NY Hospitals end formula giveaways for new moms in the hopes that they’ll be encouraged to breastfeed. [WSJ Health Blog]


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  1. Fujikopez says:

    Good, if there should be another industry like airlines and phone companies that the Consumerist goes after, it should be formula companies. Even their breastfeeding “how-to’s” set moms up for bf’ing failure, and gee whiz, they’re right there to help a struggling mother out with formula. At the expense of the infant’s heath.

  2. mandawest says:

    This is a big debate issue among moms -there’s this website with message boards for moms and the debates get kinda scary. I’m both a nurse and a mom. When I got pregnant I had already decided I was going to breastfeed. First, it’s the absolute best food for babies (even the formula companies have to admit this). Also – this is where I’m hoping you consumerists will see my POV – it’s FREE. Not to mention the resources it saves on washing bottles and all of that paraphenalia.
    Even though I’m a nurse and went through classes on this stuff, I still read every book I could before I had the baby. And once he was here, it was not as easy as ‘put baby to breast.’ If I hadn’t read all of those books and had a wonderful aunt I could call with questions, I would have given up. Even the nurses and lactation consultants at the hospital weren’t all that helpful (I had to keep telling them not to shove a pacifier in my own kid’s mouth, and they were super quick to whip out the formula bottle at the first hint of trouble). There were a lot of things that happened that made me think I wasn’t doing it right, but that were actually normal. So going home exhausted and a bit nervous about being a new mom – that formula can they send ya home with can be pretty tempting.
    Now, at four months we’ve gotten the hang of it and it works pretty well for my family. It was hard, but I look at it as an investment in my son’s future. He’s getting the healthiest stuff possible, building his brain up, and I’m going to have less sick child days (more money in my pocket, and less dishpan hands). Nowadays breasts are so sexualized, and this really has caused a lot of women to go away from breastfeeding, especially because feeding in public is so hard. I can feed my son, well covered up and never exposing myself, and I’ll get some nasty looks. But yesterday I ran errands in a top that was fitted for my pre-baby bust size and I got nothing but smiles.
    So good for those hospitals. Formula has it’s place – adopted kids, moms who are not physically capable due to previous injury or meds they may be on – but it’s definitely overused.

  3. humphrmi says:

    A lot of hospitals started this a while back. Our youngest is 3, they didn’t give us free formula when he was born (Weiss Hospital in Chicago). In fact, I don’t think we’ve gotten free formula since our oldest (10 years old, also Weiss in Chicago) was born.

    It’s a Good Thing ™. The debate over breastfeed vs. formula can rage on for years, but hospitals should not be a party to that debate, and giving away free formula makes them one.

  4. TeraGram says:

    Just remember, folks…

    BREASTS! They’re not just for advertising beer & cars.

  5. juri squared says:

    I dunno, I would hope they’d at least help out moms who can’t breastfeed. Due to a medication conflict and some other issues, the nurses wouldn’t allow me to breastfeed.

    Fortunately I had the money and helpful relatives to pick up formula for me; I was fully expecting to be able to breastfeed. Not all moms are so fortunate.

  6. niteflytes says:

    I wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t. I tried and it just was not working. The nurses, except for one, were terrible when I asked for help, some of them sabotaged my efforts with bottles of water, formula and pacifiers. I tried getting help from La Leche League and that was a joke. I felt like a failure, my family pressured me to formula feed and I finally gave up. It was too stressful for me and for my daughter. I advocate B’feeding but I hope they give moms and families the support they need to make it successful. That’s will be more successful than taking away some free samples of formula.

  7. djanes1 says:

    So will the hospitals be giving vouchers for healthy food for the mother instead?

  8. galatae says:

    I’m sure this is going to be a raging debate; it always is. I think the one thing everyone should agree on is that it’s up to the parents to decide what’s best for their family, and one hopes that their decisions are informed. I don’t believe anyone sets out specifically to make a poor decision. Children grow up in spite of their parents, not because of them.

    That being said, formula companies still give free formula to new parents. You can sign up on their web site for vouchers and coupons.

    I think it’s great that the medical community is encouraging moms back to the breast. There are plenty of ignorant people out there who really don’t know that they can breastfeed, and because programs like WIC pay for formula, aren’t that encouraged to breastfeed. There are also numerous research projects about the health benefits to children, etc. etc. that really trickle down into healthcare costs, etc. etc. yada yada yada whatever.

  9. Mom2Talavera says:

    I had a hard time in the beginning and I was ready to throw in the towel…but someone in my momm group told me about

    they gave me more support and helpful information that the hospital did.

