My first daughter was born in Florida and our hospital experience was completely different than it was here in New York City. The hospital in Tampa was family centered and did not have a nursery (except for NICU patients,) while the one that I gave birth to Avery in had us sharing rooms (which was completely awful) and the nurses kept the baby in the nursery most of the time.
With my oldest, I knew I wanted to breastfeed from the beginning, although I wasn’t sure how easy it was going to come for me. While at the hospital, I had the lactation consultant come in to help me make sure that Harlan was getting the correct latch so that she was getting her nutrients. Although the nurses in the hospital knew that she was being exclusively breastfed, I still went home with a diaper bag full of formula. Rather than refusing it, I took the formula home just in case I ever needed to use it for emergency purposes. I never did end up using the formula and gave it to a friend that did not breastfeed.
When I gave birth to Avery last month, I told the nurses from the beginning that I was going to exclusively breastfeed and they were not to give my daughter any formula. It made me more nervous this time around because Avery was in the nursery most of the time. I made sure to tell them to put a big sign in her bassinet that she was only to be breastfed. After I made it very clear to them, I was never offered formula for her and went home empty handed without any formula samples.
I am not sure if the hospital did not give me samples because they knew I was only breastfeeding, or if they are part of the 44 percent of hospitals that do not give away formula samples to new moms. More and more hospitals are feeling the pressure to forego the free formula samples and encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies.
As reported on Fox News, consumer advocates drafted a letter to more than 2,600 hospitals to ask for them to stop giving out free samples of formula to new mothers saying that it could be seen as an endorsement. They say that giving away the free samples discourages moms from breastfeeding, which has a variety of health benefits to both mom and baby.
This was done in a move to boost the U.S. breastfeeding rates. Although the World Health Organization says the breastfeeding rates are increasing in the U.S., just 14 percent of six month old babies are exclusively breastfed. Health officials would like to increase that to 26 percent by 2020.
Although I am exclusively breastfeeding Avery now and plan on doing it for at least the first year, I still would have taken the formula samples this time around had I been offered some. Not because I plan on using it, but just in case something happens and I am not around to feed Avery. I pump and leave breast milk in the freezer just in case, but I’d hate for there to be an emergency and then have them run out of it and have nothing on hand. I realize these are extreme cases, but I know I am prepared if they do come about.
While I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding, I do not think that forcing hospitals to stop giving away free samples will encourage more mothers to breastfeed. Some of the mothers that receive the free samples really could use it because of financial issues. Hospitals aren’t the only place that mothers are getting free formula. Just two weeks after giving birth to Avery I received several formula samples in the mail. I’ve also been offered some at her pediatricians office.
Instead of spending time and money on writing these hospitals letters, why don’t they make more of an effort to get breastfeeding education into hospitals so that mothers can really make an educated decision when it comes to the nutritional needs of their baby.
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