Hospital Formula Ban Proposed Nationwide

Measures that would prohibit hospitals from distributing free samples of infant formula to new mothers–a move some hospitals in Oklahoma, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island have already adopted–could soon become standard policy at hospitals nationwide, if an advocacy group achieves its goal.  The advocates say that the free samples may tempt some new moms to formula-feed instead of breastfeeding.  The New York Times has more:

The debate over formula samples isn’t about whether breast-feeding is healthier. Even formula companies acknowledge that “breast milk is the gold standard; it’s the best for babies,” said Christopher Perille, a spokesman for Mead Johnson, which makes Enfamil formula.

Breast-feeding decreases babies’ risk of ear infections, diarrhea, asthma and other diseases, and may reduce risk of obesity and slightly improve I.Q., experts say. The question is whether samples tempt mothers who could breast-feed exclusively for the recommended six months to use formula when they’re exhausted or discouraged if nursing proves difficult. The C.D.C., the World Health Organization and breast-feeding advocates say samples turn hospitals into formula sales agents and imply that hospitals think formula is as healthy as breast-feeding. Health experts warn that even small amounts of formula dilute breast-feeding’s benefits by altering intestinal micro-organisms and decreasing breast milk supply, since women produce less when babies nurse less. They say that while some women face serious breast-feeding challenges, more could nurse longer with greater support, and that formula samples can weaken that support system.

“We’re not anti-formula,” said Dr. Melissa Bartick, a founder of Ban the Bags, a breast-feeding advocacy group, which reports that one-fifth of the country’s nearly 3,300 birthing programs have taken more comprehensive steps of banning samples and logo-emblazoned bags for all mothers. “If a woman makes an informed choice to formula-feed, the hospital should provide that formula. But hospitals shouldn’t be marketing it.”

The industry and some mothers say samples provide a healthy alternative and offer relief if nursing causes pain, fatigue or frustration. They disagree that samples can shake the resolve to breast-feed exclusively.

“Babies grow fine on it,” said Mardi Mountford, executive vice president of the International Formula Council, who breast-fed her baby exclusively. “And moms tell us they like getting the samples.”

Image: Baby bottle, via Shutterstock

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  1. by Tara

    On October 17, 2012 at 9:39 am

    This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. You generally have made your decision to breast feed or not before you give birth. And a free sample is not going to make you give up the idea of breast feeding. Why punish those parents who have decided to bottle feed by taking away something they might like and use? Formula is expensive and it is not for anyone else but the parents and the doctor to decide how the baby will be fed.

  2. by Meredith

    On October 17, 2012 at 9:41 am

    What about those of us who can’t nurse due to medical or other reasons? I breasted my son exclusively 15 years ago, loved it! In 2006 I had a breast reduction and when I remarried and started over again I couldn’t nurse my daughter. After struggling for 6 weeks an barely producing any milk I had to feed her formula. This ban just poses problems for moms who can’t nurse!

  3. by Jenica

    On October 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you for posting and informing us of this- I wrote some thoughts down here! http://delightfulmomstuff.blogspot.com/2012/10/my-soap-box-formula-vs-breast.html

  4. by Trish

    On October 17, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    I think this is stupid! I have 3 children and I did my best to breastfeed all 3 of them because that was what i was ‘supposed’ to do. I absolutely hated it. With my first I was so stressed out I ended up pumping and feeding it to him in a bottle for 2 months until I got mastitis. With the second she had acid reflux and we had a terrible doctor who would not medicate her and told us to put her on soy formula. And with the third I breastfed him exclusively for 3 months until I got mastitis again and there was no fat in my milk. He was always hungry. I have decided that if I have a fourth I will formula feed. I feel a little guilty but I feel like it’s not worth me being stressed out and crazy just to breastfeed. The truth is, my 3rd son who was breastfed the longest has been the sickest baby I’ve had. I know it could be due to a number of factors but I’m just saying. I know breast milk is perfect for feeding your newborn but I think every mother should have the option to formula feed as well.

  5. by Melissa

    On October 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    They must think we are idiots and incapable of making our own informed decisions. There is no such thing as a wrong choice here only what is best for each mother and baby. They act as though formula is poison or something.

