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Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

Breastfeeding Moms Boot Nestle From Maternity Wards

Posted by on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:12 PM
  • 269 Replies


If breastfeeding is healthier for babies, why are hospitals pushing corporate infant formula? How a growing number of states and cities are banning marketing in the maternity ward.

From TIME magazine’s provocative photo of a mother breastfeeding her toddler to the recent controversy surrounding an American University professor who breastfed her baby while teaching a class, how we feed babies often attracts its fair share of media attention.

But while news coverage often focuses on what are perceived as personal choices related to infant feeding, an important piece of the puzzle is often missing from their analysis: the intrusion of massive corporations into the relationships between patients and health-care providers, and the subordination of public-health considerations to profit margins.

Fortunately, advocates and activists are joining forces and putting a spotlight on this missing piece of the puzzle. And momentum is building as hospitals across the country—including all of those in Massachusetts and Rhode Island—are telling the infant-formula industry to take their marketing pitches elsewhere.

Science or sales pitch?

Consider this: Across the country, up to 72 percent of health-care facilities with maternity units distribute so-called infant formula to new mothers in industry-supplied “discharge bags,” complete with formula samples, coupons for formula, and marketing materials.

With the many benefits of breastfeeding touted by the Surgeon General and other public-health officials, why would hospitals send a new mom home with a bag full of formula? Because the infant-formula industry, which is worth $3.5 billion in the United States alone, knows there couldn’t be a better marketing tool than hospital freebies that are seemingly endorsed by health-care providers.

Studies show that women who receive infant formula samples in maternity wards are more likely to stop breastfeeding sooner and less likely to breastfeed exclusively. Though all major health care organizations recommend that infants be breastfed exclusively through six months, only 16.3 percent of moms nationwide achieve this goal. Experts agree that one of the obstacles to exclusive breastfeeding is ubiquitous infant formula marketing.

Certainly, families should make their own decisions about how to feed their babies, taking into account a variety of life circumstances and personal preferences that might make them elect to use infant formula instead of breastfeeding. But as far as practicing evidence-based medicine goes, it makes sense for health care providers to recommend the option that is best for their patients’ health. That recommendation is seriously undermined by infant-formula marketing in health care facilities, highlighting the conflict between the ideal goals of hospitals (health) and goals of formula manufacturers (profit). As one humorous comic put it, discharge bags seem to send the message, “Breast is best, but you probably can’t do it.”

This issue strikes a chord that goes beyond this particular product. We look to our health care providers for scientifically based medical advice, not for a sales pitch. So many aspects of our lives are commercialized, from schools plastered with advertisements, to bridges, highways, and roads named for the corporations that make the highest offer. Still, at the very least, shouldn’t our relationships with our health care providers be spared from the encroachment of values that turn every human interaction into one of buying and selling? Shouldn’t we be able to trust that our doctors, nurses or midwives are offering us advice that is best for us, not best for the bottom lines of deep-pocketed corporations?

The struggle for a marketing-free maternity ward

Fortunately, we are starting to see change on this issue, thanks to many years of work by committed public-health advocates and activists. Recently, Public Citizen, the organization I work for, launched a campaign calling on health-care facilities to stop allowing the distribution of infant-formula samples to new moms. More than 15,000 people have signed Public Citizen’s petition calling on the three major manufacturers of infant formula—Abbott, Mead Johnson, and Nestlé—to stop using health-care facilities to market their products. Some states are leading the charge to get infant formula marketing out of hospitals.

Last fall, Rhode Island became the first state in which all maternity hospitals voluntarily eliminated industry-sponsored discharge bags. This summer, Massachusetts followed suit, with all 49 of its hospitals ending formula marketing on their premises. Massachusetts advocates overcame significant obstacles: In 2005, then-governor Mitt Romney forced the state’s department of health to overturn regulations that would have banned formula discharge bags from hospitals. Most recently, 28 of New York City’s hospitals voluntarily agreed to stop distributing infant-formula marketing materials to new moms.

