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New York Formula Freebies Ban Goes into Effect

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.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

If you had your baby in a hospital, chances are pretty darn high that you headed home with a black diaper bag packed with a tiny paper guide to breastfeeding, a ton of flyers for baby stuff and a couple containers of free formula. If you had your baby where I had Elnora, you may have gone home with a garbage bag (literally) of ready-to-feed Enfamil as well.

Lactivist reader Esmerelda points out that if you plan on having your baby in a hospital in New York City, you'll be heading home with something different now...

According to the New York Post, you'll be heading home with:

...a tote bag stuffed with disposable nursing pads, a mini-cooler for breast-milk bottles, and pint-sized T-shirts for the babies that proudly declare "I eat at mom's."

(Oh, how I wish I'd got the contract on the eat at mom's shirt...LOL)

The Ban the Bags movement isn't new, but it is nice to see New York City signing on. In fact, city health officials are going beyond simply banning the free formula hand outs and are working hard to promote breastfeeding.

"Nationally, there has been a push to return to breast-feeding," said Dr. David Garry, director of obstetrics at Jacobi Hospital in The Bronx. "Human milk is still the best for newborn babies."

Jacobi made the push for 100 percent breast milk in 2005 and now says 25 percent of 2,200 babies born at the hospital each year are breast-fed.

"We are pushing to make sure all women know all the benefits of breast-feeding," Garry said.

It's important to note that any mother who requests formula will still receive it.

Not surprisingly, the formula companies aren't happy about the move...

The infant-formula industry said it supports encouraging more breast-feeding, but is opposed to banning distribution of product samples.

Duh. As if they'd dance with joy while shouting "Thank you for limiting our ability to become the brand of choice for a mom who turns to our samples in desperate frustration!"

Personally, I'm thrilled at the move. While I fully support a mother's right to receive formula for her baby the moment she asks for it, I find the act of sending formula home with every mom to be ridiculous.

Yes, you can donate the formula if you don't want to use it. I donated the free formula I accumulated after Elnora was born (I added it up, it would have fed her for more than two months). That said, study after study shows that moms who go home with those free formula samples breastfeed for shorter periods of time. No big surprise there. The formula companies aren't giving out samples to be nice, they're doing it because they have carefully researched the impact on their bottom line.

Formula is a choice that any mom can make, but any mom that chooses formula should do so knowing full well that it is not the BEST option. You wouldn't expect your cardiologist to tell you about the benefits of a diet of fresh fruit and vegetables and then send you home with a coupon for a free Big Mac Extra Value Meal on the premise of "free choice," would you? Why should pediatricians be any different when it comes to the nutritional needs of our babies?

ETA: I'm curious to hear if any readers caught The View this morning. I hear through the grapevine that they discussed the ban this morning and were quite unhappy with it. The hosts claimed that it stifles "free choice" and said the government was going "too far" to push certain ideals.

Can't say it's a huge surprise to me. Barbara Walters isn't exactly synonomous with "breastfeeding advocacy" and Elizabeth Hasslebeck is a paid spokesperson for Ultra Bright Beginnings Infant Formula.

I've checked and no transcript of the show is available yet, so I'd love to hear input from anyone who saw it.

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  1. Anonymous Mama Bear | 2:55 PM |  

    Funny story... I've actually been given coupons for Big Macs at hospitals. No foolin'.

  2. Blogger Nicole | 2:57 PM |  

    Ick about the view, but WTG, NYC!! That is just awesome! I agree - I believe in choice, but I really disagree with handing formula samples to moms while PG or post-partum. We all know where Walgreen's is. We can get formula if we need it....

  3. Anonymous radical mama | 3:55 PM |  

    That's good news indeed. I don't think formula is exactly comparable to a big mac, but it is NOT equal to breastmilk like the formula companies like to advertise. It should not be promoted by health officials unless it is necessary.

  4. Blogger Annie | 6:02 PM |  

    The video clip is up on abc's website (http://abc.go.com/video/index). It starts at the end of bad girls part 2 and continues on city government.

  5. Blogger Sarahbear | 10:31 PM |  

    Kudos to NYC for letting women choose which bag to take home.

    It doesn't surprise me one bit that Elisabeth Hasselbeck was the one spouting all the nonsense about how the government needs to leave women alone and let them choose to do as they please. I wanted to reach through the screen and strangle her when she said 'when they are old enough to ask for it, their too old to be nursing.' What a bimbo.

  6. Blogger evil cake lady | 10:49 PM |  

    Portland, OR hospitals stopped giving formula, too! Hooray!

  7. Anonymous sarat | 2:49 AM |  

    Wow, that's such a great policy!

    I noticed that the breastfeeding statistics at this hospital are really low (25%) compared with the national average (80% if using the CDC's number). It would be interesting to know more about the moms who deliver there.

  8. Anonymous jessica lietz | 5:31 AM |  

    That is FANTASTIC! Go NY!

