The state of Massachusetts has taken a huge stand on Formula Sample Bags that are given to new moms at the hospital. Their Breast Feeding organization is asking all of the hospitals in the state to voluntarily stop providing these bags to new moms.
In a letter which has been sent to the directors of clinical services, CEOs and marketing divisions for the 39 maternity hospitals that currently distribute the bags, the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition asks that they “market health, and nothing else” , then it lists the 11 hospitals who have discontinued the distribution of the samples.
The Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); the Advisory Council of District 1 of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG); the Massachusetts section of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses; and the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition, are writing to urge you to eliminate marketing of infant formula in your hospitals and offices. All major medical organizations, including AAP and ACOG, recommend that babies get no other food or drink besides breastmilk for the first six months of life. Research shows this recommendation is undermined when hospitals distribute formula company discharge bags to new mothers.
Seventy-seven percent of Massachusetts mothers initiate breastfeeding, but a mere 16.6% are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months, according to 2005 data from the Centers for Disease Control.
Multiple studies show that when nursing mothers take home a commercial discharge bag, they are more likely to start using formula—even if the formula has been removed from the bag (Cochrane Data Base Systematic Review, 2000; 2:CD002075). The practice also encourages formula-feeding mothers to buy the expensive brand that was recommended by the hospital, even if this results in a financial hardship, as these brands often cost 66% more than store brands.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement from February 2, 2005 lists the following among its objectives: “Work actively toward eliminating hospital policies and practices that discourage breastfeeding (eg, promotion of infant formula in hospitals including infant formula discharge packs and formula discount coupons . . .)”
I could not agree with this more. I wish more hospitals would follow this practice. To some moms it is just easier to mix and bottle of formula because you know how much they are getting and it is faster than through the breast. Breast feeding takes some time and practice, but it is easier and more convenient in the end. The nutritional benefits outweigh any beginners issues 10 fold.