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Should Baby Formula Freebies Be Banned?

Should Baby Formula Freebies Be Banned?

For anyone who has had a baby in a hospital over the past few years knows, when you leave the hospital, you don’t leave empty-handed. Sure you get a baby (and a hefty bill) but you also get a gift bag filled with an assortment of pamphlets, product samples, and most notably a few of your infant’s first tastes of baby formula, resplendent with corporate logos. Think of it as your child’s introduction to marketing.

Well for years many mothers, along with breastfeeding advocates, have objected to the practice and found that it undermines the natural option, breastfeeding. It has been proven, time and time again, that breastfeeding is the healthiest, most advantageous, option for both babies and mothers (it is recommended that all babies are given breast milk for the first 6 months of life), but still the baby formula companies have made themselves conveniently available for labor-weary mothers and parents.

Now things are beginning to change. According to a New York Times report, as of 2011, nearly half of about 2,600 hospitals in a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had stopped giving formula samples to breastfeeding mothers, up from a quarter in 2007. In addition, Massachusetts as well as Rhode Island have banned the practice of handing out free samples to new mothers, unless specifically requested. Even the C.D.C. and the World Health Organization say samples turn hospitals into formula sales agents and imply that hospitals think formula is as healthy as breastfeeding. It is misleading generosity.

What is your feeling on the longstanding practice of formula freebies? Is it something that should continue to be offered as an option, or does it dissuade new mothers from breastfeeding?

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


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4:40PM PDT on Jun 15, 2013

Give them the choice.Educate them about the advantages and disadvantages of all options,then give them the choice.

4:13AM PDT on May 15, 2013

I think that, ideally every mum should breast feed, but it isn't always possible. While breast feeding should be encouraged at every turn, help should be on hand in the form of a small amount of formula in case of emergencies.

9:25AM PDT on May 10, 2013

There are many reasons why being able to use formula as a suppliment is a good thing. The mother may be taking medications (suc as anti-biotics) for a short period that are not good for tha baby, they may be suffering from mastitis or other painful condition and many other reasons. To have extreme views about this is ridiculous. Breast feeding is wonderful and best, but it is not a crime to have an occasional backup for special needs or reasons.

7:32AM PDT on May 9, 2013

Not all women have breast milk, Magdalene.

5:16PM PDT on May 8, 2013


5:38AM PDT on Apr 2, 2013

In Finland, advertising formula, giving freebies of it, or even selling it by reduced price, is forbidden.

5:29AM PDT on Oct 22, 2012

If formula puts in danger babies, should be changed!

11:58PM PDT on Oct 21, 2012

Feeding formula to a baby makes it less likely that one will breast feed successfully because production of milk needs the stimulus of suckling.It's very important to increase one's fluid intake too.It's less work, and quicker for a baby to get milk from a bottle. A full baby won't want to suckle. Then the mother feels a failure.(Been there done that with first baby)

9:44PM PDT on Oct 21, 2012


1:02AM PDT on Oct 21, 2012

I was given a bag of assorted goodies on leaving hospital after childbirth in 1974, including some formula samples. I breast-fed my daughter for 10 months, but when I had a shortage of milk once or twice in the beginning, I was very pleased to have an alternative to give her until my milk came in again. Having the samples certainly didn't make me want to change to formula and I doubt it would change any mother's mind. Are we so dumb we can't make our own choices? I don't think so ;-)

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