Should Hospitals Stop Giving Out Free Samples Of Baby Formula To New Moms?

It can be hard to turn your nose up at anything that’s offered for free. But are hospitals doing more harm than good when they give out free samples of brand-name baby formula to mothers of newborn babies?

The folks at Public Citizen have fired off letters to more than 2,600 hospitals around the country, urging them to stop including these samples in new mothers’ discharge bags, calling it unethical and a violation of good public health policy.

A number of hospitals in the U.S. have already stopped handing out the samples and the practice has been stopped altogether in Rhode Island, but around 66% of hospitals are still making the freebies available to new moms.

There are numerous studies claiming that it’s generally best for a newborn to breastfeed for the first six months, so child health advocates claim that giving out the samples encourages mothers to use formula rather than nurse. Public Citizen points to a recent report showing that there are higher rates of breastfeeding in states where more hospitals had eliminated the distribution of formula samples.

Of particular concern to Consumerist is the cost issue. Public Citizen claims that while the samples might be free, the cost of formula-feeding a newborn can range anywhere from $800 to $2,800 a year. And since most of these free samples are for more expensive brand names — and since a number of new moms end up continuing to use whichever brand they were given at discharge — these freebies could end up being a huge drain on parents’ paychecks.

“When hospitals distribute formula samples, they are engaging in marketing for major pharmaceutical and food companies,” Elizabeth Ben-Ishai, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert project. “Many hospitals are actively trying to promote breastfeeding in their obstetrics units. But by continuing to allow marketing of infant formula in their facilities, they are undermining their own efforts.”

To that end, Public Citizen has started a petition asking the makers of big-name baby formulas like Enfamil, Gerber, and Similac, to put an end to the free-sampling.

Last year, Disney came under fire for using maternity ward discharge bags as an opportunity to introduce new moms to the wonderful world of Disney-related products.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Astranger says:

    Yes, they should offer free samples of breast milk instead.

  2. RStormgull says:

    So they tied the moms down and forced them to feed the baby formula? That’s the only reason I could see in trying to make the practice stop. They’re doing you a solid for that one sleepless night in about a week that neither your wife doesn’t have the energy to nurse for. Or maybe you can’t produce enough milk to keep up with baby. Hell, there are a dozen reasons you might be thankful for the free formula but you sure don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.

    • Yomiko says:

      I was wondering how long these samples would stay good on the shelf before they expire. I don’t have any immediate plans to have kids so this might change, but I have been thinking I’d go with breastfeeding. I wouldn’t mind having a little formula in stock as a backup, though.

      • Marlin says:

        Most formula is dry and you mix it with water. Formula is just dry milk and vitamins.
        Its better than it use to be but still not as good as mothers milk.

        My wife could not fully breast feed and we used Costco formula and my son is good. But wish my wife’s body would have been more giving. She did try though, so it was not her being lazy or anything.

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

          It was just her breasts being lazy?

        • Yomiko says:

          It sounds like a lot of these samples are the liquid kind, though. I’m just wondering whether it’d be a viable option to keep the samples around as a backup, or if they’re short-lived and it would be better to donate them to a food bank or shelter.

          • Coleoptera Girl says:

            You have piqued my curiosity. Next time I’m in a store that sells infant formula, I’ll check the expiration dates of the different kinds… and I encourage you to do so as well!

    • Astranger says:

      Exactly. My wife and I got the free samples, but we also were offered help to breastfeed during my wife’s stay at the hospital.

    • waitetr says:

      Oh yea of course because getting up in the middle of the night to find a bottle, measure formula and water, heat it up (if you do that), mix it up and then get the kid is so much faster and easier than putting the kid on the tap that is already to go and has no clean-up when done. Plus if some reason you feel the need to have formula all the major companies offer free samples which are available upon request.

      One of the main issue here is that many uneducated mothers get the formula and think that since the hospital gave it to me it must be best. They then use it which causes their supply to lower or even dry up resulting in a dependence on formula. Studies have been done to show the rate of mothers who breastfeed after receiving formula from the hospital is significantly lower than those who don’t. By not giving it out and marketing for the big companies babies can get what is best for them, and this is really what it should be about.

      • EnergyStarr says:

        our community hospital has many new mothers with dependencies on illegal drugs/narcotics. This hospital offers free samples of formula, but also visits with a lactaction nurse during the hospital stay.

        is breast milk still the ultimate in healthy baby upbringing in these cases?

        • JennQPublic says:

          Umm, I think maybe those moms need something more than a sample-sized formula…

        • waitetr says:

          Without question breast milk is what is best for the health of the baby…assuming that in this scenario the mothers can get off the drugs and alcohol. That not withstanding though there really is no comparison between the health benefits of breast milk and formula

      • GrimJack says:

        Our semi-rural hospital (avg 300 births per year) has a lactation consultant on hand, loans on breast pumps, and will do free follow-up visits and consultations for as long as the mother is breastfeeding. For all that, there is still a direct correlation in the area where low income/lack of education = much greater likelihood of going directly to formula and not breastfeeding at all.

    • Conformist138 says:

      Here’s the problem I see: for first time mothers, breastfeeding can take some getting used to. It’s not always like the movies where the baby comes out and immediately latches on for picture-perfect suckling. When problems come up and a “well, this will be easier for now” sample is available, that tends to get used. But, that can just make it even harder to get into the swing of breastfeeding.

      The stats seem to speak for themselves- the samples appear to decrease the odds of a mom breastfeeding and that is less healthy for the child. Hospitals push how important breastfeeding can be and that formula really should be used if mom can’t produce enough (or any) milk.

    • BennieHannah says:

      I breastfed exclusively, two children until each of them were two-years old. But I was happy to have the formula samples the hospital provided on hand, just in case I needed them. I was also given tons of literature on breastfeeding and a number for a volunteer/mentor lactation consultant. Most women I know have done a combination of breastfeeding and formula at some point during their baby’s first couple of years. I don’t know why there’s this “all or nothing” and “you’re doing it wrong!” attitude. I think that’s what makes more women switch to formula than the hospital’s formula samples.

    • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

      Yeah man, that’s totally what happened.

      Here’s the actual argument against this, since the Consumerist article decided to pass that over:

      People trust their physicians and nurses and do whatever they tell them to do, unless it’s something crazy like eat better and exercise more. When a hospital gives you a bunch of formula on discharge, and gives you instructions on how to use it, then it seems like the hospital is, y’know, recommending use of formula.

      This seems to contradict, at least partially, the general recommendation for breast milk.

      If the hospital is explicit in what the recommendations are (it makes a great supplement if you can’t produce enough milk or breastfeeding isn’t feasible, etc), then things are fine. But since the hospitals are incentivized to give out these samples, those recommendations aren’t always making it into the discharge instructions.

    • alana0j says:

      Thank you! WAY too many people these days are trying to push responsibility for their personal choices onto someone else. It’s like the woman suing McDonald’s because she can’t tell her kids no when they want a damn happy meal. As a single working mother, I am damn grateful for every bit of help I can get. The hospital sent me home with a few pre-made bottles as well as a can of formula and a diaper bag, which I was incredibly appreciative of.

      But you know, they also let me know they had a lactation counselor I could speak with free of charge and gave me paperwork about the importance of breastfeeding.

      • fischju says:

        In third world countries, Nestle uses propaganda to attack breast milk and tout formula as a safer alternative, while giving away a 3 month supply to new mothers. Understandably, many take this offer, and by the time the 3 months supply is used the mother has stopped producing breast milk, and their only choice is formula. Nestle charges exorbitant rates for it though, and combined with the lack of understanding regarding sanitation and lack of clean water, babies die because of malnutrition or diarrhea and pneumonia.

        This is obviously intended to deceive mothers into buying their product, at the expense of their children’s lives. It’s not a mere issue of choice.

  3. Bsamm09 says:

    “And since a number of new moms end up continuing to use whichever brand they were given at discharge” — Discharge, lol.

  4. momtimestwo says:

    Both hospitals asked if I was going to breast or bottle feed. I said breastfeed, and they gave me the breastfeeding bag with no formula samples in my bag. What I don’t like is somehow formula companies somehow knew I was pregnant, and I started to receive boxes of formula samples. What a waste. I dropped them off at a women’s shelter, I don’t know if they used them or not.

    • chefboyardee says:

      We were asked the same question, said breastfeed, and were still given bags with all the bullshit samples in them.

      We gave them to moms we knew who breastfed, but most of the moms I know who got them just threw them out. Waste of money.

    • dks64 says:

      My sister was given a ton of formula information after having kid #3 or 4. Not a single brochure on breastfeeding.

    • Ashleyrah says:

      We also were asked if we were going to breast or formula feed. When we said breastfeed we got the bag with Enfamil. Apparently the people who say they’re going with formula got Similac at our hospital, and breastfeeders get Enfamil…

  5. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    So, the options are, make your own free baby “formula” at home, or pay for baby formula which is generally considered less benificial.

    How on Earth is this a debate for some people? Free and better, or expensive and worse?

    • Yomiko says:

      Some women can’t produce or can’t produce enough or run dry early, some babies are adopted, some women die before their babies can eat solid food.

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        Well, of course is one of two options is not an option, then there is no debate.

        I mean, when someone has both options available.

        I guess some mom’s just might feel it’s a hassel, and not want to bother. They’d rather spend the money, and say the benifit to the child between the two isn’t worth it.

        • Yomiko says:

          I’m not going to say there are no women who just feel it’s “a hassle” and would rather pay to have an easy option available at all times. Not everyone sacrifices for their kids at the same level.

          However, I think there are situations where the cost of paying for formula could be worth the benefit of convinience and would not come out of a simple disregard for the child. For instance, if the mother works at a job which requires long hours, travel, or even just a good night’s sleep, she and her partner may decide that the other person should take care of most of the feeding and that would most likely require the use of formula in part or in full.

          All things being equal, I like the idea of breastfeeding better myself, but I know enough to know that it’s a complicated decision which I will have to base on my situation and I won’t know what’s right for me until I get there.

          Please take my comments respectfully, I know this can be a hot button subject, but I’m enjoying discussing it.

          • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

            Thank you for the well written reply. As I posted in another reply above, if the situation deems formula as the only logical option, then it is what it is. The child is still being fed, so it’s not the end of the world. The way I see it is that if all things are equal, and both are viable options, then it seems like breast feeding is an overwhelmingly better choice. Even if it is just a bit more effort (but still can be done) it seems like a better choice, to me.

        • kmiles says:

          Tell me… have you breastfed before?

          It IS a hassle. I’ve breastfed 2 babies, one of which is still going at 10 months. The first few weeks you’re hooked up basically 24/7 to your baby. Everyone says how natural and wonderful it is, how you’ll bond better, etc… but if it hurts (and believe me, those first few weeks, it does)… you’re not really thinking about how wonderful the experience is.

          Oh… and if you’ve been around on this site for awhile, you’ve seen how ridiculous people can react to public breastfeeding. So if your newborn nurses almost 24/7 and you can’t breastfeed in public, new moms are pretty much housebound for 4-8 weeks until things regulate and baby stops eating quite so frequently. Even then, you’re still looking at every 2-3 hours for another couple months or so.

          I could list a whole bunch more potential problems, but this isn’t the time or place.

          So yeah… there’s a choice, but if you’re not super committed to breastfeeding and all of its challenges, the easy answer is formula.

          • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

            You are right, it is easy for me, as an outsider, to take sides when I see one option’s main selling point as “more beneficial for the child” and the other’s main selling point as “easier for the mother”.

            • Yomiko says:

              Keep in mind that having a mother that’s not over-stressed can be beneficial to the child as well. It’s complicated and knowing where the tipping point is where the decision should go one way or the other is difficult. This is just one of many, many decisions parents make which are their own, which they may or may not make the right call on, which they are free to be imperfect on.

              Let’s face it: the vast majority of parents are somewhere in the spectrum between unhumaly perfect and obviously neglectful and that’s what makes all of us grow up as the people we are. I know some people scratch their heads and wonder how in the hell others make certain choices, but sometimes there just is no one right thing.

