New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in May that the city would launch a campaign through which participating public and private hospitals will take steps to encourage new moms to breastfeed their babies.

The program – with the descriptive if unlovely name “Latch On NYC” – is in the news again because its policies officially go into effect on Sept. 3.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks to the media on July 31. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Building on a 2007 initiative in which city hospitals stopped giving promotional “goody bags” filled with baby formula, Latch On will have hospital staff explain breastfeeding’s benefits over formula feeding and make it easier for women to choose nursing.

One of the means of achieving this is to offer formula only to women who request it or when formula feeding is made medically necessary by a mother’s or infant’s health situation.

Rumors have run rampant that participating hospitals will place formula under lock and key and that staff providing care for new mothers will lecture those who choose to bottle-feed their babies. To counter those rumors, the city’s health department has prepared a “Myths and Facts” document explaining, in part, that any woman who wants to formula-feed her baby will be allowed to do so.

New York City’s campaign is likely attracting extra attention in light of the city’s recent forays into what many consider the realm of the nanny state. For instance, its plan to prohibit the sale of super-size sugar-sweetened beverages as a means of curbing obesity has been roundly criticized in some quarters.

But Latch On NYC isn’t the only program of its kind. Though it’s run independently by the city, it coincides with a nationwide movement to get hospitals to do a better job of promoting breastfeeding. The National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality’s CDC-funded Best Fed Beginnings campaign is one of several campaigns sharing that aim. And, internationally, the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is working toward the same goal.

And individual states, recognizing that the American Academy of Pediatrics and other authoritative sources maintain that breastfeeding is best for both baby and mother, have instituted or are in the process of instituting breastfeeding-friendly hospital policies. Maryland, for instance, has a draft policy posted for review as we speak.

I guess the hospital in which I gave birth to my children 16 and 19 years ago was ahead of the times in helping me launch breastfeeding; both kids took to it right away and stuck with it for well more than a year each.

But my hospital also gave me some free formula, which I tucked away, with a clean, empty bottle, in the diaper bag in case I ran into a feeding emergency of some sort. I remember being stuck in holiday traffic on I-95 with a wailing baby in the back seat beside me, unable to pull over for a pit stop, and managing to fill that bottle with formula. I was grateful for it, and we went right back to breastfeeding as soon as we got out of the car.

What’s been your experience with hospitals, baby formula, breastfeeding and your own baby?