    I too donated all my samples to my sister in law's friend who had twins and was breastfeeding but had supply issues so she was supplementing.

  9. Blogger Jamie | 9:04 AM |  

    Oh watching that clip from The View just made me SO angry. "if they're old enough ask for it"?! Ugh! And Barbara Walters says at one point "if you want to breastfeed, that's just wonderful and *many* say it's much healthier" as if this is speculation. It *is* healthier.

  10. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:08 AM |  

    Ada Calhoun chimes in with a similar opinion (though the title is controversial) and some good links over at her AOL blog as well... thought all of you might be interested, hope the link is going to work: http://news.aol.com/newsbloggers/2007/08/01/breastfeeding-isnt-always-best/

  11. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:59 AM |  

    Elisabeth Hasselbeck is so uptight about issues in general, it would surprise me to learn that she touched her own breasts.

    The good news was that Joy Behar said she breastfed for 5 months and wished, in retrospect, that she had nursed for 5 years--to which the audience groaned in disgust. Elisbeth then chiped in about the "when they are old enough to speak, they're old enough to be off the boob" comment. Honestly, she is such an uninformed dimwit!

  12. Blogger Fat Lady | 12:07 PM |  

    Makes me even prouder than usual to be a NYer! Hopefully the private hospitals in NYC will follow suit. I gave birth to my two children at two different hospitals here in NYC and both of them pushed that formula sample bag as though it was crack and they were dealers offering up a free sample to get me hooked. I COULDN'T leave the hospital without the bag - even though I tried. And one of the hospitals is well known for advocating natural childbirth and has a birthing center. Somehow I thought the emphasis on un-medicated birth meant they would be breastfeeding friendly as well - I couldn't have been more wrong.

    How wonderful to know, though, that NYC's public hospitals will actively encourage mothers to give their babies the best start.

  13. Blogger JudyBright | 12:08 PM |  

    FYI on Bright Beginnings: It is made by the same company that makes all the store brand formula with the possible exception of Target.

    Wal-Mart, Kroger, Meijer, and Walgreens formula are all identical and cost a lot less than Bright Beginnings even though they are all the same.

  14. Blogger The Lactivist | 12:19 PM |  

    I generally like Elisabeth. In fact, I find her to be quite well informed on a variety of topics.

    Unfortunately, she follows the mainstream on this issue. I remember that she breastfed her baby, but switched to formula very early on. Being a paid spokesperson for a formula company, I don't imagine she could get away with saying anything that was even neutral on this move, let alone supportive of it.

  15. Anonymous moodymommy | 4:25 PM |  

    Go NYC! I get formula sent to me in the mail! My two children (5 and 2) have never had a drop of it. Anyway, I was wondering whether you saw the article in August BabyTalk "Breast Intentions" where the mom writes about weaning her two-year-old. I'm still nursing my son, and at first, I was happy to find an article about it. However, the weaning she describes sounds terribly traumatic. I would like your opinion about it.

  16. Blogger The Lactivist | 6:51 PM |  

    Unfortunately, I don't get BabyTalk, so I don't have any way to read the article.

    Anyone want to scan it and email it to me?

  17. Blogger Lisa | 7:36 AM |  

    I can't believe any of you would have the moral wherewithall to tell OTHER women what they should or should not do. I am assuming that you would want the government to rule your ability to make any choices about your life and would rather have the easy "out" instead of making your own decisions.
    How foolish you all are.

    I propose that not a single one of you have ever heard of the right to privacy. Take High School government again and this time pay attention.
    How dare any of you believe that you have all the answers and can make a determination for mothers who might have to go back to work immediatly after giving birth (or is that THEIR fault for not having enough money to spend 3 months with their newborns?) What about the mothers who physically have difficulty producing milk on their own? What about a mother who is incapacitated? What someone should hook up a pump while she is comatose to make YOU happy? What about a monther who is an alcoholic? You want her to breast feed a child while drunk?

    You think you have all the answers and know what is best for others. Shame on all of you.

  18. Blogger The Lactivist | 7:47 AM |  

    Perhaps you should spend some time reading this blog before you spout off with your assumptions?

    Or perhaps you should retake high school english to learn what happens when you assume? ;)

    If you would take the time to listen to what women here have to say, you would find that many of my regular readers are formula feeders. Some by choice, some by necessity.

    You would learn that I was unable to breastfeed my first child, so instead spent 13 months pumping milk and bottle feeding.

    You would learn that I, and nearly all of my readers fully support the right of a mother to make an informed choice in how she feeds her child.

    You'd also learn that this new ban simply outlaws the automatic distribution of free formula to every single mother in a hospital. If you ASK for it, you still get it.

    Formula companies do not dispense free formula for altruistic reasons. They have worked their way into hospitals because they understand the marketing value. They give away that free formula to make sure that when mom has a rough day, they are the can she turns to in desperation. They give it away because they know mothers are VERY reluctant to switch formulas. Thus, if they are the first one you try, they are the one you will likely use.

