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Corporate Giants Nestle, Abbott and Mead Johnson Still Undermine Women's Breastfeeding Efforts

Health & Wellness  (tags: abuse, americans, business, consumers, corporate, corruption, dishonesty, ethics, money, marketing, usa, society, child, children, women, sadness, safety, education, women, risks, treatment, warning, safety, prevention, protection, nutrition, babies, heal )

- 1754 days ago -
three mega-corporations - Nestle, Abbott and Mead Johnson - continue to spend millions inappropriately marketing infant formula including inside the hospitals we trust.

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JL A (281)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 8:55 am
Corporate Giants Nestle, Abbott and Mead Johnson Still Undermine Women’s Breastfeeding Efforts

By: Eva Seidelman

August has been designated National Breastfeeding Month to highlight the significant health and economic benefits of breastfeeding to mothers and babies. However, three mega-corporations – Nestle, Abbott and Mead Johnson – continue to spend millions inappropriately marketing infant formula including inside the hospitals we trust. Reputable authorities including the U.S. Surgeon General formally promote breastfeeding over formula feeding because studies confirm that breastfeeding, whenever possible, is the healthiest option for mothers and babies. These companies know that if they can get free formula samples into the hands of new mothers while they’re still in the hospital, moms are more likely to rely on formula, interfering with their initial intentions to breastfeed. While those samples appear to be “free,” mothers, babies and U.S. taxpayers pay large sums for the formula itself, and the associated healthcare costs, in the long-run.

I recently joined Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert and will be coordinating our campaign to keep formula marketing out of health care facilities so that mothers can make objective, informed choices about how to feed their babies. When they hand out discharge bags with free samples, hospitals are essentially signaling to mothers that they recommend or endorse formula. According to studies published by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, formula marketing discourages breastfeeding for this very reason. Formula marketing in hospitals is not only manipulative, it is a violation of the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

We’re on the Right Track

The good news is we’re making significant progress, hopefully as a result of our and others’ campaign efforts. In 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s mPINC study found that 45.5 percent of hospitals nationwide had stopped distributing formula samples. This is a notable improvement from 2009, when 34.2 percent of hospitals had ended the practice, which itself was an improvement over 2007. Certain states have made extraordinary progress. Over the past few years, nearly all hospitals in Maryland committed to stop distributing formula samples to new mothers, among other changes. In July of 2012, Massachusetts became the second state after Rhode Island to ban discharge bags in all of its hospitals thanks to the Ban the Bags campaign. Many more hospitals, including in New York City and California, have followed. These efforts likely led to the significant increase in breastfeeding initiation nationwide, which may have contributed to declines in obesity among preschoolers from 2008-2011.

But the fight is far from over. The majority of the nation’s hospitals still provide discharge bags with free samples. The majority do not exclusively breastfeed during the six months when it matters most. Over the next few months, we will be pressuring the nation’s highest-ranked hospitals to ban formula marketing. Some have, but all of these industry leaders need to set an example.

There are many challenges to exclusive breastfeeding, and new moms need much more support at home and work, and in the broader society. But one thing is clear: Corporate formula marketing in hospitals provides no support and sends the wrong message. What can you do to end it? Sign this petition to Nestle, Mead Johnson and Abbott and demand that they end formula marketing in health care facilities. Then visit our campaign page for other action ideas.

Eva Seidelman is a Researcher for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert.

JL A (281)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 8:55 am
As part of National Breastfeeding Month, Public Citizen is reactivating its campaign to combat infant formula marketing.

I just joined Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert, and I’m delighted to build on our movement to keep corporate commercialism in its proper sphere.

Read my blog post on why we’re demanding that infant formula companies stop using hospitals as commercial marketing spaces.

Formula giveaways by giant corporations — including Nestle, Abbott and Mead Johnson — in hospitals send the wrong message to moms.

Experts, doctors and women’s groups agree that breastfeeding is best whenever possible, so moms deserve not to be misled.

Over the next few months, we will be pressuring more of the nation’s top hospitals to take the lead and ban formula marketing.

A 2012 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showed that 45.5% of hospitals discontinued formula giveaways, up over 10% from 2009. Breastfeeding rates are also on the rise.

We’re making progress — thanks to you.

I’ll keep you posted on actions to ban marketing in health care facilities altogether.


Eva Seidelman
Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert

Past Member (0)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 9:17 am
I wish I could go a day without using the terms such as corporation, corporate agenda, etc., but no matter what the issue is on this planet...there always seems to be a corporation as the root of the problem. Mothers don't need free samples of formula...hospitals should be providing them with pumps, freezer containers, and instructions on how to use them.

Kit B (276)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 9:28 am

It's good of you, J L to get this information out there. I suppose this has been going on to some degree since they invented formula. I first became aware of this when my son was born. The marketing whether here or in developing nations is insidious. They push the product of infant formula as being more safe and healthier than breast milk. Not all women are able to stay home and nurse their babies, many are pumping their own milk even though they must work to provide for that baby. They are to be commended, that is not an easy task. So many pediatricians do not know to answer the new mother's questions about the best start for baby. Just trust your body and nature the combination have brought us burgeoning world population.

One of the worst things done by Nestle...etal is to blatantly lie to mothers in the developing world and tell them that their milk will make babies sick. Many of these women can not depend on either the safety of clean water to mix formula or the availability and affordability of formula. Like I said truly insidious.