    • Astranger says:

      There are other costs to breastfeeding outside the monetary cost.

    • exit322 says:

      For one…in the case of my children, it was either formula or go hungry, as mom dried up pretty quickly. There’s a place for formula. Not as widespread as it has been, but there’s a place for it.

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        That is where only one of the two options are available, there is no debate there. I’m talking about when both choices are options.

    • Dont lump me into your 99%! says:

      Some people cannot breastfeed, and sometimes the baby has a had time latching on. My youngest would not breastfeed, we always joked that he was worried about getting smothered by his mom’s massive knockers. On top of that, his mom had to go into surgery about 2 weeks after having him, and she could not breast feed him during that time, so she dried up. (She could have probably pumped and dumped, but I really dont think she was all that interested….typical, that why she is an ex now).

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        I know there are many situations where formula is the only option, but I’m talking about those who have the choice between the two.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Your the one turning it into a debate by challenging formula feeding. It isn’t a debate. It’s a choice. That choice is no one’s business but a mother’s. No one has to defend their choice to you or anyone else.

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        I’m not challenging it, the article/topic is. I’m asking, aside from medical reasons, why would someone choose formula over breast feeding? My perspective is that, if all the claims that breastfeeding is significantly healthier for the child are true, then paying for something less healthy doesn’t seem like a good idea.

    • Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

      Remember, having a new baby, particularly your first, is a major life changing event and very stressful.

      When the hospital is practically endorsing bottle feeding by giving out a sample, you tend to think the experts at the hospital might know something.

      • Not Given says:

        When you see the free samples and literature that says “provided by x company” why would you think the hospital had any opinion on it?

        • Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

          Because they are the “Experts” and are giving you something that basically says use me.

          If you go to your doctors office complaining about sore muscles and he gives you a bag that has free samples of Advil, doesn’t that imply to you that they want you to take Advil?

    • bee8boo8bop8 says:

      Off the top of my head:

      -Nursing requires the mother. Some people may feel it is beneficial/easier for the father to be able to handle some of the feeding, particularly if it is late at night.

      -It’s wildly inconvenient to juggle with a job, and it may be worth the cost to pay for the formula to be able to go to work and earn an income.

      -Some people feel it’s more convenient to formula feed, and we all choose to pay for convenience sometimes, unless you never eat in a restaurant, use a machine to wash your laundry and bake your own bread from scratch.

      The benefits aren’t clear and may have more to do with the type of mothers who choose one method over another rather than the actual method. Breastfeeding mothers are more likely to be white, be educated and be well off.

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        I’ve known working mothers who just pumped and bottled their milk, for use in public places, and in one case to give to the seperated father who watched the kid on the weekends. That seems to solve the points you addressed.

        • bee8boo8bop8 says:

          Not every employer is as accommodating. You haven’t solved the issue that a mother might want, say, for her husband to be able to easily handle feeding the baby. Not everyone produces enough to pump surplus.

          Going out on a limb here–I think women are actually clever enough to decide how to feed their babies and able to weigh the choice themselves.

          • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

            I certainly don’t view it as “the right choice” versus “the evil choice” or anything exteme like that. If one choice doesn’t work for a mother, but the other does, then what else is there to say?

            But, if both are viable options, then one does seem like a better choice than the other.

          • Marlin says:

            “Not every employer is as accommodating.”

            They better, its the law.

            • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

              Oh snap!

            • Yomiko says:

              Because we all know that suing your employer works out well. I know it’s the law to provide a private place for pumping and time to do it, but it’s one of those tricky cases to prove if you think you’re being “mommy tracked” for taking too much break time for pumping, or they assume you’re not committed to work now that you have Jr at home, or they just start thinking it’s funny to make “milking” jokes and moo at you in the break room.

    • FashionablyDoomed says:

      I tried it for a week and wanted to kill myself. My nipples were cracked and bleeding, I was feeding every hour. I had gotten 0 sleep. (And that was with a nurse’s help the entire time). I happily made the switch to formula when I left the hospital.

    • travel_nut says:

      I’ll take a stab at answering your question.

      First of all, for the entire first two weeks, my nipples were raw and bloody. Breastfeeding was not a magical bonding time, it was 16+ hours a day of intense pain, feeling like my nipples were being used as pincushions for a thousand fiery pin-sized daggers. Yes, his latch was perfectly fine, and yes I saw half a dozen lactation consultants. I will never judge any mother who decides that that’s more than she can take.

      Second, I had severe PPD. Like, suicidal thoughts severe. This was not helped by the fact that my baby nursed 16+ hours per day and screamed in between. The lactation consultants kept telling me that I needed to nurse more in order to produce more so that my baby would be fuller and not want to nurse as much. So more fiery dagger nipple pain, less sleep, more screaming baby. Plus suicidal depression. Great f’ing idea right there.

      I remember the first time we gave him formula. He was two weeks old. I think that was the first time in two weeks he’d had a full belly, and instead of intermittent screaming for the next three hours, he slept for the next three hours. To me, it was the best flipping thing ever.

      Neither of these things are at all uncommon. I would wager that the rates of both severe pain and PPD are much higher than reported, and that a ton of moms go through both these things.

      As a side note, when I returned to work I found that pumping was completely ineffective for me. I had to pump for 40+ minutes to get 3oz breastmilk, and yes I was using a top-of-the-line pump. Seeing as how my little one was drinking 4-8oz per feeding, I had no prayer of keeping up with him. I was working 8 hour days and spending an additional 5 hours per day pumping, and I still could not produce enough milk for him.

      Bottom line, unless you’ve experienced the fiery dagger bleeding pincushion nipple pain and/or PPD, you have no right to judge.

      travel_nut, who exclusively breastfed for 3 months, partially breastfed and pumped for 8 months, and is the mom of a ridiculously healthy 2-year-old

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        Ow ow ow ow ow. And OW. I’m so sorry you went through all that.

        I’ve never had a baby but if I do (probably not at this late date) I hope that doesn’t happen. I’ll remember that, though, and try the formula.