    Do you get mad because your oncologist doesn't send you home with free tobacco and cigarettes? Would you get mad if your endocrinologist didn't send you home with a complimentary box of donuts?

    Somehow, I doubt it.

    Banning free formula is about keeping marketers out of hospitals. It's not about limiting choice.

  19. Blogger Sarahbear | 8:03 AM |  

    Dear Lisa:

    People like you who are too stupid to realize the government is not forcing you to breastfeed your child by removing a sample of formula from a GIFT bag, I'll help clear the matter up for you.

    1. It is not the government's responsibility to give new mom's ANYTHING. No one is entitled to a free can of Similac.

    2. You can STILL ASK for formula at the hospital if you decide to ff your baby. They even have a gift bag with formula in it, they just don't send it home with new moms who don't request it.

    3. Please go back to school and take a couple of classes on reading comprehension because obviously people like you must not have been paying attention in that class. Newspapers and magazine articles are typically written on an 8th grade reading level and people like you are choosing to ignore what the article actually says. You're all over reacting. Do you really think the government has some plan to force women to breastfeed?

    And in regards to your comment about how we feel we have the right to tell other women what to do...

    Why do formula feeding mothers feel the need to tell breastfeeding mothers when and where to feed their babies? Or how long they should feed their babies? What about doctors and nurses who push supplementation from the day the baby is born by telling the new mother she's starving her baby? What about all the formula companies that insist hospitals give us bags with free samples of formula in them 'just in case' we decide to supplement?

    How is all of that any different and somehow ok? No one's forcing anyone to do anything. Moms just don't get defaulted a free can of formula anymore. They still sell it at most grocery stores. When they start banning the sale of formula, then you can get pissed off about something. Until then, put your soap box away.

  20. Anonymous Anonymous | 12:10 PM |  

    For those in Southern New England:

    Join Bellani Maternity for Cookies & Milk!:
    Build Breastfeeding Awareness to Save Lives!
    Wednesday, August 8, 9-11am, Warwick, RI

    The simple act of breastfeeding can help save lives. By increasing breastfeeding rates around the world, we could save 1.3 million children annually and reduce mortality rates by 22%. This year's World Breastfeeding Week aims to save one million babies across the globe by building breastfeeding awareness. The Warwick, RI-based pregnancy resource center Bellani Maternity is hosting an official site for the World Breastfeeding Wave. In this worldwide event, women from across the globe will breastfeed at 10am (their local time), resulting in a 24-hour wave of sequential breastfeeding all the way around the world!

    The event is held as part of World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated in over 120 countries worldwide on August 1-7. This year's goal for the awareness-raising event is to spread the word that immediate initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding for six months can save more than one million babies.

    To help show our support, breastfeeding moms are gathering at Bellani Maternity at 1276 Bald Hill Rd., Warwick, RI (across from Target) on Wednesday, August 8 from 9 to 11am, for "Cookies & Milk." Have fun with other moms and families while we spread the word about breastfeeding. The synchronized feeding will take place at 10am and registration starts at 9am. For more info visit www.bellanimaternity.com or call Bellani at 401-234-1279.

    Please note: no bottles, teats, pacifiers, milk or babyfood products will be allowed on-site during the event. These items will disqualify Bellani from participating in the World Breastfeeding Wave.

  21. Anonymous Comrade Rutherford | 11:53 AM |  

    We were also sent home from a Brooklyn hospital with some formula 'samples'. We were thankful for having them as first time parents and therefor first-time breast feeders.

    We were intent on breastfeeding, but the first three days were difficult, and it seemed that our baby wasn't getting enough to eat.

    We would put the baby on the breast, and she would latch on for a minute or so and then let go and cry again. So we did this with her for about 10 minutes at each feeding and then give her the formula to simply fill her belly so she'd stop crying.

    By the time the formula was gone, the milk was in and both mom and daughter were better at the latcing on and feeding.

    She fed on the breast until age 3, and started solid foods at about 7 months.

    I believe we did it right, doing the breast first and only using the free formula as a 'last resort' for the first few days. And ony for the first baby, our second daughter got NO formula at all.

    But the best part about that is that we didn't PAY for formula at all...

  22. Anonymous Anonymous | 1:31 PM |  

    I guess I'm in the minority. I'm a formula feeding mom who was VERY grateful for the freebies I received when I had my son in Dec 2004. I'm now pregnant with my second and didn't know that hospitals may not be giving these bags unless I ask for one. As a breast cancer survivor at the age of 34, I had bilateral mastectomies in 2003 - so breastfeeding is not an option for me. I envy you women who don't have to worry about issues such as Bisphenol A in our plastic bottles and lining the formula cans.

  23. Blogger Michelle435 | 9:01 AM |  

    I believe this is not right Yes breastfeeding is the best but what if you have a mother who can not get the hang of it, and starves her baby ? So that is why the formula is given to show the mother if they have a problem NOT TO STARVE THE BABY !!!!

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