Massachusetts Bans Formula Gift Bags at Hospitals

Massachusetts has joined Rhode Island in prohibiting maternity hospitals from distributing “gift bags” containing samples of infant formula to new mothers, in a move that proponents of breastfeeding applaud as sending the message that breastfeeding is the best, healthiest way to feed newborns.  The state’s 49 hospitals are banning the practice voluntarily, according to The Boston Globe:

“We applaud the effort of all of the hospitals to make this explicit statement of their support of breast-feeding here in the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Lauren Smith, the public health department’s medical director.

Back in 2005, Massachusetts tried to end the free formula practice with a statewide ban instituted by the Public Health Council, but that decision was overturned several months later when then-Governor Mitt Romney replaced council members who were in favor of the ban.

More than a dozen studies have shown that breast-feeding mothers who received free formula samples after they left the hospital were less likely to be breast-feeding by the time their infant was one month old. “Using formula without a medical reason is one of the biggest predictors of breast-feeding failure,” said Dr. Melissa Bartick, chair of the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition.

But infant formula makers responded that formula giveaways have been inappropriately blamed for women opting out of nursing because it’s, for example, to difficult to maintain when they head back to work. “Some critics of formula samples claim research has ‘consistently shown’ that samples in discharge kits negatively affect duration of breastfeeding,” the International Formula Council, an industry group, said in a statement. “In fact, the research results have not been consistent. Some studies show an effect, while others do not.”

Image: Baby bottle, via Shutterstock.

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  1. by Amanda K.

    On July 16, 2012 at 7:14 am

    There are so many factors in choosing to breastfeet your child and I can’t imagine that samples you receive at the hospital is going to sway the decision one way or the other. I formulated a full response at my blog: threehighchairs.blogspot.com

  2. by J

    On July 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I got free samples of formula and guess what, I breastfed for the first year!!! If you’re going to choose formula over breastfeeding, I highly doubt it’s because your hospital gave you a free sample. I’m sorry but if you’re going to ban free formula samples in hospitals, then you need to ban it in WIC also. I’m sure that will eventually happen because all the politicians in MA are exceptionally stupid.

  3. by Laci

    On July 23, 2012 at 9:53 am

    That’s too bad, we’re adopting, and I’m unable to breast feed. Some formula samples would help us save a little money!