  6. Spaceboy says:

    Does Public Citizen really expect that petition to do anything? As a father I can tell you from experience that the formula wars are BRUTAL. It’s such an enormous cash cow that there’s no way in hell these companies would ever voluntarily stop giving out samples. If the hospital starts you on Similac, there’s a great chance you will be a Similac customer while you’re child is bottle feeding, and that equals hundreds if not thousands of dollars per family.

    • CharlesFarley says:

      Amen. Don’t think Abbott labs wouldn’t raise the prices somewhere else in their product line sales to a hospital if their formula was shut out of the maternity ward promo-pack, just to send a message.

  7. Major Tom Coming Home says:

    This reminds me how the company that makes huggies (I think) strongly supports the child psychologist that recommends the “readiness approach” to potty training. I can’t judge how much merit that approach may have, but their “stage 5” diaper – or whatever they are called – are big enough for the average 4-year old. I’m sure they are probably trying to figure out a way to market day time diapers for 8-year olds as I type this.

    • iblamehistory says:

      Mostly related: kids who are cloth diapered are generally potty trained MUCH earlier than those in disposables. I’ve seen moms with 18 month olds using a potty chair regularly. Unlike disposables, cloth allows the child to feel when they’re wet, thus letting them pick up their body’s natural cues much sooner. Disposables mask everything instantly.

      • Conformist138 says:

        Slightly less related: By best friend’s daughter is almost entirely potty-trained and they managed a big part of it very quickly almost on accident. She was understanding the idea of using the potty, so she was given big-kid pants with Thomas the train on them (she adores Thomas like nothing else). The first time they let her wear them, she pooped her pants all over Thomas. Her little heart broke into a million pieces at having dirtied her beloved tank engine. That was really all it took- she didn’t want to ever hurt Thomas again and that day she pushed from “understanding potty training” to “pretty much entirely potty trained”.

    • LuckyLady says:

      In my experience, the readiness theory worked. My (then) 2-year-old moved into the next class up at daycare, where she saw the “big kids” using the toilet. She decided then and there that she wanted to use the toilet, too. I think I bought one pack of pull-up pants, and didn’t even use all of those, because she decided she wanted to do it. (She has been that way with a lot of things, come to think of it.)

      She ended up decided herself to stop using diapers about 3 months earlier than I would have even tried to start toilet training. It was so nice to get a $15/week raise when I stopped buying diapers!

    • iesika says:

      Those great big diapers are a lifesaver if your kid has developmental delays.

  8. EdnasEdibles says:

    Such BS. When I was discharged I was simply given a six pack of tiny liquid bottles of formula. And my hospital was also great in the sense that they had a lactation consultant visit my room every day to help me out and give me tips. So by the time I left the hospital, I was doing OK with breastfeeding. However, after being at home for a few months and then returning to work, I couldn’t keep up with demand. In the middle of the night with a screaming newborn who couldn’t get enough milk from me, I did turn to the bottles of formula for a supplement. He drank one. The formula bottle also came in handy when I got stuck in traffic coming home from an appointment and my husband had to feed the baby something and there wasn’t enough frozen breast milk in the freezer.

    Babies have to eat and shit happens with breastfeeding so it’s good to have a tiny “emergency stockpile” of formula in the cabinet for when the crazy times happen. This is just another long example of public help that focuses on the idea of: “Women can’t possibly figure out the best health decisions for themselves and their babies so we need to think for them.”

    • The_IT_Crone says:

      “This is just another long example of public help that focuses on the idea of: “Women can’t possibly figure out the best health decisions for themselves and their babies so we need to think for them.””


      • Agent Hooter Enjoys Enhanced Patdowns says:

        Now this is Merka and we respect our brood mares, I mean, wimmens. It’s not the Baby Jaysus fault he made them so sinful and stoopid. They may be smart enuf to pick out the color of their shoes an sich but bit we gotta think of the chilren!

        • nbs2 says:

          Not that it is damning, but looking at the Board of Directors suggests that Public Citizen leans to the left, not the right. I’m thinking your stereotyping of Republicans and/or Christians and/or people who lean right as being the instigators of this is a bit misguided.

          But, by all means, continue to believe that only one line of thinking results in outsiders telling people what is good for them.

          • legotech says:

            Wow, project much? No where in his post did he mention the right, the tea party, republicans, or any sort of political or religious anything…but you automatically assumed he was bagging on the right…interesting.

    • funnymonkey says:

      Exactly! No matter what your intentions are, sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t work out and you need a backup. Better to have that backup on hand than to have to go out to the store to get something with a hungry, screaming infant.

      I breastfed my first, but I also took as many of those free liquid samples as I could and I stockpiled the powdered samples they sent me. It was a godsend those first early nights when I was exhausted and sore (breastfeeding a newborn can be VERY painful), and my husband was able to take one feeding so I could get four straight hours of sleep. Early on, you don’t make enough milk to pump, so there is no backup breastmilk.

      It was also nice when I did decide to stop to have those samples on hand because the breastmilk I had pumped and stored didn’t last quite as long as I thought it would.

      I have to say, I didn’t stick with the samples I got at the hospital, either. Luckily, my baby wasn’t very picky and he’d eat anything. I eventually went with Target’s brand, which was basically the same as one of the fancy name-brands and about 30% cheaper.

      It’s hard to breastfeed for 12 months. My kid got breastmilk for 7 months, formula for 5. Pumping is awful. It made me feel like a cow and, although my employer is great and has a room for nursing mothers with a TV and a separate fridge (so you don’t have to worry about someone taking your milk), it sucked to have to take three breaks a day to pump. I felt like I couldn’t get a lunch break, because I wasn’t getting as much work done. Sure, no one said anything about my performance, but I don’t think I could have gotten away with taking essentially an extra hour worth of break time every day (20 min/session x3/day) for much longer than I did.

      • EdnasEdibles says:

        I had the same problem. Breastfeeding was fine, pumping? Nightmare.

