed with it or they just didn't see it. Or more likely they were all busy performing chick fellatio on their Facebook feed (argh, guilty as charged).
In case you didn't hear about it, NYC has put forth the initiative to support breastfeeding mothers by... hanging posters, and locking up formula.
Not that I think it's a horrible idea! Not automatically handing out the formula swag bags casts a certain vote of confidence on a new mom - "Go get em Mom, your boobies' got this!". And I guess a few moms riding the subway will see the campaign posters and think "Oh hey, breastfeeding reduces the risk of diarrhea? I don't like diarrhea! Maybe I'll try that out!"
But that's hardly the same as support, which this campaign claims to be about.
When I gave birth to the big girl, I wanted to breastfeed but wasn't too sure about it. I wasn't as educated as I should have been and I figured I'd just stick her on my boob and we'd be good to go. I was also worried it would feel creepy feeding someone from my lady lumps, which had been purely for show for the previous decade. Needless to say we had latch issues and I requested to see a lactation consultant. By time she got around to stopping in my room, Violet had ripped my nipples a new butthole, and I was in tears, so she suggested I try out a nipple shield. At the same time, the nurses set me up with some supplemental formula because Violet's bilirubin was too high and apparently she wasn't eating and pooping enough. It was my first time even holding a baby muchless taking care of one, so I blindly followed the nurses assuming they were steering me in the right direction. It was the perfect storm - I was too annoyed to get up and clean the shields in the middle of the night, I never figured out a good, painless latch, I never got a decent supply in, and Violet was fully formula fed by time I was back to work at 6 weeks.
I had read enough to already know the benefits of breastfeeding, so that wasn't the problem - posters wouldn't have helped. It was the nurse's decision to supplement the baby with formula due to her bili levels, so locking up the formula wouldn't have helped. Sending me home sans free formula might have made me try harder, but then I would have just gotten some free formula from the pediatrician instead. Pllrrrrrbbbbtt.
While pregnant with the little girl, I decided to redeem myself from not boobfeeding Violet. I watched videos, learned all about latch techniques and different holds, and I picked a different hospital to birth at - one that touted its mom-and-baby-friendliness. Like what hospital doesn't think it's the best for mom and baby? But this hospital really was so much better! My midwife helped me latch Leela on right away, the nurses throughout my stay asked how it was going and even made me keep a log of how often and long I was feeding her, and several lactation consultants stopped by my room without my begging to see if I needed help figuring anything out. Leela's bilirubin levels were also high for longer than they would have liked, so they had me sit her in the window and nursenursenurse.
The second hospital was the picture of support. Support is not about locking away the formula behind closed doors. It's about knowledgeable staff spending time with the mother, being hands on, visiting frequently, and giving her the tools and knowledge she needs to be successful in feeding her baby the natural way if she wants to.
I appreciate the sentiment, but NYC's Latch On campaign is not supporting breastfeeding mothers, it's shaming formula-feeding mothers. All the PR money would be better spent on extra lactation consultants, and education for nurses on what to do in situations such as mine in the first hospital, and on literature to send home with moms. And the posters - showcasing the benefits of breastfeeding is great and all, but the real problem is the attitude toward breastfeeding. Those posters won't do squat unless they're showing boobs doing booby things and getting the public comfortable with bare chests feeding babies instead of jiggling for dollars.
And of course, I have a few other ideas for their posters if they need them!