Public Citizen, which in 2012 sent letters to 2,600 hospitals in the U.S. asking them to not take part in these free formula promotions, recently surveyed the 45 hospitals identified by U.S. News & World Report as having the best gynecology departments and found that 67% (30) of them do not currently distribute free formula to new moms.
Of the remaining 15 hospitals, 5 reported limiting formula samples to mothers who request them, or based on other criteria, like the child being in the neonatal intensive care unit.
The report [PDF] also looked at the 17 hospitals on the U.S. News “Honor Roll” of best institutions overall and found that 82% (14) have a policy against distributing formula company-sponsored discharge bags or other promotional materials.
“This report shows that prohibiting infant formula marketing is not only a recommended policy, but a best practice employed by the top hospitals,” said Public Citizen’s Executive Vice President Margrete Strand Rangnes. “The most reputable hospitals are realizing that marketing formula is unethical and ultimately undermines the health of mothers and babies. Now it’s time for the laggards to catch up, to protect infant health.”
Proponents of nursing claim that just a few months of breastfeeding can have a positive, long-lasting impact on a newborn’s immune and histamine systems. They point to studies that concluded that mothers who are given formula at the hospital are much more likely to give up on nursing right away as opposed to those who are not.
Nursing can also result in substantial savings, with the Dept. of Health and Human Services estimating that formula for one infant will cost parents upwards of $1,500 a year, (while breastfeeding will just get some moms hassled at restaurants and malls where managers don’t have a basic understanding of the law).
The Centers for Disease Control, which has recommended that hospitals not participate in these free-formula promotions, has previously noted a sharp decline in participation among hospitals during the last decade. Hospitals in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have voluntarily banned the practice, while NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg last year asked New York maternity wards to stop giving out formula to new moms.