Earlier this year, the issue of infant formula samples came under fire when Whoopi Goldberg and the other women on The View came out in support of hospitals handouts of infant formula, despite the fact that the World Health Organization recommends against† it and research has shown that the samples undermine the efforts of moms who want to breastfeed. It has long been known that free samples of infant formula is one of the reasons that mothers do not meet their own breastfeeding goals and now the State of Massachusetts and the American Academy of Pediatrics are finally going to do something about it.
Massachusetts Birth Facilities Eliminate Infant Formula Gift Bags
A couple of weeks ago, the last few hospitals in Massachusetts that were handing out infant formula samples agreed to stop the practice. This means that all 49 birth facilities in the state have now discontinued the practice of handing out samples, making Massachusetts the second state (after Rhode Island) to rid all of its hospitals of these free samples. Interestingly, the Department of Health in Massachusetts tried to ban the formula gift bags in 1995, but then Governor Mitt Romney blocked the ban from going through.† Critics questioned his motives (was he just trying to appease corporate interests?) and now breastfeeding and public health advocates are worried about whether Romney will truly stand behind women’s rights and children’s health if he becomes President, or if he will continue to put corporate interests first.
American Academy of Pediatrics Resolves Not to Provide Handouts From Formula Companies
Then, this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) approved a historic resolution, resolving that:
The Academy advise pediatricians not to provide formula company gift bags, coupons, and industry-authored handouts to the parents of newborns and infants in office and clinic settings.
In their rationale, they explained that:
Research has demonstrated that the free distribution of commercial materials, such as formula samples, diaper bags, formula coupons, or other gifts via commercial infant formula marketing implicitly endorses formula feeding and creates the impression that clinicians favor formula feeding over breastfeeding, and research demonstrates that this activity decreases exclusivity and duration of breastfeeding.
Giving Breastfeeding Moms a Better Chance at Success
These two decisions, in Massachussets and from the AAP, will give many more moms who want to breastfeed a shot at being successful. Some of the research looking at the impact of formula samples from hospitals and pediatricians found that:
- Forty percent of moms leave the hospital with formula and those who do are 3.5 times more likely to be supplementing by two weeks of age
- Moms advised by their doctor to try formula were four times as likely to do so
Banning formula samples, especially ones provided by health care providers, is not about judging moms who choose formula. It is simply about giving moms who want to breastfeed a fighting chance at succeeding. Getting rid of formula bags needs to, of course, be paired with increased support for breastfeeding, including improved lactation training and greater access to International Board Certified Lactation Consultants.
Photo credit: EraPhernalia Vintage on flickr