Hospitals are increasingly less likely to give away free samples of infant formula to new mothers.
The Associated Press reports that a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study out last month found ” … less than 5 percent of U.S. infants are born in ‘baby-friendly’ hospitals that fully support breast-feeding, and that 1 in 4 infants receive formula within hours of birth.” Yet a new study published today in the journal Pediatrics found that the number of hospitals electing to quit handing out free formula samples is growing. The number of hospitals which have stopped the practice has doubled in the last four years among those surveyed. Despite this trend, however, the vast majority of hospitals are still handing the formula gift packs out.
The International Formula Council has issued a formal response to the new study in which it states that the “…study did not demonstrate any effect of infant formula sample packs on breast-feeding rates, which have continued to increase over the past decade.” In an interview with the Associated Press, the IFC’s Haley Stevens said it would be irresponsible not to offer free samples to mothers: “‘New moms should have formula available, along with information on how to use it so they don’t water it down or make other mistakes that could endanger their babies’ health,’ Stevens said.”
Of course, proponents of breastfeeding disagree. Breastfeeding activists believe formula distribution may lead some mothers having difficulty with breastfeeding to switch to formula when support from a lactation consultant would otherwise help them to successfully sustain breastfeeding. Many aren’t completely against formula, as they understand some women are unable to breastfeed, but they definitely don’t want to see it marketed within the maternity ward.
Major organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months. As reported by HealthDay, “Distributing the formula violates the World Health Organization’s international code regarding the marketing of breast-milk substitutes … The code says the substitute products should not be advertised or promoted to the general public.”
The states with the best record for having hospitals discontinue the practice of handing out free formula were: Washington, Minnesota, California, Vermont, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Oregon and Rhode Island. Those with the worst record were Arkansas, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia and Iowa.
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