Pediatricians and Hospitals Resolve to Stop Infant Formula Handouts

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:

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.

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Photo credit: EraPhernalia Vintage on flickr


Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Very interesting!

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons5 years ago

how about handing out breast pumps instead. if they still want to give out formula hand it out to the WIC program.

Erin D.
Erin Hummer5 years ago

I have two children and I was not interested in breastfeeding. The nurse asked me if I wanted to try breastfeeding and I said no. I was given free samples of similac, but I told the nurses to give it to another mother that needed it. I choose to use enfamil instead of similac and my husband and I could buy our children their formula. I have nothing against breastfeeding. I just wasn't interested. The samples had nothing at all to do with my choice. They're my babies and I'll feed them the way I choose to feed them. They are very healthy children and I have no regrets whatsoever.

Dave C.
David C5 years ago

breast fed is best fed......amazingly at our hospital the doctors were against it for years before the free samples stopped.....only when they were at risk of losing the "baby friendly hospital" status....

Abbe A.
Azaima A5 years ago


MEGAN N5 years ago

I am really getting sick of the idea that adults in the US are to stupid to make whatever decision they feel is best for them. We are not brainwashed by big companies to the point where we need the government and nosey "do gooder" to step in and tell us what to do all the time. The last time i checked we were not a policed state yet but that seems to be where we are heading.

I have three boys who i breastfed and who i put in cloth diapers because i chose to. I didn't do that because anyone told me to or because i was trying to save the world. I made the choice because in my family we tend to be less frills by choice and i didn't think my kids needed those things. Other people might not feel the same so i would never push my choices on others.

Also even though i didn't use everything in my gift bags i used a lot of it and i really likes my little gifts and they came in very handy. Why punish the new moms by taking away these things just because you want to force them to think like you.

Nancy Black
Nancy Black5 years ago

I believe the mother has the right to make a choice whether to breast feed or not. I had two children; I did not breast feed. I chose not to before I went to the hospital. The samples I received did not cause me to make that decision; they did save money when my family needed it. I think hospitals should continue to give samples because I believe women are capable of making decisions on whether or not they want to breast feed even if they are offered formula.

tiffany t.
tiffany t5 years ago

breast is best! with that being said during my rotation at an inner city hospital, formula was the healthier option for the infant. I agree with Shirley T. about the US mortality rate...deplorable

Erika B.
Erika Berner5 years ago

Has anyone given thought to the fact that most Mothers are fairly intelligent human beings and can make a choice of whether to breastfeed or not. Why is it up to others to decide for her, and why is society making the act of breastfeeding into an almost religious experience?
Women have been having babies for thousands of years and until recently, if they could afford it, theyhired a wet-nurse to breastfeed. Granted it was still breastfeeding but it wasn't from the Mother - she was in some situations not allowed because of her social status. Let's quit trying to make this issue something it shouldn't be. The only historical reason for breastfeeding was because of the non-pasturization of milk, much like the reason for some religions not allowing pork. If a woman wants to breastfeed, she will, if she doesn't she won't. No amount of free samples is really going to change that. And yes I did breastfeed for 3 months, as an American in Korea 30 years ago - because the water and the milk was not safe.

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton5 years ago

Thanks for the article.