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Massachusetts to Discontinue Free Formula "Gift" in Hospitals

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Found via Blogging Baby...

Lactivists everywhere should jump up and down rejoicing at a recent move that will see Massachusetts hospitals no longer giving away the "free diaper bags" that happened to be stuffed with formula samples. Apparently state health officials have realized that sending a new breastfeeding mom home with tins of tempting formula might not be the best way to encourage them to tough out those first few days and weeks of breastfeeding.


When I had Elnora last year at Riverside Methodist in Columbus I was astonished at how well the L&D nurses fought for me when it came to my wishes for a natural birth. I literally could have kissed one of them when she kept "forgetting" to call the OB with a progress update when it took me ages to dialate. My love of the Riverside nurses came to an end once I was shacked up in a post-partum room though. Not only did their lack of knowledge when it came to breastfeeding contribute to the problems I had nursing Elnora, but their solution to the problem was to send me home with a literal garbage bag full of ready-to-feed Enfamil.

Yeah thanks...that's helpful.

Let's send buckets of formula home with a new mom whose baby screams in panic anytime she gets close to a nipple, tell the same mom that the baby is now so jaundiced that she may need light therapy and threaten to keep the baby if she doesn't agree to supplement with said formula. THAT will help her build a successful breastfeeding relationship.

(Moms...this is why you need to know about a little thing called signing AMA and when to threaten to do it...)

Thankfully, when I demanded to see a Lactation Consultant they actually had a good one that helped me figure out an alternate plan (pump and supplement with my milk to ensure my supply came in) and basically told the on-call Ped to shove off.

Oh...wait...I'm ranting...(Lactivists do that you know...)

The new Massachusetts ban doesn't prohibit hospitals from giving out free formula, it simply means that hospitals cannot, by default, give out those tempting formula packs to every single mother that passes through their doors. (Formula will still be available for any mother that requests it.)

"There's no free lunch and there's no free gift," said Beth Sargent, an independent lactation consultant from Needham in an article published at Forbes.com. "A gift is something given freely without the anticipation of a return. There is absolutely an anticipation of return."

Department of Public Health spokeswoman Donna Rheaume says that she believes this is the first time that any state has written such a ban into their hospital regulations.

The move isn't sitting so well with formula companies...(imagine that!)

From the Forbes article:

Formula companies say their top priority is healthy mothers and babies, regardless of whether they breast-feed or use formula.

Gail Wood, a spokeswoman for Mead Johnson & Co., which makes Enfamil, called the ban "over the top," intruding on the private choice about feeding a baby, which is made between mothers and their doctors

"I don't think they're respecting the decisions of women and the decisions of health care professionals," she said. "I think it's not respectful of their privacy."

Is anyone out there surprised to hear the formula manufacturers reaction? Anyone? Is that crickets I hear?

That's what I thought.

Formula companies are already violating the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes which states:

5.2 Manufacturers and distributors should not provide, directly or indirectly, to pregnant women, mothers or members of their families, samples of products within the scope of this code.

5.3 In conformity with paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article, there should be no point-of-sale advertising, giving of samples, or any other promotion device to induce sales directly to the consumer at the retail level, such as special displays, discount coupons, premiums, special sales, loss-leaders and tie-in sales for products within the scope of this Code. This provision should not restrict the establishment of pricing policies and practices intended to provide products at lower prices on a long-term basis.

5.4 Manufacturers and distributors should not distribute to pregnant women or mothers or infants and young children any gifts of articles or utensils which may promote the use of breast-milk substitutes or bottle-feeding.

...So why should we be surprised at their upset?

By the way, if you are a breastfeeding mom and you happen to get that pack from the hospital the next time you have a baby (you know you can avoid getting that pack by having your baby at home, but that's another post...) you can always tote it down to your local food bank or crisis pregnancy center. They can always use it. That's what we did with ours.

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  1. Blogger The Zero Boss | 12:30 PM |  

    Great commentary. And thanks for linking to BB! :)

  2. Blogger Jess | 7:16 PM |  

    Amen, sister! Our "gifts" from Mount Carmel East Hospital in Columbus went straight to a crisis pregnancy center!

  3. Blogger Jess | 7:21 PM |  

    Amen! I'm so happy to hear of this - I understand that there are post-partum issues that almost mandate formula supplementation. But have we noticed that very young mothers, especially teens, are almost inticed to formula feed, sometimes even by WIC - which is supposed to be there to promote breastfeeding! With my experience with a local crisis pregnancy center, many young girls are excited about the dollar amount of freebies they will recieve from WIC if they choose to formula feed - they almost feel entitled to the most expensive goodies. Not to mention that they are mentored about taking lots of time out for themselves, which is sometimes interpreted as not even bothering with breastfeeding because if the baby takes a bottle, it doesn't take mommy to feed him. I think a lot of changes need to be made in the "system" and with all agencies that are there to aid mothers.

  4. Blogger Jennifer | 5:50 PM |  

    Mt. Caramel East eh? Another Buckeye...do I know you, or did you just stumble in here by chance? :)

  5. Blogger Ally | 8:50 AM |  

    It's amazing how experiences can differ. I delivered at Riverside in Oct. 2005. My L&D nurse was a terror, my postpartum nurses were wonderful, and very supportive of bfing.

    We did crack open one sample can of formula but only made 6 or so bottles for when I was going to be gone more than an hour or so. That was before I knew how to fit pumping sessions in between feedings. The rest were donated.

  6. Anonymous Anonymous | 12:37 PM |  

    what really bugs me is that people who work in hopsitals (and actually i AM one of those people) are always being given goodies by drug reps - everything from free drug samples to full-on expensive meals - and we always claim to be "above the influence" of those gifts. now we are looking at companies doing THE SAME THING to our patients and saying it's too coercive. it's all marketing - it's all an attempt to make money - the hospitals are just mad that they aren't going to profit.

  7. Anonymous Anonymous | 4:02 PM |  

    Thats great! Except... Why did I get a "Breastfeeding Support" bag last week from Similac (at Saints Memorial Medical center) containing Similac formula (albeit, not as much as they'd give a formula feeding mom) after I said I was exclusively breast feeding. Looks like they (the formula companies) found the loop-holes.

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