I believe in a concept called subsidiarity. In a nut shell, it’s the belief that political decisions should be made at the lowest, most local level possible. The government, therefore, should not step in and take over matters which individuals and groups can themselves govern.
Mayor Bloomberg of New York recently developed a new program called “Latch On, New York.” Starting September 2012, hospitals volunteer for the program and in doing so limit access to formula. This sounds great until you hear how they plan on doing this. Rather than just simply not giving goodie bags with formula out or making sure all mothers on the maternity ward have access to pumps and free lactation consultation, Bloomberg is having the hospitals lock up formula. In order for mothers to have access to it, they must sign it out. They are also subjected to a mandatory lecture from the nursing staff as to why it’s better to breastfeed.
I’ve given birth at a hospital. The nurses are often very hard to get in touch with. My labor nurses actually asked me if I could unplug myself from the monitors and take myself to the bathroom. Then there’s the fact that some women experience exhausting and painful labors or Cesarian sections. Some babies have difficulty latching on. Some babies spend significant time in the NICU. Not all birthing experiences are the same or even ideal. In my opinion, it’s completely unreasonable to make a mother deal with red tape in order to feed her child.
This is where subsidiarity is such a great concept. Using subsidiarity, the mother and the hospital staff can determine together ways to make breastfeeding easier for each individual mother while keeping formula an option. When Bloomberg, a mayor, decides that his program should include things like signing out formula, it’s the government over stepping it’s bounds and treading over the rights and decision making skills of parents.
Formula is food; it’s not arsenic or even pain medication. Giving formula to a child is perfectly fine and within the rights of the individual parents. It’s not like mothers can’t go home after a day and give their child formula without Mayor Bloomberg’s permission.
If Mayor Bloomberg would like to improve breastfeeding data, then perhaps he should propose laws that protect women’s right to breastfeed in the work place and in public, offer longer maternity leave or paid maternity leave, offer free breast pumps, offer free lactation consultation– I could keep giving examples but I’ll stop. The government is well within it’s right to offer services to parents in order to encourage them to choose breastfeeding, but the government is not within it’s right to take away the individual’s right to freely decide.
What do you think? Has Mayor Bloomberg gone too far?