  10. Mom2Talavera says:

    I want an edit button

  11. My friend KNEW she was going to breastfeed. And she tried. She really did. But it didn’t work. Even pumping overtime, she could never produce enough milk. Then her baby got sick from what she did produce. So she went to formula, even though she had been scared into believing formula was one step from poisoning her baby. I wish people would THINK before they started making these social demands on people.

  12. homerjay says:

    Wow, all these stories make me feel a LOT better about my hospital.

    My wife just had our second two weeks ago and they were fantastic. We said going in that they were not to give her a bottle and they said that if we didn’t want to they wouldn’t. It never came up again. My wife had a c-section and the baby wasn’t able to eat until two hours after she was born. They kept her in the nursery, gave her a little bath and never tried to feed her anything. According to the nurses, babies can go up to four hours after birth before eating.

    The lactation consultants were phenominal. Since my wife wasn’t a noob, she knew exactly what she was doing but they came in a couple times a day to give her pointers and new techniques. They sent her home with a new set of equipment to go with the battery pump she had and also gave her a $35 manual pump which is the only pump she uses because it works so great.

    Now, we’re convinced that when you check off the box in the hospital that says you will be breastfeeding, you’re guaranteed to get a boatload of formula in the mail. Two weeks into it and we’ve gotten 6 cans of powder and a case of ready-to-eat bottles. If we had said we were bottle feeding, that probably wouldn’t have happened. They’re sitting in the cabinet, just in case.

  13. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Count me in as another new mom unable to breastfeed… there was nothing wrong with me or the milk except that I wasn’t producing enough to nourish a mouse. Also count the fact that I was in college, married to an abusive husband who never came to the hospital, and had no money at all (guess who took the little I did have). I was incredibly grateful for the formula assistance in the hospital and carried home as much as I could before the public assistance kicked in. I’m happy to say I only needed assistance for a couple months and then I went back to work. And if it had not been for formula, I could not have gone back to work anyway.

  14. Do not be distracted from the basic argument at hand here and that is the ‘free choice’of mothers to decide what is right for their baby, their body, and their lifestyle!

    It is duly noted that breast milk is better BUT the Mother should ALWAYS be offered the informative option of TWO bags, one with formula, and the other the noted accoutrements to encourage breast feeding.

    This is about CHOICE!

    It appears that society is ‘working its way up’ on a woman’s body in seeking more control of our respective body parts and their function!

    Without offering both alternatives this action is BS!

    And, yes I did CHOOSE to breastfeed my second child for nine months. I CHOSE based on my work schedule, my baby’s health, and my ability to deliver the ‘goods’ to him! That was my INDIVIDUAL CHOICE, I do not and could not expect every mother to follow suit with my situation and circumstances!

    Adrienne Zurub

  15. junkmail says:

    @spiderjerusalem: First of all, it’s NOT a ‘social demand.’ It’s what’s best for the baby. Period. No one can possibly dispute that. Are there situations that prevent the mother from BF’ing? Of course, if people don’t realize that, then fsck ’em. My wife had a hell of a time getting it figured out, thank God she finally did. But don’t turn this into another freakin’ social crusade. It’s not. Ever. It’s a health issue for the baby, leave it at that.

  16. Red_Eye says:

    My wife chose not to breast feed. And its a good thing too because we quickly found that my daughter was highly lactose intolerant like I was when I was an infant. So soy formula was our friend. Otherwise my poor kid would have likely not made it.

    Is breast feeding better, probably, but it should be the mothers choice.

    BTW my now 5 year old is perfectly healthy other than seasonal allergies. She is even at the top end of the size charts for her age but fine on weight.

  17. junkmail says:

    @adriennezurub: When you accept responsibility for another human life, you no longer have your precious little “CHOICE”. You do any and everything possible in the best interests of that baby. Get over yourself.

  18. acambras says:


    Good for you and your wife that everything’s worked out.

    If you decide to get rid of that formula and it hasn’t expired, a local domestic violence shelter might love to have it. I worked for a DV program for several years, and formula (all kinds) was always on our “wish list.” Even though many moms breastfed, some babies were on formula (for whatever reason) and it’s really expensive.

