To help encourage breast feeding, Rhode Island’s seven birthing hospitals have stopped giving new mothers free bags of formula as they leave the hospital.
“State health officials hailed the decision, noting that breastfeeding has been proved healthier than formula for both infants and mothers. Stephanie Chafee, a nurse and the wife of Gov. Lincoln Chafee, called the decision a critical step toward increasing breastfeeding rates.”
“ ‘As the first ‘bag-free’ state in the nation, Rhode Island will have healthier children, healthier mothers, and a healthier population as a whole,’ Chafee said. “This is a tremendous accomplishment.’ ”
“Formula will still be available to new mothers who experience difficulties with breastfeeding.”
“The new policy isn’t intended to force women into nursing their children, according to Denise Laprade, a labor and delivery nurse and lactation consultant at Woonsocket’s Landmark Medical Center, which eliminated free formula distribution last month. She said the focus is instead on parental education and helping mothers decide what’s best for their child.”
” ‘We never make any woman feel guilty about her decision,’ Laprade said. She said she has received few complaints from parents about the new policy, though she said the older nurses needed a little time to adjust.”
“Thirty-eight percent of Rhode Island mothers nurse their babies six months after birth, compared with 44 percent nationally, according to a report issued this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
“State Health Director Michael Fine said the state hopes to raise the percentage of Rhode Island mothers nursing at six months to 60 percent by 2020.”
The new policy isn’t a law. It is just the seven hospital all agreeing to do it. According to AP, nationally, about 540 of the nation’s 3,300 birthing hospitals have stopped the formula giveaways, according to Marsha Walker, a registered nurse in Massachusetts and co-chairwoman of “Ban the Bags,” a campaign to eliminate formula giveaways at maternity hospitals.
“Walker said the bags given to new mothers — typically containing a few days’ worth of formula — amount to a sophisticated marketing campaign by formula manufacturers.”
” ‘Hospitals should market health and nothing else,’ she said. ‘When hospitals give these out, it looks like an endorsement of a commercial product.’ ”
“The International Formula Council, a trade group representing formula manufacturers, opposes the end of free formula samples. A spokeswoman for the group did not return messages, but a statement on the council’s website notes that the sample bags also include “key educational materials” on how to use and store formula.
“ ‘Approximately 80 percent of U.S. infants will be given formula at some point during their first year of life,” the organization said in a statement. “Therefore, these educational materials are needed by the vast majority of mothers to ensure infant formula is prepared correctly and the baby’s health is not jeopardized.’ “
A mom in the story suggested it should be up to the mothers if they want to take the formula or not.
I was given the free formula bags with all three babies. I saw it as back up just in case something terrible happened and I needed to make a bottle since I never bought any to have in the house. I think when I used it for one or two feedings with my firth when I had a breast infection and it hurt terribly to nurse. With my second and third I think I ended up giving it away each time because I didn’t want to it go to waste.
I wonder if not giving it to new mothers will really convince them to stick with nursing or if it just forces them to spend money on some formula to have in the house in case of an emergency?
There was a story recently about a World Health Organization study in the Philippines that found that Filipino mothers who have been influenced by advertisements or their doctors to use infant formula are two to four times more likely to feed their babies with those products.
What do you think: Do the free samples of formula hurt women’s commitment to nursing? Did it help or hurt to bring it home? Did you end up using it? Did you view as a backstop just in case or were you happy to have free formula? (It is expensive.)