        There will always be women who either won’t be able to or don’t want to breastfeed – that’s fine. But I very much wanted to breastfeed for close to a year and once I returned to work it was impossible. I had to sit in the ladies restroom – like you, I was missing an hour of work a day to get it done (3 sessions about 20 minutes each). Bosses never came out and say “Please stop” but I certainly felt like my performance was suffering and I wasn’t going to get away with it for long. I was running ragged and exhausted and sick – mixing in pumping sessions with a day at the office proved to be difficult and I ended up with a number of clogged ducts and other issues.

        The 6 pack of formula from the hospital did not keep me from breastfeeding for a year. Having to pump at work made me turn to formula. And like you I did not stay with the pricey Enfamil when I realized Target formula was tons cheaper.

  9. ElleAnn says:

    We’re expecting our first baby in late May, and although I plan to breast feed, I’m definitely going to take any free samples of formula that they give me. We’ll keep them on hand in case I have trouble establishing supply and need to supplement… much better than running out at 2am with a screaming baby to buy some formula.

    • backinpgh says:

      Please keep in mind that if you have trouble establishing supply, giving formula will only make your problem worse. You need to keep nursing in order to stimulate your supply. If you skip a feeding by using formula, it will signal to your body that it doesn’t need to make milk.

      • elephant says:

        She didn’t say skip – she said supplement – a baby’s gotta feed and formula should be a welcome supplement when breast milk isn’t coming…

  10. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Why not just ask the mother and father? Do you want a free formula sample before you leave? That should do it. People have the right to make the choice if it is available to them. Or, ask them if they would like a breast feeding bag or formula feeding bag.

  11. tlf0803 says:

    Even though I breastfeed my baby, I still appreciated the free samples the hospital sent home with us of formula. For the first week, I didn’t know that my baby was latching improperly, and wasn’t getting any food at all. We were able to use formula to get us back on our feet and get my milk producing well. I would have hated to buy the expensive formula needed for just that first little bit.

  12. caradrake says:

    The hospital I delivered at offered two different bags: one breastfeeding bag (with sample breast pads, a small breast pump, lansinoh cream, samples of mother’s milk tea, milk storage/freezer bags, etc), and one formula bag (bottles, formula, coupons, etc).

    You were offered your choice, it wasn’t forced on you. Both bags came in a diaper bag branded with the formula company’s name, but that was only in a tiny little tag that was easily removed if you wanted. I breastfed, but we are still using (3 years later) the formula company’s diaper bag. It sits in the car, we don’t actually need to bring it in with us, but its good to hold changes of clothes and such.

  13. chargernj says:

    Can we also talk about how Nestle provides free baby formula samples to new mothers in developing nations where women have even less access to information and education regarding the benefits of breast milk. These women often don’t know any better, and will use the free formula while their own milk production dries up. Then Nestle has a customer for the duration of that child’s infancy, in a nation where simple survival is often a struggle.

    • bee8boo8bop8 says:

      Right, this is much more of a problem, particularly because mothers who drink contaminated water can still produce safe to drink milk, but formula mixed with the same water is very dangerous for the infant.

      • Yomiko says:

        This. In the US, we have gone to the other side of the spectrum. There is now bottled water marketed specifically for use in mixing formula. Gerber is a brand that comes to mind.

    • Dont lump me into your 99%! says:

      But in these countries, are the mothers even able to keep enough nutrition in their bodies to produce enough milk? I ask because I know in many of these countries, good ample nutritional food for most/many families is difficult for the families to receive. If the mother is not getting enough nutrients, is her milk still has healthy? Is she breastfeeding at the expense of her own health?

      • kmiles says:

        Somehow these countries have been increasing their populations before formula was introduced… So I think it’s safe to say that what they were doing before was better than them giving their babies formula made with unsafe water.

        • Jules Noctambule says:

          You sound like you could really use a little more information about this particular issue.

        • Jules Noctambule says:

          You sound like you could really use a little more information about this particular issue.

    • daemonaquila says:

      Why yes – Nestle “victimizes” women who are often poorly nourished or ill themselves, who may not be able to produce milk in sufficient quantity. Tragically, Nestlie might SAVE some babies, or allow their mothers the opportunity to work more and keep their families out of poverty or outright starvation. What a horrible, horrible thing they do, helping women keep their children alive when they could be nobly dying for the sake of white, 1st-world women’s pet causes!

    • Cordtx says:

      Women are not ignorant, even in “developing” countries and know breast milk is best. Some hispanic women even tend to feed formula for the first few weeks intil their breast milk is well established. And they have no troubles. Its not like it magically dries up in one or two days if the baby has a few bottles ( the women who exclusively bottle feed wish it wa that simple!). So please treat women with the intelligence they already have and they can take some frickin formula home if they want and its not the end of the (breastfeeding) world!

      • justhypatia says:

        Sorry, but no. For a long time what formula companies can do for advertising is completely or almost completely unregulated. They’ll give kickbacks to doctor’s to “prescribe” formula.

        It’s not that women are unintelligent, it’s that they are purposefully misinformed by people they are supposed to be able to trust because the formula companies got their first.

        Besides that I know plenty of people here in NA who would still say there is no benefit to breastmilk, including doctors(!) because they were raised in an age that no one breastfed. And the reason that nearly no one breastfed is that companies had advertised the hell out of people into believing that formula was the better, healthier, option.

  14. Gman says:

    Or they could just let the mother decide. If these folks believe that Hospitals don’t push breastfeeding they should walk into one. Both hospitals we have been at for our 2 kids pushed it like no tomorrow.

    I am 100% behind a breastfed kid. We breastfed our first kid for a year. But there are circumstances where the baby just can’t be breastfed.
    Our 2nd has a severe milk allergy and cannot be breastfed. Even with the mother eliminating all milk proteins from her diet. So she must be on formula. The free samples have saved us an enormous amount of money and saved our sanity those first few nights when our 2nd kid refused to breastfeed in the middle of the night.

    This does not even get into the NICU babies that can’t breastfeed at all.

    We would have been under serious stress to find a place with the specific formula we needed that was open 24 hours and reachable in enough time to feed the kid.

