No, hospitals should continue to provide new mothers with options and choices. The American Academy of Pediatrics Recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months, then up to a year with solids introduced. After a year, continue as long as the mother and child desire. Hospitals are encouraged by consumer and health organizations to promote breast as the best way to feed your infant. It is said that sixty-six percent of hospitals still give away formula samples. Advocates for breastfeeding say that samples shouldn’t be given out because they believe that the samples may discourage breastfeeding for new moms. What about the moms who give birth to premies and/ or multiples or are sick? Exclusive breastfeeding may not be an option. For mothers who choose not to breast feed for whatever the reason may be, shouldn’t be left in the dark about what choices they have as far as formula. The decision whether to breastfeed or to bottle feed should come from the mother, not from the general public.
Who are the people who are seeking the change? Many are children of mothers who most likely did not breastfeed. In the early fifties breastfeeding was considered old-fashioned and unsanitary. In 1971, only twenty-four percent of mothers chose to breastfeed. By six months of age only five percent were still breastfeeding. Surely these children did not starve. They were fed formula. The generation survived and many as we all know thrived as well. Today, even the major formula companies such as Nestle, Enfamil and Similac agree that breast is best.
There are hundreds of diapers to choose from, major companies give hospitals sample packs to give to new mothers (even though cloth diapering is better for the environment as well as your wallet). This allows the mother simply to sample, try out and possibly continue with use of the brand outside of the hospital. Formula should be no different. There are over 50 different kinds of formula to choose from. Is it really “fair” to essentially withhold information or opportunity about what to feed their child just because others simply don’t agree with her choice? The AAP stated that as of 2010, out of the eighty percent of mothers who plan to breastfeed, seventy-five percent of new moms actually have breastfed, only forty percent breastfed exclusively for the first 3 months. Only 50 percent continue to do so until six months of age, with 14 to 17 percent doing so exclusively. It’s pretty safe to say that most mothers will at some point give their infant formula. So when the time does come to give formula, those samples may help guide mothers to which product fits their infants needs. As the American Hospital Association stated to Fox News, “Having information and resources available for mothers who choose not to breastfeed is a responsible and supportive approach for the hospital”.
Many fear that the accessibility of the formula is an incentive for exhausted and stressed out new moms to hand-off the baby to a nurse for a bottle feeding. Is giving a mother no other alternatives the answer, especially a mother who is sleep deprived and facing frustration with breastfeeding? Formula can offer moms a chance to sleep, offer the same “feeding time bond” between a father and baby, or even give breastfeeding moms with dry, cracked or sore nipples a chance to recover. Due to all the available research that has been done over 40 years and more, we can all agree that breastfeeding is best and hospitals should continue to support mothers trying to breastfeed. But taking away formula isn’t taking away the true problem for those who struggle with breastfeeding. All hospitals and birthing centers should be providing on site lactation consultants, as well as resources outside the hospital. Doctors and pediatricians should be taking the time to talk to the mother and question how well the feedings are going and offering helpful advice. Education should be given to all maternity ward staff throughout the hospitals across the nation. New moms should be educated and encouraged to start and continue breastfeeding, but not by making them feel as if they don’t have a choice. Blaming the samples on providing temptation would be much like arguing that free condoms are incentive for teens to engage in pre-marital sex. If a mother wants to breastfeed then she should be prepared for the hurdles ahead. This is why education is important. Taking away samples is another way to promote the endless propaganda associated with breastfeeding. Even though formula is not harmful in any way (with the exception of a small handful of isolated incidents in the last thirty years), and infants have proved to thrive on formula, America has found countless ways to make bottle feeding moms feel ashamed. This is just another way to encourage the shame.
Are formula companies really using new moms as a way of marketing? Most likely, at least no more or less than McDonald’s is using our children to market their product. What company isn’t trying to market to us, no matter who we are. We have the option to say no. We have the ability to make decisions and choices for you and your family. Do we eat whatever television tells us to? If every time you went to the market and they gave out a free bucket of lard, would you eat it just because it was given to you? Chances are, after knowing the risks and benefits (if any) you would be able to come up with a decision that fits your own body and life style. Every company that chooses to stuff their offers, products and samples in to the goodie bag that you take home from the hospital is trying to market to you. Yes, the company that provides a hospital with samples is hoping that you choose that brand. It may or may not be a more expensive brand, but we as Americans have the choice and ability to do the necessary research to find the differences in costs and features. We do this continuously with millions of other products and services.
If what formula companies and hospitals are doing is wrong, then what about the government program Women, Infant, and Children? WIC is a Federal grant program that provides low-income families with free healthy food for pregnant and nursing moms and children, as well as free formula for infants. WIC is available in all fifty states as well as many islands. WIC, just like any decent health professionals, do everything that they can to promote breastfeeding as the best way to feed your infant, but for those that do choose to formula feed, they have no problem providing new mothers with iron-fortified infant formula. The agency is required by law to establish competitive contracts with formula companies that are willing to provide rebates. The rebates allow the price of formula to drop down to an average of twenty-five cents a can. The program benefits 9.17 million people each month, including 53 percent of all the infants that are born in the USA. Half of all infant formula sold in the US is through WIC. Even with the readily available free formula that WIC provides, the number of WIC participated moms that choose to breastfeed have continued to rise. The program has proven that while providing infant formula (which is free just like the samples given out at the hospitals) they can still persuade new moms to choose to breastfeed.