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?