Michael R. Bloomberg thinks he knows better what to feed a newborn baby than the baby's mother. The New York City mayor, who is on a tear to dictate everything New Yorkers put in their mouths, is now playing doctor with diets for newborns. This is an unwelcome intrusion of the nanny state into the nursery.
Starting next month, New York City hospitals in the mayor's Latch on NYC program will stop supplementing breast-feeding infants with formula unless it's medically necessary, as documented on a baby's medical chart. Hospital staff will have limited access to formula, and free formula or promotional materials will be banned from hospitals. The state already requires that any mother who asks for formula be given a lecture by hospital staff on the benefits of nursing. The theory is that breast milk is healthier because babies on it have a lower risk of infection and asthma.
The city acknowledges that 90 percent of mothers breast-feed their children after birth, so the campaign is intended to force the 70 percent who stop after two months to keep going until a half-year. What's ignored is that some tots feed better on bottles, and two months is about the time when women return to work after maternity leave, making it harder to feed au naturale.
Women's groups aren't backing up this plan. "New moms should be the ones to decide what is best for their babies, not Mayor Bloomberg," said Alice Stewart, spokeswoman for Concerned Women for America. "With an unemployment rate in New York City above 10 percent, the mayor should stop imposing his position on breast-feeding and fast-food drinks, and focus on creating jobs."
Ms. Stewart is referring to the sugary beverages of more than 16 ounces that Mr. Bloomberg wants to outlaw from restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and even mobile food carts. Hizzoner announced the initiative in May, claiming sweet beverages are "a leading cause" of obesity. Clearly, it's easier for a politician to scapegoat job-creating companies such as Coca-Cola Co. or PepsiCo than to blame Joe Six-pack for eating too much and not exercising enough.
The mama mayor's apron strings are long and all tangled up. Six years ago, he banned trans fats from being used by restaurants in the hopes of lowering the cholesterol of those who dine out regularly. That same year, he forced chain restaurants to post the calories of the food on their menus. Because 60 percent of New Yorkers are still overweight, all the regulation doesn't seem to be working. In 2008, Mr. Bloomberg targeted salt for raising blood pressure and created a "voluntary" program for restaurants and packaged-food makers to reduce sodium content by 25 percent. None of those mandates has achieved its purpose.
Liberals like Mr. Bloomberg think they know what we all should or shouldn't put in our bodies. These ineffective policies are offensive to individual rights. In the fight over formula, Big Brother is treating parents like ignorant children. As long as a mother isn't being abusive or neglectful, it is beyond the pale for the government to tell her how and what to feed her baby.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
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