    There is no one stop all rule. Hospitals are doing it fine. There is no need right now for a ban because of some folk believing they know what is best for everyone.
    Want to push breastfeeding? Force hospitals to educate on the benefits.

    • EdnasEdibles says:

      In my experience, one of the biggest problems with breastfeeding is once you return to work (if you go back to the office). Out of my friends that were able to breast feed at home, only one was able to do it for the whole first year once she returned to work. Returning to work after a 3 month maternity leave (if you even get that, most get 6 weeks at my current job) and then having to balance meetings and bosses and sitting in a toilet stall with a pump. . . most give up.

      It’s easier to dump on the hospitals for this but in reality what would really help most women is an understanding workforce but that will never happen.

      • neilb says:

        Many states have laws that state that employees have the right to a private area and refrigerator so that they can make it through the day and still provide their baby with milk.
        We have had many at my workplace take advantage of this and we retain a lot of great workers/mothers because of it!

  15. mszabo says:

    I think its pretty silly to ask hospitals to stop. This is a rather important decision which parents should have made far before the child was born. It isn’t the kind of decision where you should be swayed by some coupons/samples. If it is than that is the real issue, not the fact that companies are giving out samples.

    The samples actually seem like a good thing. We never had to use them but having formula available in case of an emergency seems like a pretty good idea. In our case this would have been my wife getting delayed, AND the power going out spoiling all the pumped milk in the freezer. Still it doesn’t hurt to have something as a fallback.

  16. MacUser1986 says:

    “Urging them to stop including these samples in new mothers’ discharge bags, calling it unethical and a violation of good public health policy.”

    Umm…someone explain this to me please?

  17. LuzioFantazmic says:

    Should they stop giving the free samples of diapers too?

    The amount of formula given to new parents is 16oz. Eight 2 ox bottles of ready to feed. Big deal.

    Hospitals do not promote use of formula. As a matter of fact, the hospital I went to had a breast feeding coach, handed out informational literature on the benefits of breast feeding, and info on low cost breast pump rentals.

    Along with our 16oz. of free formula.

    Yeah, hospitals are pushing formula feeding kids. Give me a break.

    New parents choose to use formula out of convenience, not because someone gave them a tiny free bottle.

  18. abruke says:

    All I can say is that my generation (those born in the long ago late 60s) was predominantly bottle fed. I’m sure the jury could deliberate as to whether or not the Downfall Of America can be attributed to this, but what I -do- know is that somehow, we all survived formula feeding (and we also survived the start of disposable diapers) and were relatively healthy kids.
    If you’re that worried about your child’s health, rip out their appendix..a burst one will kill ’em way quicker than being fed formula.

    • Yomiko says:

      Ah, yes, better nutrition through science. All things being equal, I’m planning to put my kid on the teat, but things aren’t equal and it’s not like formula is toxic swill. Just think how much development has probably happened in how formula was made since you were drinking it.

  19. Tim says:

    Consumerist commenters get angry at the suggestion that there’s anything other than their own free will that goes into how they make choices.

  20. Ilovegnomes says:

    How about groups stop treating people like they are morons and stop trying to make decisions for them Those samples give families choices. Choices that they can to take or leave.

  21. JF says:

    Personally, they couldn’t pay me to take it….

    However, if a mother is choosing to/needs to formula feed, then I don’t see a problem with the samples. It is like saying I have to choose a certain brand of diaper just because I got a sample. As a consumer it is ultimately up to you what product you choose. If you stick with something you got a sample of because you like to product, then that is your choice.

    A little personal responsibility as far as containing costs please! (For the record, I use Costco brand diapers. Love them! I liked the Swaddlers I got at the hospital, but they are expensive. I did try to cloth diaper, it wasn’t for me.)

  22. c_c says:

    On the other end of the spectrum, you have the hospitals with the “Breastdeeding Nazis” (my wife’s a pediatrician, and this is what they actually call some of the breastfeeding ‘consultants’).

    Everyone (well almost everyone) knows that breastfeeding is better for the kid. However, there are just some baby/mom combos that for various reasons, can’t breastfeed enough to sustain the kid. In some hospitals with breastfeeding goals/programs, my wife has seen them aggressively push breastfeeding to said mothers even when it’s just not working … and then the baby shows up back in the hospital a couple of weeks later for failure to thrive, when if they had just gotten some formula to supplement the breastfeeding they’d be fine.

  23. MickeyG says:

    Here hospitals don’t give out formula free – but my daughter was born prematurely and had to be given formula for the first week or so of her life because my milk just was NOT coming in. Before she was born I was sent soooo many sample packs of formula from all the formula companies (wow, where did they all get my address!?), and even with all those packages of formula, all my problems with pumping (I couldn’t even try her on my breast for over a week because of all the breathing apparatuses on her), and the fact she had already been given formula anyway – I was still was able to get her home and not touch one of those formula samples.

    So, although I think it’s stupid that hospitals have one brand that they use exclusively (my hospital it was Similac – which my daughter HATED), I don’t think it’s the sample’s fault that a mother uses it. She can easily give it away. I gave mine all away to a friend who was unable to breastfeed because it was too stressful. Sometimes breastfeeding just doesn’t work and then those samples are great.

  24. bdgbill says:

    Dads… Get your input into this decision before it’s too late. There are nurses and other busy-bodies hanging around hospitals who will tell your wife that she may as well be feeding her baby corn syrup and kerosene if she does not breast feed. We are all supposed to forget about several generations of people raised on formula who were doing just fine until breast feeding became all the rage five minutes ago.

    Here’s some of what you have to look forward to as the husband of a breast feeding mom:

    Remember that nine months of no drinking you just went through while she was pregnant? You get to extend that for another two years minimum! Yay! Of course, you the dad could drink, if you really wanted to. Even if your wife doesn’t understand how you can find drinking fun when she can’t share it with you. Go ahead…. I dare you.

    Weird nipples and light bulb shaped boobs covered in stretch marks. You will never look at those things the same way again.

    Several hours per day where your wife is immobilized due to being hooked up to the breast pump. Get your butler uniform ready.

