Starting September 3, at least 27 of the city's 40 hospitals will participate in a voluntary program in support of breastfeeding.
Under the program, called Latch On NYC, hospitals will not supplement breastfeeding infants with formula feedings unless medically indicated. Hospitals will also track the number of bottles they use and will discontinue promotional formula handouts.
New mothers who ask for formula will not be denied, but will also be instructed on the benefits of breastfeeding.
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg's initiative has drawn criticism from opponents of the so-called "nanny state," who argue that the choice to breastfeed or not should be left to new mothers alone, without government interference.
"As a mother who breastfeed her children for an extended period of time, I completely support breastfeeding our babies, however, that is entirely a mother's choice and one which should be made in cooperation with the baby's pediatrician and her own physician," said Cherylyn Harley LeBon, an attorney and mother of two. LeBon is a member of the Project 21, an arm of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative, free-market think tank.
"Mayor Bloomberg is now playing the role of pediatrician and neo-natal specialist. While it is great to encourage breastfeeding, the reality is that some women may not want to breastfeed their baby and is simply their choice," she added.