No More Free Formula in Hospitals Is Best for All Moms

Rant 255

baby bottle

If you have your baby in a hospital, there are many ways the scenario will play out. But one thing is almost always certain -- you will have access to free formula. Lots of it. Even if you are nursing and baby has that sticker on the little rolling crib that says "I'm a breastfed baby." Now I wasn't always sold on the idea that this is a bad thing. If a mama is formula feeding, why not be able to get a whole bunch of expensive formula courtesy of the hospital where you (or your insurance) spent a whole lot of money to have a baby there? Makes perfect sense. But then I started thinking some more.

Those formula companies who place their products in hospitals ... do they have an ulterior motive? And, most worrisome, for the mom who really wants to breastfeed, those first moments and days are very important, and if formula is there to tempt her to just let the nurses feed the baby, it can derail her breastfeeding efforts.

There is much more to it than just some free stuff.

Dozens of health and consumer organizations are sending letters to hospitals around the country demanding that they stop giving out free formula supplied to them by the formula companies. They believe it's like an endorsement for the formula and can halt a mom's breastfeeding success. I agree. Some hospitals have already ended the free formula deal and and many are calling themselves "Baby Friendly" and helping moms breastfeed. This is what we need everywhere.

Way back when my mother had me, people actually believed that formula was better for baby than breastmilk. We all know that isn't true unless of course mom is hooked on drugs and baby shouldn't be anywhere near her breastmilk. But this was was preached to consumers by formula companies and the medical community who just weren't up to speed with their research.

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I'm sorry but the natural milk you produce to feed your baby just isn't as good as this artificial stuff we put together in a factory. Wow. Could you imagine if someone told you that today? Mama knows best -- and mama makes the best milk. We know this now. This is fact.

New moms are also more vulnerable when in a hospital setting. At least I think so. Just going through labor or a frightening delivery by c-section, you are healing and learning your way through those first moments of motherhood. You have all these nurses around you, food delivered, fresh water given just by ringing a bell. And if you are tired (which you most likely will be) and the temptation of formula is right there to feed baby instead of your breast, you may take it. It's like giving a crying child what she wants even if she shouldn't have it. And yes, it's easier to go that route, but once you get home, there is no more bell to ring for water. No more meals delivered, no nurse to mix up formula and feed your baby for you. If you started in the hospital as a mom who wanted to breastfeed but used the formula because it was easier, the reality sets in when you get home and there are piles of bottles with all of their parts to wash.

Breastfeeding isn't easy. But it is worth it for so many reasons. And ease of use is one of them. When you are really tired once you are home and baby wants to eat, breastfeeding is easier than making a bottle of formula. We don't have to get into the benefits for baby's health and mama's health because we all know them by now, but let's just say it surpasses what you can get in a bottle any day.

This isn't about bashing formula. Because I think it's fantastic and I both breastfed and formula fed my twins. This is about giving a mom who wants to breastfeed the best shot at succeeding. This is about helping her most in the beginning when she needs that support the most. This is about what's best for mom and baby. Because we all deserve the best -- or at least the best shot at trying.

What do you think of an all-out ban of free formula in hospitals?


Image via nerissa's ring/Flickr

breastfeeding, natural parenting


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mompam mompam

I both nursed and formula fed. I was very grateful for the free stuff. And my hospital was very breast feeding friendly. O wasn't allowed to give a bottle there

nonmember avatar Shelly

If a women doens't stand up for herself, if she really ants to breastfeed...that's not my problem. If she is so easily influenced, that just having formula there makes her stop breastfeeding...she shouldn't have children. She obviously doesn't have the gumption to say no. The fact is, those of us who medically didn't produce milk, are more then grateful for the freebies. If you don't want it, say NO. Simple as that. If you can't do that, it's the least of your problems.

Lynette Lynette

studies show more moms breastfeed and continue to breastfeed successfully when not given these free samples.

RanaA... RanaAurora

Yup, I'm with you Michele. All it takes is a little research instead of kneejerk reactions for people to understand how detrimental this "free gift" is to breastfeeding rates.

Fonder Fonder

I think its fine I breastfeed and wasn't in the least tempted by formula. If you are a poor mom who can't breastfeed free formula is a god send. I'm not sure if breastfeeding is easier.  You got to get up every 2 hours till you can pump and deal with the judgment of breastfeeding in public. I gave my formula to women in my neighborhood who needed help.

nonmember avatar NavyWife

Shelly is right. If a woman wants to breastfeed, she should stand her ground. If a nurse is forcing a bottle on a woman who wants to breastfeed, she needs to speak up.

Lesli... Leslie_ABS

It's great that they are finally starting to get rid of the 'hospital-endorsed' formula! It's shitty that people are undermined by nurses wanting to feed their babies formula. Formula is not the demon, but undermining new mothers is. There are no free lunches. The reason that formula is free, is because the formula companies want you to get hooked. It's the oldest story in the book. How about lactation support, because EvalynCarnate, if you had good help, then it's likely that your needles wouldn't have been cracked and bloody (which must have sucked). If a kid doesn't have a good latch, it can wreak havoc. And sometimes milk takes 4-5 days to come in. I don't know your particular situation and I'm not judging you, I'm just saying that many women get sabotaged by bad information and the availability of free formula. If the hospitals are going to continue to give it out for free, they should *charge* the formula companies for using their stuff, because the amount of free advertising that they get from the 'knowledgable, trusted' hospital is lining the formula company's pockets. 

nonmember avatar K

glad that you think women are so weak as to be that impacted by the sight of free formula. Its nice that you think so highly of your fellow moms.

Also, please cite one study that shows samples have any impact on breastfeeding.

I can tell you that the complete lack of maternity leave in the US has MUCH bigger impact on breastfeeding rates than a bag of free samples. Why isn't there more of a rallying cry surrounding that issue?

Roxan... Roxanne71

"Lots of it"??  When I had my daughter 3 years ago in the hospital they did not have "lots" of free formula.  The maternity staff simply assumed I would BF and offered to show me how to latch.  That was it.  They never once offered formula.  Even when DD became jaundice.  However, as I checked out from the hospital, I did ask if I could get some formula for the jaundice.  DD's bilirubin levels had jumped quite a bit and I just felt more comfortable giving her a little formula to help her along.  The hospital only gave me four - 2 oz premade bottles...that was it!

Kate Tietje

You neglected to mention a bunch of important stuff here.

The obvious benefit to formula feeding moms is that if formula isn't given away for free (along with diaper bags and other promotional materials) to all moms in the hospital, and isn't sent to them in the mail, then all that money saved in marketing can lead to lower costs on formula.  THAT clearly benefits formula feeding moms, who will then have to pay less for the formula they need to buy.

Plus, no one's saying that formula shouldn't be available by request.  It should.  But the cost for it will be added to your hospital bill, just like with everything else you use while you are there.  Why is it wrong to say it should be available for those who need or want it but not pushed on those who don't?  I think that's a win-win....

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