I applaud Massachusetts – who’s next?


State bans gift bags to promote breast-feeding- “Mass. hospitals to stop giving diaper bags filled with formula, other freebies”

I know this news is almost a week old now, but I have to applaud Massachusetts’ new ban on distributing gift bags full of formula* to moms in the hospital.

Some view the ban as too extreme, but I think that it helps encourage breastfeeding and I see that as a positive thing. I, for one, would be happy to see hospitals or even other states follow suit.

The article (above) notes that: “According to 2004 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 74 percent of Massachusetts mothers breast-feed, but only 39 percent are still breast-feeding when the baby is 6 months old, below the federal goal of 50 percent. Nationally, about 36 percent of mothers breast-feed at 6 months.” I’ll be curious to see how much (if at all) the percentages change a year after this new ban is in place.

From another article on the subject, “Giving out these bags reduces the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding and is considered unethical by many national and international groups, including the World Health Organization. Multiple studies, even from prestigious medical journals such as the Lancet, have shown that the bags interfere with breastfeeding, causing moms to switch to formula sooner, or quit nursing altogether– even when the bags do not contain formula samples.” “Most parents see these as a “free gift,” but the bags are a marketing technique that implies that the hospital endorses the product, successfully boosting sales of formula at the expense of breastfeeding.”

On one of the Yahoo! Groups I belong to, a few of the moms have been working on letters that we can all send to hospitals in our area to encourage them to adopt the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative as instituted by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. “A maternity facility can be designated ‘baby-friendly’ when it does not accept free or low-cost breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats, and has implemented 10 specific steps to support successful breastfeeding.”

While I don’t believe that it necessarily needs to be legislated by the government, I would like to see more hospitals simply adopt the BFHI policy and not give out formula unless it is specifically requested. I think those steps could go a long way at increasing the number and longevity of breastfed babies.

By the way, here’s a great site about the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in the USA.

*It’s worth noting that the ban does not prevent the hospitals from giving formula to moms who request it.

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8 thoughts on “I applaud Massachusetts – who’s next?

  1. Woohoo! Way to go Massachussetts.

    It’s sickening how formula companies target new mothers. I received emails from Infamil and Nestle during pregnancy about ‘free formula’. They asked me if I would be interested in receiving free samples of their formula. I emailed them and said, No thanks I will be breastfeeding. They still shipped it out. Their free samples were regular sized containers. This happened a few times. I guess they thought I would get tired of breastfeeding. That didn’t happen. I gave it to my aunt’s church. They do a lot to help those in need.

  2. VM, I think that’s my biggest beef w/ the formula companies – that they bombard ALL moms w/ formula regardless of if they say they are breastfeeding and don’t want it or not. I don’t have a problem with hospitals giving the formula to moms who need or want it, but why must so many just give it out to all as standard procedure? I know many bfing moms who got tons of “free” formula “samples” and donated them to shelters, etc. I gave mine to a friend who was physically unable to bf.
    It’s sad that it all comes down to the almighty dollar. Like they say in one of the articles, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

  3. I think “breast is best” and I sincerely TRIED to bf both my children…but, it just did not work out for me and in a moment of pure terror/pain…I NEEDED to have some formula and thank goodness for that free formula I got in my gift bag from the hospital during that time. I also wasn’t producing enough milk and basically was starving my baby to death, so I think in that aspect, I’m glad for his sake the formula was there. I don’t blame myself, I just wasn’t educated as to all the aspects of nursing and because it hurt so bad and for the sake of my sanity and the well being of my newborn at that point, I needed to quit. (not to mention he was unknowingly starving.) I do wish that someone would have stepped in and supported me to keep trying and would have educated me on how to get more milk, etc…
    I think the MAIN problem with women not nursing is that they aren’t properly educated. Nursing takes work and if you’re not educated in the “how to’s”, you’re going to stop in less than a week. I REGRET not nursing longer but I was young and UNeducated.
    I think hospitals should send formula home…they’re sending the breasts home, so why not have both to choose from? It’s kind of our right…ykwim
    I strongly feel that moms not nursing for an extended time or not trying it at all, is mainly because they are uneducated!
    My youngest child just turned 9 today, and I am hoping that they are doing things differently than when I had him,I didn’t have any support at all in the hospital or after I went home. And with my oldest, I had a nurse give me a 3 minute talk about nursing and hand me a book, (all while under the influence of pain meds -after a
    C-section). And my mom didn’t bf so she wasn’t much help in that area. In her day, women used fomula, so she thought I was silly for even trying to bf.
    I think once we get more education out there on not only WHY it’s the best choice but also on HOW TO do it, moms won’t care if formula is in the bag, because they won’t need or want it.
    Plus, it’s like anything else, if you don’t need or want it, throw it away or better yet, give it to someone who could use it. I know they usually give out free diapers and coupons, but I don’t hear anyone complaining about that. lol

  4. Christina – that’s funny that you just came across it today too. :)

    R2Ks – Glad you were able to donate yours to a worthy cause.

    Happy Mom Tonja – Thanks for sharing your experiences.
    I totally agree with you that there isn’t enough education or support out there for moms. I hope that things will turn around in this country so that women can be better educated not only on why “breast is best” but also on where and how to get support if they have difficulties breastfeeding. It’s unfortunate that many women don’t know that the support of LLL and lactation consultants is out there if they need it.

    But I disagree with sending formula home with every mom, especially those who specifically don’t want it. (And even if they chose not to take it home from the hospital, thanks to the marketing by formula companies, a case is likely to show up on their doorstep within a few days to weeks of their child’s birth.)

    I’m glad that you had the formula there when you needed it for your children, but I know there are many moms who turn to those free samples when they are tired and sleep-deprived (and not in the best frame of mind for making a decision like that) and that usually is the beginning of weaning. I think that could be avoided by not having it in the house to begin with.
    Just my .02.

    I think making the comparison between formula and free diapers is a little extreme. But then again, I give away the free diaper samples I get in the mail too since I cloth diaper.

    Too bad I can’t get free baby clothes samples in the mail. ;) Those I would gladly take. :)

  5. WOw, I didn’t realize formula companies were so aggressive here in the States. I was pregnant and gave birth in Bangkok, Thailand and most mothers chose to formula feed and that is by far the majority in Thailand, unfortunately. However, the hospital respected my choice to breastfeed and they never gave the baby any sort of supplementary formula in the hospital, only a dropper for a little water to keep him hydrated. Now if every mother could go home with this gift it would be great! http://www.earthmamaangelbaby.com/breastfeeding_support_kit.html
    My mother got this support kit for me and it was a lifesaver. It helps alleviate pain and is soothing. All kits should come with the local listing of Le Leche League contact information so that the education can be available. Breastfeeding should also be advocated during childbirth classes, so that women can no longer be so uneducated.

  6. Amy – That’s great that they respected your choices.
    What a cool support kit. :) That would be awesome if something like that (along with information) was handed out to bfing moms. How nice of your mom to get it for you. :)

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