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Bloomberg to moms: Breastfeed your infants, please

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports a new initiative to educate new mothers about why to breastfeed their infants instead of using formula. The "Latch On" program is part of a nationwide breastfeeding awareness campaign.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, center, speaks in Washington in this April file photo. Bloomberg supports a new initiative aimed at educating new mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding infants instead of using formula.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/File

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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a message for new mothers: Breastfeed your baby, if possible.

Starting in September, dozens of city hospitals will ask mothers of newborns to listen to talks about why their breast milk is better than the sample formulas many hospitals offer for free. Then the women can decide for themselves, says the mayor.

Bloomberg has been ribbed as the city's "nanny" for pushing programs aimed at making New Yorkers healthier — from clamping down on big sugar-loaded drinks to creating no-smoking zones in public places.

Now, under the "Latch On NYC" initiative, 27 of 40 hospitals in the city that deliver babies will no longer hand out promotional formula unless it's for medical reasons, or at a mother's request.

"Most public health officials around the country think this is a great idea," Bloomberg said at a City Hall briefing earlier this week. "The immunities that a mother has built up get passed on to the child, so the child is healthier."

He says formulas remain an acceptable solution if a mother cannot breastfeed, whether for health reasons or because her schedule does not allow it.

The New York initiative is part of a national effort involving more than 600 hospitals, says Marsha Walker, a registered nurse and executive director of the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy, a nonprofit based in Weston, Mass.

In 2011, Rhode Island became the first state to stop giving away free formula to mothers while educating them on the benefits of nursing. Massachusetts followed suit.


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