Elizabeth Badinter is surely not pleased by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest decision to treat baby formula like a regulated substance, keeping it under lock and key available only to mothers who specifically request it.

When did a single man get to decide what is best for a multitude of women? Oh wait. I forgot. That happens all the time.

But not to become too cycnical too quickly, I am interested in this question, among others: what happened to the power of choice and the faith in a woman’s ability to decide for herself what is best for herself and her children based on an objective presentation of her options?

I imagine it is by now an undisputed fact that breast milk is better for children. But, that’s beside the point. What I would like to take a moment to explore are the number of factors that should be further considered before we accept that an elected official has the right refuse to educate a woman objectively on the options available to her and allow her to choose what is best for herself.

Factors that interest me in this discussion include the fact that neither the physical infrastructure of our country, the prevailing sensabilities towards bare breasted women in public, nor the current system of women leaving the workplace for maternity leave would adequately support a majority of women making the decision to breast feed their children.

Not only is the new measure laughably impractical, the insistence by the Mayor that breast milk is best obliquely implies that women who do not choose to breastfeed are making a choice that is “not best.”

Note the strange title of this informative Mayo Clinic article, ” Breast-feeding vs. formula-feeding: What’s best? The benefits of breast-feeding are well established. Consider ways to support breast-feeding — and how to handle feelings of guilt if you can’t or decide not to breast-feed.”

The guilt feelings are suggested in the article’s title. If they weren’t already felt, they might be now. And what about this “can’t.” I think my major concern with the new wave is that our physical and social infrastructures simply do not support the majority of women choosing to breastfeed, and yet the choice is still viewed as a wholly personal one, and the guilt implied in making a “not best” choice is both expected and indisputable.

What do you think about the formula vs. breast milk debate? Do you think women who choose not to breastfeed are made to feel guilty about their decision by society? Have you seen improvements in society’s acceptance of breastfeeding in public?

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