Many readers are offering personal perspectives on the political debate:
This is an issue that really irks me. My wife and I just had our first child – a beautiful baby girl. My wife was intent on breast feeding, but our daughter simply refused to latch properly. After a long labor and a somewhat harrowing C-section, my wife had to endure painful lacerations on both nipples as she desperately tried to get our daughter to eat. The physical pain was bad enough, but it was compounded by the psychological trauma of feeling like an inadequate mother. Luckily, our daughter eventually figured it out, but if weren't for formula, I don't now how we'd have made it through those first weeks.
I have nothing but contempt for breast feeding zealots like Bloomberg. Their sanctimony is bad enough in the private sphere (and trust me, they are some of the most holier-than-thou people you will ever meet). But using the power of the state in a matter as personal as how a woman chooses to feed her newborn child is reprehensible.
And is Bloomberg going to create laws which give women 12 months of paid maternity leave (like our neighbor to the north) so that they can have the time, energy, and food and housing security to breastfeed their babies?
Years ago a mother came in with her son for the first postpartum visit. She announced, "I have decided to breastfeed." I immediately replied, "No, you are not. You have gone 3 months since diagnosis without chemo or radiation. You will start them now. Your son needs to have a live mother more than he needs breast milk." She was being harassed by people who didn't know her cancer diagnosis about her shortcomings as a mother because she wasn't breastfeeding! She listened to me and is alive today.
In the '80s there was a cartoon strip. Cathy and her friend were walking, exchanging mutual admiration about what excellent friends they were, how tolerant and affectionate they were, etc. The friend raises her arm to wave to a friend in the distance pushing a stroller. Cathy knocks her hand down. "We're not speaking to her, she's bottle feeding."
Breastfeeding is wonderful, but it is not Holy Communion. It is a wonderful way to feed a baby. But as long as women have medical problems and a need to return to a hostile work environment, there will be a need for baby formula. In the end, it is about feeding the baby, not about proving what a wonderful person you are.
Honest to god, who knew a choice like this was so fraught? How many times have I seen moms reduced to tears arguing over a Time magazine article? What is it about the human condition that compels us to judge others over personal parental preferences? Conversely, why are people so unsure of their choices that the judgement of random people in the park sends them into a defensive, existentially assaulted posture? I ask these questions without prejudice – maybe I'm just a man and too inexperienced a father to get it.
I loved breastfeeding. I thought it much, much easier than the endless bottle washing, etc. Diapers are hard enough. What made it easier for me was being able to take my child to work with me. When I went out and about, or traveled, I sat cross-legged on bathroom floors to feed him, with a blanket over us. That way, we didn't disturb anyone.
What is needed in our society is more flexibility so that mothers can take their babies to work with them (or more "working from home" options). That, and more public areas for breastfeeding that provide some privacy. If people want to promote breastfeeding they should say that it is also one of the easiest ways to lose weight that can be imagined. After I gave birth I just cut out sweet snacks, ate the normal three meals a day, and all of the baby weight plus the flab from before fell right off. (Of course I was awake night and day for the first four months.) It's the thinnest I've ever been since I was twelve.
When my wife had our child, she tried for a while, but was unable to produce enough milk for him. We were happy that we had formula available. However, we hated the whole issue around feeding our son. Everyone, from the floor nurses to the lactation consultants to the cleaning lady, constantly and firmly implied that, while we could make our own choices, the only option that really was good for our son was breastfeeding. It was pervasive, it was belligerent, and by the end it felt collectively abusive.
And while they were laying on the massive guilt trip, every fucking piece of anything baby related that they gave us (and they give you so. much. junk.) had a formula ad on it, or literature from a formula company, or both. It was like they were being paid off by the formula producers to put an ad in our hands every 10 minutes.
The mixed messages were astounding, and they came in at the least sane, most sleep-deprived point of our lives. Right when you need compassionate advice from someone you can trust, you have almost vicious voices telling you what you are doing wrong (and will hurt your baby forever!!!) and what you need to do right (which may be physically impossible) and what to absolutely not do, while giving you free samples and limitless ads and coupons for the thing they tell you not to do.
Bloomberg is an ass who wants to control people, and goes about everything the wrong way. But the way it works now is broken. I don't want his solution, but anyone with compassion for new mothers needs to know that a change is needed.