    I promise you that you will not experience a waking hour with your wife where you do not hear a breast feeding related complaint for at least the first year. You’re definitely going to want to find an out of the house hobby like golf, fishing or secret drinking.

    • Yomiko says:

      “Remember that nine months of no drinking you just went through while she was pregnant? You get to extend that for another two years minimum! Yay! Of course, you the dad could drink, if you really wanted to. Even if your wife doesn’t understand how you can find drinking fun when she can’t share it with you. Go ahead…. I dare you.”

      I am prepared to not drink and would not hold it against my partner if he wanted to continue as normal. If the potential mother of your child is this type of person and it bothers you, maybe you shouldn’t tie yourself to her for the next 18 years (minimum) with a kid. It’s a personality conflict that will probably come up in more than one area.

      Also, after the kidlet comes out, at least she can pump & dump (although I know a lot of people find this wasteful).

  25. mannyvel says:

    In the first few days, mom’s milk may not come in. At that point you can let your baby cry, or supplement and pump.

    While my wife breastfeeds (and has done that for all three of our kids), she did appreciate the free formula. As it is we only cracked one of the three freebies we got. During the first few days it was a lifesaver.

    Advocacy is great, but this sort of ultra-advocacy just hurts women in the end. It’s about choice, not about forcing your belief that one thing is better than another.

  26. alexmmr says:

    I’m expecting twins in june and hope to exclusively breastfeed. But I’ve heard stories of some moms who were so adament about only breastfeeding that when they had issues, they allowed their baby to starve for 10 days before taking it to the hospital for dehydration. I’ll gladly take my free samples and tuck them in a closet in case we have some sort of issue that prevents my girls from getting enough from me. Nothing wrong with having an emergency plan.

    • elysse says:

      As a mother of now 8-year-old twins, I feel for you. I kept up breastfeeding my girls for about 8 weeks, and I reached a point where I decided that having a sane mother long-term was better than having a crazy mom who breastfed. It was never an issue of production for me- my twins just never fed together except for the first couple of days. They tended to stagger their feedings by about 1-2 hours, compounded by them wanting fed every 3-4 hours…. 24 hours a day, and they would not change their habits. I never got to get any real semblance of sleep, and I don’t mean that in the “new parent” way, either.

      The La Leche League book on breastfeeding multiples was very helpful, in my case I think it kept me going for that extra month. If you do end up going to the bottle, be prepared for the nasty comments and being made to feel like an utter failure because you aren’t as good as little singleton Caitlin’s mom who breastfed her until she was 3.. F them; they don’t live your life.

      The only real advice I can give you is this: the first year will be brutal, you probably won’t remember it (I don’t, other multiples parents around here don’t either) so take pictures. Also- it gets way better as they become more autonomous.

  27. RoadDogg says:

    The hospital we had our son at gave my wife an earful every time she told them she wasn’t going to breastfeed. Not having free samples wouldn’t have changed her opinion, I simply would have bought my own and brought it. I definitely stocked up on the free bottles they give you while you are there though. I got away with a good weeks worth of 2 oz bottles which was very helpful as a new parent since they are premixed and I had no idea how many I should be making each day yet.

  28. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    I see no problem with a case of “in case of emergency” breast milk substitute. but including 10 pounds of formula in your outgoing bag is ridiculous.

  29. LawyerontheDL says:

    I’m a big girl and am actually capable of figuring out for myself whether or not I want to breastfeed, and samples don’t change my mind, they just save me money. If the holier than thou people at Public Citizen can feel free to decline them, but I don’t need them babysitting me. This is the same riduculous reasoning that has fast food restaurant’s vilified for putting toys in happy meals. People should be allowed to make their own decisions, and to be held responsible for them.

  30. daemonaquila says:

    Heck, no. Breastfeeding and bottle feeding are both CHOICES. Also, choosing breastfeeding as a primary doesn’t mean that a woman doesn’t bottle feed also, sometimes. This is more lactivist nonsense.

    Yes, hospitals also “shill” for diaper manufacturers and lots of other baby supply makers. So what? The parents are going to have to buy a lot of that stuff over the next few years and a few samples are very welcome. It’s time to stop the hysteria over the possibility that a woman might not pump when she gets on a plane, and instead may feed a child a few bottles of formula over the course of a trip. This is all about some women with too little meaningful work to do, feeling threatened because they aren’t being validated in every detail of their parenting choices.

  31. Cordtx says:

    As someone commented below, some are thinking since the rate of new mothers addicted to alcohol and prescription pills ( not to mention illegal drugs) is higher, maybe formula is the healthiest choice. But actually, the baby has been receiving these substances in the womb and it is too painful for them to quit “cold turkey” so breastfeeding is best in this situation as well. This way the baby gets small amounts and then can slowly wean off the substance. The prescription pill/methadone addiction rate was crazy when I left L&D for a Woman’s clinic.

  32. Mrs. w/1 child says:

    I always took the formula samples and coupons and then just posted then on freecycle. It was funny when after a well child visit (aka a way for your ped to charge your insurance company $500 for looking t your child for less than 30 seconds) where they specifically asked if I breastfeed exclusively – I did. On the way out one of the greeter office girls gave me a boilerplate swag bag with tons of free formula coupons. That also went onto freecycle.

  33. kataisa says:

    I think hospitals need to go back to being places of actually helping people instead of selling out to corporations and turning the health care industry into nothing but a business.

    Stop giving women unnecessary C-sections because you can’t be bothered to wait for the birth to happen naturally during a basketball game.

    Stop kicking new mothers out of the hospital 3 days after giving birth.

    Stop giving new mothers staph infections.

    Stop letting marketers into your corridors harassing new mothers and their families with stupid baby baskets full of Disney crap and other unhealthy “freebies” they don’t need and didn’t ask for.

    No wonder home birthing is becoming more and more popular.

    • Yomiko says:

      “Stop kicking new mothers out of the hospital 3 days after giving birth.”

      People get 3 days? I didn’t even think it was that long anymore. I have hope now!

  34. Free Legal Advice! says:

    I’m late to the party, but thought I’d add my two cents.

