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Old 04-18-2012, 07:34 AM
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Default U.S. Hospitals Pressured to End Free Baby Formula

WASHINGTON (Reuters) Apr 09 - New parents leaving U.S. hospitals often take home a corporate gift along with their babies: a tote bag filled with infant formula. Consumer advocates want to end the giveaways, which they say undermine breastfeeding.

In a letter to more than 2,600 hospitals, dozens of consumer and health organizations called on the facilities to stop distributing free samples of formula that they say entangles healthcare providers in pharmaceutical and food manufacturers' marketing and could be seen as an endorsement.

Giving formula to new parents discourages some new mothers from breastfeeding, the groups said on Monday in the letter sent by the advocacy group Public Citizen. They are also petitioning the $4 billion infant formula industry's leaders - Abbott Laboratories, Mead Johnson Nutrition Co and Nestle SA - to halt the practice.

The move is part of a renewed effort to boost U.S. rates of breastfeeding, which is known to confer a wide range of health benefits from reducing obesity to boosting immunity and is recommended for at least a baby's first six months of life.

Just 14% of 6-month-old infants are exclusively breastfed, something U.S. health officials want to increase to about 26% by 2020.

The industry's trade group said such samples had been given away for more than 40 years and that most women wanted the bags.
"We can't forget that some moms even though they plan to breastfeed, they either can't or they decide not to," said International Formula Council Executive Vice President Mardi Mountford. "We believe they want more information, not less."
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Old 04-18-2012, 07:42 AM
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If women are motivated to breastfed they will no matter what they are given at discharge. The amount of free formula given is negligible.

I chose not to breastfeed my DD and was given free formula for one year because I worked in an OB office.

I chose to breastfeed my DS and had the same offer for free formula for one year from the Similac area rep because I worked in the newborn nursery. That offer did not change my mind. After a couple of weeks DS was losing too much weight, my milk was checked and it was not sufficient and was too thin. I got the free Similac and he thrived

I'm all for breastfeeding if you can but it should not be forced on mothers as the only acceptable choice. My SIL breastfed her kids for 2 years and they were always sick and mine were never sick. Undoubtedly breast milk is the ideal formula but it just doesn't work for everyone.
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Old 04-18-2012, 10:42 AM
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I understand the possibility of making it look like the hospital is endorsing the formula makers, but like you said, not everyone is cut out for nursing. For those who can't/won't, some free formula helps the budget.

I almost feel like there's a bit of a bullying aspect when it comes to breastfeeding. You're not a bad mother if you don't breastfeed.
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Old 04-18-2012, 04:36 PM
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I have some very strong opinions on the topic, but I'll leave it at I'm very much pro-breastfeeding. I'd never suggest anyone was a bad mother if they didn't do it, but I do believe the opportunity to succeed at it should be preserved.

I will offer this: in my experience as La Leche League Leader, when helping new mothers through breastfeeding issues (latch on difficulties, whatever), those that don't walk home with a bucketful of formula aren't nearly as likely to grab it as a problem-solver. After all, if it's sitting right there on the counter and you're struggling to learn what is often not a simple thing to do, the temptation is often too great...and THAT is what undermines breastfeeding. The frustrated, upset or tired mother is simply much more likely to say "ah, screw it" and reach for the bottle of artificial milk. If it's not there, well, they're much more likely to fix the problem itself.

This isn't anything new; years and years ago hospitals agreed to (when faced with information from the WHO and AAP) what were called Baby Friendly Directives, and that included not sending home bagfuls of artificial infant milk. But of course breastfeeding mothers aren't big business, and making artificial food definitely is! When the agreed-upon directives lapsed, or got ignored because freebies were coming their way, hospitals didn't have incentives to uphold their agreements at all. So now, it looks like something new when it's really just being put out there again.
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Old 04-18-2012, 05:46 PM
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It's kind of like those free lunches pharm reps bring to offices. When the out-patient oncology office I worked in was physician owned, we used to get free meals almost every day. I'm not talking about el cheapo meals, either. We got Macaroni Grill, Olive Garden, Isaac's (a regional deli chain that has OMG good sandwiches), Chinese, Boston Market...

Then we were taken over by a hospital, and they said "No More Free Lunches." That lasted for a while, but then slowly, the pharm reps started worming their way back in. The one thing I noticed that was different was they were far more aggressive than before. It used to be they'd just chit-chat about stuff; no talk about the drugs. After the change-over, they were very aggressive; woe betide the nurse who had to go into the lounge alone. You couldn't even eat; they would just yak and yak at you, sometimes two at a time. It wasn't even worth the free food. When I go to lunch I want to eat in peace.

Sorry, that was a bit of a thread-jack.
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Old 04-18-2012, 05:50 PM
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More on track, I believe new mothers deserve support, no matter how they choose to feed their babies.
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Old 04-18-2012, 09:12 PM
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More on track, I believe new mothers deserve support, no matter how they choose to feed their babies.
Absolutely agreed, but the idea of the article posted wasn't that there wasn't support for new mothers, or that they were bad if they didn't choose breastfeeding, etc etc etc.

It was that there is a clear association between the success rate of breastfeeding and not having negative interference, which in this case is the very presence of bagfuls of free formula being sent home. You could actually say that the mothers who wanted to succeed at breastfeeding WEREN'T getting full support, if the message they were getting was "in case it doesn't pan out for you, no sweat, here's a can of artificial milk".

In order to support breastfeeding, it's clear we can't send the mixed signals. Not just my opinion, that's the reason for the hospital agreements in the first place.
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Old 05-01-2012, 07:34 PM
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OMG. Please, please...change that avatar. It is scaring me half to death! ;)
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Old 05-01-2012, 07:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MoreDilaudidPlease! View Post
Absolutely agreed, but the idea of the article posted wasn't that there wasn't support for new mothers, or that they were bad if they didn't choose breastfeeding, etc etc etc.

It was that there is a clear association between the success rate of breastfeeding and not having negative interference, which in this case is the very presence of bagfuls of free formula being sent home. You could actually say that the mothers who wanted to succeed at breastfeeding WEREN'T getting full support, if the message they were getting was "in case it doesn't pan out for you, no sweat, here's a can of artificial milk".

In order to support breastfeeding, it's clear we can't send the mixed signals. Not just my opinion, that's the reason for the hospital agreements in the first place.
I think it is very much like how pharm reps would give doctors incentives to use their drugs. Medication should be prescribed based on the patient's needs, not which drug will get the doc a free junket to Aruba.
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Old 05-01-2012, 09:34 PM
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I think it is very much like how pharm reps would give doctors incentives to use their drugs. Medication should be prescribed based on the patient's needs, not which drug will get the doc a free junket to Aruba.
Exactly! Except that the policy statements went even further. It was the WHO position on what is known in the industry as "breast milk substitutes" or "artificial baby milk" that the substitutes should be by prescription only.

Obviously there'd be a public outcry, as seen from the diverse opinions on this message board alone, so that policy never took hold. But still, by many it's on par with medication so why not regulate their freebies the same as the drugs?
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