On breastfeeding, personal choice and the disastrous politics of Mike Bloomberg

This is the new savior of the Democratic Party? If you say so.

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Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg speaks at a “Women for Mike 2020” rally in New York on Jan. 15, 2020.

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg speaks at a “Women for Mike 2020” rally in New York on Jan. 15, 2020.


He may have hoped his billions would speak louder than his baggage, but Michael Bloomberg has experienced a cavalcade of bad press over the past two weeks that should make him a painfully hideous choice for any voters, but Democrats in particular.

There’s his support of stop-and-frisk, an anti-crime policy that disproportionately targeted minorities; his long and prolific record of sexist comments and accusations of sexual harassment within his company; comments he made disparaging American farmers; newly resurfaced comments blaming the housing crisis on the end of redlining bias; yet another newly unearthed video — from last year — referring to transgendered people as “some guy in a dress” or “he, she or it.”

And that only scratches the surface.

This is the new savior of the Democratic Party? If you say so.

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Individually, these stories are bad. Altogether, they are disastrous. But there’s also Bloomberg’s long history of invasive nanny state policies that deserve renewed scrutiny.

Of the many things Bloomberg felt entitled to grab while mayor of New York — cigarettes, trans fats, sugary sodas, black and brown men aged 14 to 24 — one of the few that ever gets discussed is my breasts.

No, Bloomberg never literally grabbed my breasts. But one initiative he foisted on the women of New York years ago put our boobs uncomfortably, unforgivably within the mayor’s grasp.

In 2012, Bloomberg launched the Latch On NYC initiative, which attempted to coerce breastfeeding in new mothers by limiting access to formula in hospitals, discontinuing the distribution of free infant formula and removing any formula promotional material in hospitals. It also required that nurses document dispensing of formula to new moms, citing “medical reasons” for its necessity.

In defense of his anti-formula program, Bloomberg said at the time: “Most of the public health officials around the country think that this is a great idea. I gather that the immunities that a mother has built up get passed along to the child so the child is healthier.”

Where to begin?

Let’s start with the obvious, that it was none of the mayor’s business whether a woman plans to breastfeed her child, even if you believe, like I do, that breast is best. This is simply not his domain.

But pretending for a second that it was, Bloomberg’s invasive and judgmental policy only made a mother’s infinitely challenging experience more difficult, emotional and lonely. While I fully intended to breastfeed, and did manage to for six months, I had to endure a painful bout of mastitis, bleeding and raw nipples thanks to an infant who preferred to chew instead of suck, embarrassing leaks at work, and expensive pumping products to preserve milk while I traveled for my job. Was it worth it? I’ll never know.

We moms already experience enough guilt over breastfeeding — deciding whether to do it, not being able to do it, doing it but hating it. Hiding formula from new moms, and literally writing them up in official medical records for requiring it, just unnecessarily exacerbates the shame, a point many feminists readily shared at the time. It’s a point many doctors have made since.

Of course, the policy also unintentionally targeted low-income and single mothers, mothers who had to work multiple jobs and relied on formula to supplement or replace breastfeeding.

The issue of breastfeeding in presidential politics rarely tops — or bottoms — any list of voter concerns, and that’s probably appropriate. If you’re wondering what the other top Democratic contenders have said on the matter, well, nothing all that interesting.

Early last year Elizabeth Warren introduced the Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act, which requires most federal buildings to have dedicated rooms for breastfeeding mothers, a very good thing.

Sounding very much as you’d expect him to, Bernie Sanders challenged President Trump in a tweet in 2018 for opposing a World Health Resolution to support breastfeeding, saying it showed Trump’s “slavish devotion to corporate profits.”

And in a debate last year, Joe Biden touted a home visitation program that would deploy health and child development specialists to new parents’ homes to, among other things, “receive breastfeeding support.” Not my cup of tea, but I’m sure that sounds good to some.

These relatively predictable and uncontroversial positions aren’t likely to move any votes for or against these candidates. But for Bloomberg, who’s never met a “personal decision” he didn’t wish to publicly pillage, the issue is illustrative.

Anyone with this much determination to insert himself into the public and private lives of Americans should be treated as dangerous, no matter badly Democrats want another dangerous guy out of office. Whatever the issue and however personal, Michael Bloomberg will always know what’s best for you, whether it’s his business or not.

S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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