  6. by sorcha

    On October 17, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    I don’t think banning samples will hurt mothers who can’t medically breastfeed as formula is available to mother who choose not to or can not breastfeed on request. I think that placing hospitals in the position of endorsing a formula by handing out logo bags, coolers and free formula “Just in case” does give some new mothers (not all) the impression that 1) this is the hospital recommended brand of formula, therefore the best and only brand I should use 2) that all breastfeeding moms ‘cheat’ and give their baby formula, when in fact they don’t and IMO giving a newborn formula is the first step to quitting breastfeeding. For generations doctors recommended formula and discouraged breastfeeding, many period publications claiming the formula was best for babies and that breast milk was equal to pasteurized or condensed milk. As a result many new moms do not have family support as their own mothers and grandmothers don’t know what’s normal for a breastfeeding baby and will encourage them to use the formula the hospital gave them. Not to mention formula is poison when the formula or the bottles are handled improperly, that many poor parents dilute formula in order to make it last longer and in some cases causing nutritional deficiencies in infants. Bottom line, formula is not necessary for the health and development of infants when breastfeeding can be established and should a mother choose not to breastfeed her choice in formula should be based on interdependent research and not swag.

  7. by gg

    On October 17, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    I think they shouldn’t ban the free samples. I tried breastfeeding my son for the first 3 days and he couldn’t drink since he was a lazy sucker. We had to use the free samples to help him get going. A week later he was breastfeeding all the way. If you think hospital shouldn’t endorse free samples of formulas then you are saying they shouldn’t be handing out free samples of anything, i.e. prenatal vitamins, etc. Free samples just helps us decide whether or not we like the brand they are giving us. It’s like going to Costco and trying out their free food samples. It is OUR decision not theirs.

  8. by NN

    On October 17, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Great. Uncle Sam deciding what a woman should do with her body and her baby.

  9. by Nicole

    On October 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    This is absolutely ridiculous! I had two preemies and my milk didn’t come in with either of them. I felt like a failure. My babies both ended up on an expensive high-calorie formula and the hospital gave us samples BECAUSE THIS WAS THE ONLY THING THEY COULD DRINK!

  10. by stephanie

    On October 21, 2012 at 2:22 am

    breastfeeding advocacy groups are wrong to push an “only breastfeeding” agenda! It’s every mother’s choice how they want to feed their baby and it needs to be respected. Some hospitals now, like in Montana are getting almost militant about discouraging bottle-feeding…it’s getting rediculous! I have a 5 month old and DO breastfeed, but also mix some of my milk with Formula. It’s working out just fine….my baby was a preemie, and for the first few weeks had no choice but to give higher calorie formula to her, along with the breastmilk. Breastfeeding is a discipline and labor of love well worth the effort. But,it’s not for everyone and mother’s should be supported whether or not they choose to breastfeed.

  11. by stephanie

    On October 21, 2012 at 2:27 am

    PS: Side note about formula feeding: the one thing i really dislike about using formula (other that it generally makes babies gassy), is that in the first one or two ingredients listed, nearly all brands have “Corn Syrup” on the top of the list…that’s pretty disconcerting.

  12. by hurricanewarningdc

    On October 22, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Another pathetic move by these “advocates.” As if I, a woman smart enough and old enough to have and care for my own child, need their self-important blathering to take the place of my sound judgment. Or that of my own chosen medical professionals. As if I couldn’t have managed to make it through family planning and 40 weeks of pregnancy without this final, insulting intervention at the end of the road. This is completely unnecessary and, as is usual for these look-at-me “natural” wackos, it’s about giving them a pedestal on which to stand. They could be campaigning to ensure that all children have enough to eat – period – but that won’t set them far enough apart from the other moms at the playground. What’s next? No disposable diapers in hospitals? No strollers/carriages? No cribs allowed? I’d like to force all kids get vaccinations, but I’m kinda guessing that the breastfeeding rangers would see that as, hmmmm, an invasion of my privacy. Go figure.

  13. by Emily

    On October 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    This isn’t about not giving the mother her choice to formula feed. Its about not giving out free samples to mothers who choose to breast feed. They think that if a mom has formula that it will tempt her to use it when BFing gets hard. And BF is not easy in the beginning. If you ask for the formula, the nurses will give it to you. I told them I was going to breast feed and received no free samples. If I would have formula fed I could have gotten some.

  14. by Sarah

    On October 24, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    I think banning the formula samples is a great idea. Contrary to what many believe, not all moms know whether they will breastfeed or not and often say, “I’ll try” and if they don’t have proper support will try the formula. Often times when parents see how easy formula feeding can be they give up. Also, it should be noted that kids who breastfeed don’t have a higher IQ. Breastfeeding is normal and as nature intended, so any IQ differentiation should be that formula feeding can DECREASE IQ points.

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    On October 30, 2012 at 4:58 pm

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