There’s been a lot of media buzz around the common hospital practice of providing free formula samples to new mothers when they leave the hospital after giving birth. For years, hospitals all over the U.S. have distributed formula samples to new mothers as part of their post-partum care packages. However, in recent years, organizations like the CDC have criticized this practice, claiming that it can discourage women from breastfeeding their babies.
Critics worry that providing formula to new mothers sends the message that formula is just as good as breast milk, since it is being handed out in the hospital setting. The CDC’s annual Breastfeeding Report Card was released last month and declared that “less than 5% of U.S. infants are born in Baby-Friendly hospitals, a global designation that indicates best practices in maternity care to support breastfeeding mothers.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be fed exclusively on breast milk for their first six months, yet the CDC has found that only 15% of mothers in the U.S. follow these recommendations. Still, the reversal of this trend might already be taking place. Yesterday, the Journal Pediatrics published a 2007 study on the distribution of formula samples to new mothers that found that this practice was on the decline across the country.
Certainly the goal here should not be to demonize baby formula or make women feel guilty if they use formula to supplement breast milk when necessary, but rather to encourage hospitals to provide better information on the health benefits of breastfeeding to new mothers and offer follow-up care when necessary, such as sessions with lactation nurses.
What are your thoughts on this practice? Do you think that the distribution of formula to new mothers should be discouraged, or is it a harmless practice?
Wall Street Journal - Fewer Hospitals Sending Formula Samples Home with New Parents
U.S. News - Do Hospital Discourage Breast Feeding?