The movement to ensure that health care facilities promote health, not corporate profits, is gaining speed. It’s time for hospitals across the country to say “no more” to corporate interests encroaching on patients’ access to quality health care.


http://truth-out.org/news/item/11964-breastfeeding-moms-boot-nestle-from-maternity-wards
by on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:12 PM
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Replies (1-10):
eema.gray
by on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:21 PM

Will need to respond later when I can actually think 

SewingMamaLele
by Leanne on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:25 PM
3 moms liked this

I think it's great that hospitals are doing what's right for the health of their patients... and no laws needed!   Fantastic. 

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Godgaveme4
by Platinum Member on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:29 PM
19 moms liked this

I hope this means ALL free samples are gone then.  That means no free samples for lotion that help when you BF or anything else given away to help the mother.  Can't have anything corporate interfering right?

If you are banning for one set of parent then you ban all corporate gimicks.

norahsmommy
by Bronze Member on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:37 PM
I won't touch those freebie bags. It feels to me like your friendly neighborhood pusher giving you a freebie because he such a nice guy. I have had 4 babies in 2 different hospitals spanning 8 yrs. each bag in my room was labeled 'breastfeeding' and each had creams, storage bags, nursing info printed by similac or infamile and cans or ready to serve formula. They tried to give freebie bags with formula at my first prenatal appointments as well. I'm glad they are getting rid of it.
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Goodwoman614
by Satan on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:43 PM
4 moms liked this
Quoting Godgaveme4:

I hope this means ALL free samples are gone then.  That means no free samples for lotion that help when you BF or anything else given away to help the mother.  Can't have anything corporate interfering right?


If you are banning for one set of parent then you ban all corporate gimicks.




Read the article.

This isn't some anti-corporate thing.
It is about supporting bf, and the specific science behind the link to these formula promotions and an increase in moms who are not as successful w/ bf and/or bf for shorter duration.

So, a hospital making samples of, say, Lansinoh available to moms WOULD BE in alignment promoting best practices.
motherslove82
by Silver Member on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:44 PM

That is not what the article is saying. It's not about advertisement alone. It's about a doctor/hospital handing out formula samples, which makes it seem like they are endorsing formula. Breastfeeding is healthier. It's kind of like a doctor's office handing out Mcdonald's coupons or gift certificates.

I never used the formula samples, but I love diaper bags, so I would miss getting those. :-)

Quoting Godgaveme4:

I hope this means ALL free samples are gone then.  That means no free samples for lotion that help when you BF or anything else given away to help the mother.  Can't have anything corporate interfering right?

If you are banning for one set of parent then you ban all corporate gimicks.


FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:47 PM
10 moms liked this

I really don't care if formula is, or is not, in the hospitals.  I care more about a woman having the choice to BF or not and no one getting in her face for her choice.

wyattsmom2009
by Member on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:56 PM
1 mom liked this

I was glad that the hospital gave me formula for my son. He would not bf. I tried from the day he was born. He wound up losing weight. So people need to take that into account. Also what about those parents that have open adoptions. They should have the right to get formula samples,etc given to them. Those mothers won't be able to bf. 

Goodwoman614
by Satan on Oct. 5, 2012 at 5:00 PM
Quoting FromAtoZ:

I really don't care if formula is, or is not, in the hospitals.  

^ ^ ^ ^
But that is precisely and specifically what this article is addressing.



I care more about a woman having the choice to BF or not and no one getting in her face for her choice.




^ ^ ^ ^
Precisely NOT what this article addresses.
Goodwoman614
by Satan on Oct. 5, 2012 at 5:02 PM
Quoting wyattsmom2009:

I was glad that the hospital gave me formula for my son. He would not bf. I tried from the day he was born. He wound up losing weight. So people need to take that into account. Also what about those parents that have open adoptions. They should have the right to get formula samples,etc given to them. Those mothers won't be able to bf. 




Personal anecdote.

This article addresses hospital policy.
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