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To breastfeed or use a bottle? For some New Yorkers, it’s not much of a choice

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Critics accused New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg of running a nanny state when he imposed a restriction on the size of sugary drinks available for sale.

Now he's provoking a backlash for suggesting what the city's newborn babies should be drinking.

New York's health department recently launched an initiative, "Latch On NYC", which encourages new mothers to choose breastfeeding over baby formula. But the problem, critics say, is how the mayor wants hospitals to promote breastfeeding – by limiting mothers' access to baby formula, literally by lock-and- key.

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Since launching, 27 of the city's 40 hospitals have agreed to participate in the program, which includes storing baby formula in locked cupboards, throwing out promotional material and any products that feature a formula-company logo and documenting a medical reason every time formula is used, according to the New York Post.

Mothers who request a bottle won't be denied but will get a lecture on the benefits of breastfeeding. "It's the patient's choice," Allison Walsh, a lactation consultant at Beth Israel Medical Center, told the New York Post. "But it's our job to educate them on the best option."

However, others disagree that these mother really have the free will to choose what their baby drinks. "If a woman is breastfeeding mostly just because the doctor won't let her have a bottle, it's not exactly a choice," points out a blogger from Feministe.

The American Pediatric Association suggests that mothers exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, and continue for a year to get the full benefits of a boosted immune system for their children.

Parents want what's best for the kids, but not every mother can easily breastfeed her newborn child, and being told by another person that their choice is wrong can compound the frustration for some.

"The current fascination with breastfeeding is also an extension of a society's efforts to control risk, including risk to our children," writes Alissa Quart in the New York Times. "We need more balanced, reassuring voices telling women not to feel guilty if they can't nurse exclusively for months on end. Given how difficult it is for some women to nurse, we should understand that we might sometimes be asking too much."

Do you think the city is going too far with the breastfeeding initiative? Does the city have a role in encouraging how mothers feed their newborns?

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