  19. mandawest says:

    It’s completely a mom’s choice about what to feed her baby. And if you choose to formula feed, then I think the hospital should load you up on free formula containers at discharge. My issue is how formula is pushed on moms who choose to breastfeed. It’s the absoute best nutrition for babies, and it’s hard to do if you’re not sure about yourself – so many people are quick to say that there must be something wrong with your milk, or that you aren’t producing enough. If you’re going to formual feed, you probably are going to have some formula hanging around your house. By shoving formula cans on moms who are breastfeeding, it gets the formula into a house where it otherwise wouldn’t be. So now when you’ve had a long night, or the fifth uneducated person tells you that you should be supplementing, well, there’s that formula right there. It’s a shady trick the formula companies do, to the detriment of babies who otherwise could be breastfed. Not to mention the outright wrong stuff they do in third world countries …

  20. @junkmail: It is a social crusade when a mother feels like her only viable option for nourishing her baby is tantamount to poisoning her child. Her mother-in-law, a nurse, likened it to child abuse to use formula, so when it became clear that she COULDN’T breastfeed, she got very freaked out. Then it turned out the baby needed to have a special soy formula because she couldn’t keep regular milk or regular formula down anyway. Now the baby is a few months old, she can have regular formula again. So this was actually an issue for the health of the baby. Breastmilk in this case was NOT “the absolute healthiest choice” for the baby.

  21. homerjay says:

    @mandawest: Hmmm… I’d like to think that my wife and I are strong enough to avoid the temptation that is having formula in close proximity.

  22. TM says:

    My daughter was born about 6 weeks ago, and they wouldn’t offer the “free formula bag” if we chose to breastfeed. They eventually gave us one as my wife wanted the formula for a friend. But at least they are remaining impartial. The lactation consultants were very helpful too…

  23. kaikhor says:

    With my daughter, I was sure I was going to breastfeed. And I tried. I really did. But I became majorly engorged and you couldn’t get even an ounce out of me. Several times my husband would come home from work to find the two of us sitting on the couch, the baby screaming and I in tears. We’d been trying to breast feed for hours. He would go over to the formula, make our daughter a bottle and feed it to her. She was happy. I was happier (engorgement is VERY painful, by the way).

    Finally, we just switched to formula. My daughter is 20 months, with no health problems, the very top of her height and pretty close to the same in weight (she also has genetics to that for both. I’m very tall and my husband has always been heavy).

    I believe it’s the mother’s choice and the hospital should not force it on you. That said, I’m breastfeeding my next baby, due in November.

  24. mandawest says:

    Well, breastfeeding doesn’t come super easy for everyone. I’m glad that you and your wife had an easy time. As for me, I was a brand new mom at home, sleep deprived, alone because my husband was working nights. Baby was crying, I was crying, and I was having trouble getting him latched on because we were both so upset. That formula was mighty tempting for me, and I know other moms have had similar experiences. This isn’t about forcing moms to breastfeed – it’s got to be their own decision how they feed their kids. But read that article, only 25% of those babies are getting breastfed. There is so much misinformation out there, it sets up breastfeeding moms to fail. And formula companies are using that to their advantage to make money.

  25. junkmail says:

    @spiderjerusalem: I definitely agree that something needs to be done in that situation. It’s astounding the levels of ignorance some people strive to achieve.

    As I mentioned, of course there are going to be situations where BF’ing isn’t a viable option, and unfortunate though it may be, at least formula provides an alternative.

    I should have been clearer in my comments. They were aimed at the women using babies as status symbols, or something cute to play with for a while. The ones who consider BF’ing an inconvenience they just can’t bring themselves to suffer. That attitude is completely intolerable and unacceptable on so many levels.

  26. redbanana says:

    I am a breastfeeder. I fed my son for 10 months and I plan on feeding my 6 week old daughter for a year unless she chooses otherwise. This debate can go on forever, much like death penalty, abortion, George W…etc.

    The article is not saying DONT formula feed. The AAP recommends and encourages breastfeeding but it isn’t saying that you’re a poor parent if you don’t. You eat broccoli right? Do you always eat it raw because that’s the healthiest way to eat it? Even if its prepaired a different way, its still broccoli. It’s just saying that the hospitals are not going to give away free formula. If you want samples, contact the formula companies directly. They will send you samples along with coupons every couple of weeks. Sign yourself up. Sign up your family to get even more free stuff and coupons. In that situation, YOU are making the choice and placing it in your hands.

    Hospitals don’t have to give anything away. It’s a perk to get free formula. If you want to formula feed then call to the hospital prior to birth and ask what they give their newborns so you can have at home. If you plan on breastfeeding, call and ask what kind of support and classes they provide. If you plan on breastfeeding you also should seek out where your support and info will come from. Ask questions and be proactive about it. Want to do it, don’t do it because you feel like you have to. Having children is not just a right but it’s a responsibility, even before they are born.