    I have a 4 year old and a 3 month old. I had problems breast-feeding in the hospital with the first, but they were fixed before we were discharged. The second latched on right after delivery and nursed like a champ. During my recent discharge, the hospital offered either Similac, Enfamil, or nothing. I asked for the nurse’s opinion, and she said Similac. She gave us two of those pre-made kits of 8 2oz. bottles and several can of infant formula (I told her I would donate it to the food pantry if I didn’t use it). We used three of the premixed bottles when the youngest was six weeks old. It was over the course of a few days when it was extremely inconvienent to breast feed. My youngest developed a rash I’m attributing to a soy allergy, since it cleared shortly after going exclusively back on the breast.

    My eldest was breastfeed almost exclusively for eight months, until I was sent back to a trial track (I’m a lawyer). Two days straight of nine hours in court with no more than a half hour for lunch really dries up the milk production. The child went on formula during the dya and was breastfed at night thorugh age one.

    I love the freebies from the hospital. They were a huge help for the first child when I wasn’t able to breastfeed all of the sudden. I was able to discover my youngest has an intollerance that I wouldn’t ahve known about until I actually spent some money on formula. Luckily, I was able to give the unused pre-mix to a friend with an infant. I’m sending off some of the cans of powder formula to the food pantry next week, as they will expire in about six weeks.

    How is this a bad thing again?

  35. DoubleShortMILF says:

    As a mom who was told by THREE different doctors to not even try breastfeeding, I welcomed the samples for both my babies. I knew before they were born that I would be formula-feeding them for their own good. And those samples can come in handy if there are problems breastfeeding… or once the mother transitions to formula because she has to go back to work. Stop giving us formula-feeders the finger, you boob nazis. Enough of this “breast is best” nonsense.

  36. VeiledThreats says:

    The sort of people posting their well thought choices regarding breast and formula feeding here on Consumerist are not the ones greatly influenced by the free sample conundrum. The less educated and lower income mothers, the ones least able to afford formula and the ones more likely to make mistakes in preparing it, are the ones who are affected by these samples. All the stories of “I didn’t produce enough milk” as a defense for your decision to use formula are irrelevant, the statistics prove that all tings aside, hospitals who give out samples have fewer long term breast feeding moms. I doubt those hospitals just happened to have more moms with naturally occurring milk production issues. I don’t begrudge any woman who CHOOSES formula, but all women should have an equal choice, even when they have fewer tools to help them with breastfeeding. That choice should be an informed one, not one made in desperation with hospital sanctioned corporate swag there as the savior.

    (In the name of full disclosure: I formula fed my older son after having way too many issues breastfeeding and very little support from the hospital or medical community. I’m currently exclusively breastfeeding my 12 week old with no issues at all)

  37. DataShade says:

    I’m being given free stuff to influence me, and it’s not fair! I hate this saying, but: first world problems!

    We as a society just need to back the heck up off this kind of stuff; you may think breastfeeding is best, there may even be science that supports it being better, on average, for the average statistical baby, than bottle-feeding, but the “average” isn’t the “every” ( ), and it’s not like birth or childrearing is an easy, relaxing time full of confidence and certainty.

    My daughter ended up having pretty solid acid reflux issues, and ended up needing lactose-reduced or soy-based formula to not throw up every other ‘meal.’ Couple that with my wife’s back issues (medical problems means there’s a solid medical reason to *not* need an extra 6-10lbs of weight pulling you off-balance all day), and we switched to bottles tout suite.

    However, there was no way to explain that enough to soothe the righteous, intolerant, intrustive, condescending lactation activists that we found suddenly infested every aspect of our lives – work, family, social networks, checkout lines.

    Also: a lot of states offer programs like NYS’ WIC ( ) and I’m pretty sure NYS at least requires that the formulas eligible for WIC vouchers (and the accompanying state subsidies) be available for parents to take home from maternity wards.

    So, would you rather have borderline-malnourished, borderline-poor people who might not be capable of proper or adequate milk production to be forced out of state aid programs because *your conscience* is salved by pretending that you’re “helping children,” by forcing people to breast-feed?

    Think about that and get back to me.

    Now, when those formula companies listed above started a campaign in Africa to give out powdered formula mix – in counties with no reliable supply of no clean water supply, convincing people to feed their babies typhoid and dysentery instead of breast milk – that’s something you can go ahead and get outraged by.

  38. DataShade says:

    Also: it’s the worst kind of corruption to exert undue influence over – to bribe or coerce – government officials, public leaders, etc; the kind of people whose choices and edicts extend over thousands or millions of other lives.

    As a society, though, we really ought to be resilient enough to withstand a single private citizen being bribed to TRY something – there’s no contract here, no lifelong indentured servitude.

    What’s next, protesting free samples in supermarkets?

  39. Akbite says:

    I liked that the hospital gave me some sample formulas to take home. My milk didn’t come in until day 4 and my daughter had been attached to me pretty much 24-7 crying most of the time since I didn’t produce enough for her at that point. By the 3rd night I gave in and gave her one of the sample bottles. She wasnt hungry and I finally got about 3 hrs of sleep. She didn’t experience nipple confusion and I’ve been breast feeding her for 19 months and have started ween her off. While I would like all moms to give breast feeding a shot, it doesn’t always work out. Personally I rather see a happy mom feeding her kid formula than a miserable mom breast feeding.

  40. hockey13 says:

    I can tell you, as I sit here with my 2 week old, breastfeeding, that formula is a temptation.

    I am up every 2 hours feeding my little one. It is not always easy, especially when the pediatrician threatens to hospitalize your kid for not gaining weight fast enough, before your milk comes in…when you know that formula will pack on the weight AND keep her asleep 3-4 hours at a stretch…

    I didn’t get formula from the hospital, however…so I don’t have that sitting there looking at me..I had a birth center experience- with much support for breastfeeding.

    Point is- it is a harder path this way, but I am convinced this is the best choice for my baby- who is now gaining weight as the “charts” dictate. But it takes some will…and with sleep deprivation, postpartum recovery and the often overwhelming new baby, it is hard.