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.
New York state ranks next to last by the percentage of breast-fed infants who receive supplemental formulas in hospital, at 33 percent, New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said. The figure is 38 percent for New Jersey.
By contrast, only 8 percent of newborns in Vermont are fed formula just after birth, Farley said.