JL A (281)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 11:39 am
Thanks Kit. And thank you Kit and Brian for your on target observations on the context and trends surrounding this issue!
You cannot currently send a star to Brian or Kit because you have done so within the last day.

Sheila D (194)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 12:11 pm
What's sad about this is that poor women can really use these free samples. Noted and thank you.

Alan Lambert (91)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 12:25 pm
25 years ago when my son was born, my ex wife and I were both unemployed. We were given formula and my ex wife chose to feed him that way because she "didn't want to feel like a cow". Today he is not bonded to her like he is to me. And I believe that may be the reason.

JL A (281)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 1:02 pm
You are welcome GGma. You cannot currently send a star to GGma Sheila because you have done so within the last day.

Roger G (154)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 2:02 pm
noted, thanks

JL A (281)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 6:56 pm
You are welcome Roger

Jane Williams (165)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 8:47 pm

JL A (281)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 9:52 pm
You are welcome Terry

Lindsey O (19)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 10:34 pm
A woman has a right to bottle feed (or to breastfeed if she chooses) and there's nothing wrong with companies marketing formula to new mothers. Like with so many things, women are individuals who get to make choices and for some breastfeeding simply isn't what they want to do for a variety of reasons. Just as some think that the mother of a young child who chooses to hold down a full-time job without absolute necessity is being a bad mother - I say it's her choice despite the fact that I agree most children will be better off with a mother at home full-time than being in daycare. Since, like with breastfeeding, I don't think we should try and make women feel guilty for doing things they want in life that aren't harming their children in major ways but may just not promote a perfect world for their children.

Alan, as for children and mothers not "bonding" without breastfeeding - none of my mother's children were breastfed. And we were all bonded to our mother in major ways and adored her. And since your child "bonded" with you obviously breastfeeding had nothing to do with the matter - since you hardly were doing any breastfeeding yourself. Showing that children do indeed bond with their parents whether they're given formula or breastmilk.

JL A (281)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 10:50 pm
What I recall being advised was to at least try breast feeding at first for the extra immunity compoments that flow before the milk comes in for the sake of the health of babies.

Lindsey O (19)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 11:21 pm
And that's good advice you were given, JL A. Certainly medical caregivers need to be informing patients of the facts - and then, when it comes to breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, to support what the mother chooses to do.

It just aggravates me that there really are too many people who want to try and guilt mothers into making what those people see as the "correct" choice. Since the issue isn't over, say, a serious public health concern such as polio immunization, etc., or even a serious individual health concern.

Of course, admittedly I'm not a mother so not only did I not want to breastfeed I didn't want the darned baby in the first place (something which some foolish people also feel should result in a guilty conscience in the deliberately-child-free.)

Mobile Creditcar (0)
Wednesday August 28, 2013, 11:40 pm
I would love to read more about this

. (0)
Thursday August 29, 2013, 7:18 am
That's terrible! They shouldn't be doing that.

Peggy A (0)
Thursday August 29, 2013, 8:23 am

JL A (281)
Thursday August 29, 2013, 8:38 am
Some of the issue is the level of money pushing formula by hospitals unbalancing the information mothers receive that interferes with informed decision-making and choice

Nancy M (169)
Thursday August 29, 2013, 12:26 pm
Thanks for posting this. JL. I remember hearing about this back in the 1980s and 1990s. Disheartening to think that they still do it.

Kate Kenner (215)
Thursday August 29, 2013, 3:12 pm
Again it's about money! Never mind the fact that women have been feeding babies with our bodies since we first appeared.

There was a backlash against nestle pushing formula on poor women in other countries many years ago. I remember this from the late 70's or early 80's. Good to see they are consistent and ripping people off who can not afford it.


Birgit W (160)
Thursday August 29, 2013, 5:27 pm
This was the case in the 70's already, and has not changed since. Thanks.

Lois Jordan (63)
Thursday August 29, 2013, 7:22 pm
Petition signed. (hotlink near bottom of article). Noted. Thanks, JL.
I'm a former La Leche League Leader, and I breastfed all my kids. We were "fighting this fight" with the formula companies back in the 80's & 90's....I see it's ongoing. We knew for a fact that it was much better for moms in Third World countries to breastfeed their babies, as opposed to using formula....the immunities passed from mom to baby couldn't be duplicated. The survival rates for breastfed infants as opposed to formula-fed was enormous. Not to mention that the water used for formula was often tainted.
It saddens me to know that there is obviously still not enough proper staffing of lactation consultants to new moms in hospital births here in the U.S. There is so much information to give new moms to help them learn to breastfeed, because it doesn't always "just come naturally." I had trouble with my first 2, and then joined La Leche League and found out how truly uninformed I'd been, and how all the problems I'd had were so simply and easily solved with a bit of help & info. The benefits to babies are so numerous, too!

Anne F (17)
Friday August 30, 2013, 1:19 pm
My town has a breastfeeding coalition. Their public-service-announcements on radio are encouraging employers to help moms continue breastfeeding when they return to work.

Klaus Peters (14)
Saturday August 31, 2013, 5:26 am
I was proud of my wife for feeding our daughter as long as she could, no Nestle. Our now grown up daughter is healthier for it. Mothers milk has everything a baby will need including antibiotics, nature thought of every thing.
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