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Massachusetts Backs Down on Formula Gift Bag Ban

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.

Monday, February 20, 2006

In a disappointing move, Massachusetts has given in to public criticism and cancelled an upcoming ban on the automatic giveaway of free hospital gift bags from formula companies. I wrote about the free formula ban when it first made news back around Christmas.

It's important to note that despite public comments to the contrary, the new law never barred hospitals from giving away free formula. It simply banned the automatic distribution to ALL new mothers. Instead, the new law would have required that hospitals give the "gifts" only to mothers that requested them.

The decision to drop the new ban was made after Governor Mitt Romney said that he didn't want to block new mothers from receiving the bags and that the decision to breastfeed should be left up to mothers. Ironic isn't it...that the law wouldn't block mothers from getting the bags and the bags themselves have been shown to encourage mothers to switch to formula when things get a little tough.

The article hit the nail on the head in presenting the arguments of the two sides:

Formula companies had objected to the ban, saying women should be given the widest range of options to feed their babies. They said they are committed to the health of babies and mothers.

But breast-feeding activists supported the ban. They say it protected new mothers from being lured into relying on formula when the healthiest option is their own breast milk.

Imagine that...formula companies got upset because they couldn't shove their product into every new moms hand? Ohh...how sad.

Want to share your input with Governor Romney? Please do... you can send a message via his web site, or you can contact him at the following address:

Office of the Governor
Room 360
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: (617) 725-4005
FAX: (617) 727-9725
TTY: (617) 727-3666


  1. Blogger K | 7:46 AM |  

    This is so irritating. And it makes absolutely no sense. I wonder what role MA hospitals played int his decision -- the formula companies can be very generous.


  2. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 7:52 AM |  

    That's my thinking...I seem to recall that formula companies often comp all of the formula used in a hospital, which is why they stick with one brand (same with diapers). Great way to get parents to stick with that brand after going home.

    Wouldn't take many threats for them to back down. That formula costs a LOT of money...

  3. Anonymous Anonymous | 1:15 PM |  

    Our free bags don't have any formula in them, but they do tend to have gifts from Avent.

  4. Anonymous Anonymous | 9:44 AM |  

    Being from Boston, I was initially excited about the ban. I myself almost switched to formula in the hospital, after having terrible problems with breastfeeding and the nurses themselves recommending formula, and it being shoved in my face. I'm so happy that I stuck with it and am now still nursing my 16-month old.

    It is disappointing to hear that they backed down on the ban.

  5. Blogger JudyBright | 6:12 AM |  

    While I think it's stupid that hospitals give formula to everyone whether they want it or not, I son't think there should be a law against it. I'm sure the mom can leave the formula at the hospital if they so choose.

    I support breastfeeding 100%, but I don't think it's the government's job to tell a hospital how to run a gift bag policy. We all have the freedom to be stupid.

    I think we should be careful about supporting laws and bans just because we agree with the outcome.

  6. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 6:17 AM |  

    To make it clear, the law did not ban the giveaway of free formula. What it banned was the automatic dispersal to EVERY mom.

    It would be very easy to make it hospital policy to not give it to mothers that have expressed their desire to breastfeed. I think even that would make me happy...just don't push it on the folks that are already trying.

    Think about it this way, when you leave the hospital after having your radiation treatment for lung cancer, should the tobacco companies be allowed to send you home a carton of cigarretts saying "I hope you quit, but if you don't, give our brand a try."

    It's not really any different.

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