Nanny State Expertise: Lactation Consultant?

By James Wigderson

Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute

When Nathaniel Wallace was arrested for allegedly trying to steal canisters of baby formula, he may have been merely ahead of his times. According to the Brookfield police, Wallace was accused of attempting to steal seven containers of baby formula and then hitting a guard with the bag in an attempt to get away. The police allegedly found a crack pipe in Wallace’s sock.

The street value of the baby formula was $118.93. But the street value of baby formula may be going up, especially in a hospital.

If New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his way, hospitals will start treating baby formula like a controlled substance. Starting September 3rd, New York City hospitals will start locking away baby formula like it’s medication. They will keep track of how many bottles of formula are stocked and used, and they will need to document a medical reason for every bottle of formula that is used.

If a mother does request a bottle of formula, the hospital will provide it. However, each bottle will be accompanied by a lecture on the health benefits of breast milk instead. That’s just what every new mother wants to hear, that they’re a failure. I can’t wait for the first lawsuit against Bloomberg and the city of New York for causing a case of post-partum depression.

All kidding aside, I remember what my wife, the Lovely Doreen from Waukesha, went through when my son was born. It was an unplanned Caesarian operation, and Will was born 36 hours after my wife’s water broke. The labor, the attempted delivery, and then the operation were all very hard on my wife.

Trying to get my wife to produce enough milk for our son became another ordeal. The very first night they brought my son into the room to breastfeed, and right away there was trouble. A lactation consultant visited Doreen multiple times during her four days in the hospital. The consultants had her doing massages while in the shower and worked up a weird contraption to fool my son into thinking he was working on a bottle.

My son was crying in the night because he wasn’t getting enough food. Meanwhile the lactation consultants were not sympathetic, and they even begrudged the tiny amounts of formula used to try to trick our son into latching on the breast. When he left the hospital he had lost ten ounces from his birth weight.

But we were determined to do our best to raise our son right.

The ordeal continued at home. Friends of ours could not understand why Doreen was having such a horrible time breastfeeding our son. Her mother said she never had any trouble with all four of her children. The sense of failure was adding to my wife’s depression.

Then Doreen took Will in for his first checkup after leaving the hospital. The doctor realized right away Will was not getting enough nutrition and she scheduled another appointment with the lactation consultants. After one feeding they guessed that he got about two ounces of food.

Once again my wife got the lecture on everything that she needed to do to get her milk production working, including renting a special pump. It was so important, we were told.

Doreen tried and tried, and ended up supplementing my son’s diet with formula. By the time my wife went back to work my son was completely on formula, gaining weight and sleeping through the night.

If you think I’m exaggerating the pressure my wife was under by these health care professionals, try doing an Internet search for “lactation Nazis” or “breastfeeding Nazis.” And those are the nice descriptive phrases.

When my daughter Moira was born, my wife informed the doctor and the hospital ahead of time that Moira would be on formula. We got the goody bags from Enfamil and used them right away. My wife had complications from that birth, too, and we were so fortunate that Moira was able to get fed while her mother was having other issues dealt with. Moira was also a good sleeper, unlike her brother, because her tummy was full.

The point of this story is that, while breastfeeding has definite advantages, it’s not the right thing for every mother and every child. In our case, we ran into the ideological obsession with breastfeeding and it almost had real long-term health consequences for both my son and my wife.

But in a society where the private health decisions are no longer considered private because of the public policy implications, individuals making health care decisions for themselves are frowned upon. So we have the case of New York City deciding that mothers should be strongly encouraged today to breastfeed, and they may have to prove a medical necessity tomorrow.

In Bloomberg’s New York, there could easily be a day when it will be easier to by Sudafed or medical marijuana than it is to buy a can of baby formula, and it will be because someone other than the mother in a hospital made a decision how her child should be raised. Such is the medical world we’re creating when health care decisions are no longer negotiated between a doctor, a patient and private health insurer, but by members of some appointed health care panel run by the state.

Welcome to the future under Obamacare, and stock up on baby formula. Cans of it may become as rare as lawn darts.

In the meantime, the Lovely Doreen says that when Mayor Bloomberg can carry, labor and deliver a baby and then produce breast milk like Golden Guernsey, she’ll listen to him lecture on the wonders of breastfeeding.