Fewer Hospitals Are Giving Away Formula, But Most Still Do



Are the hospitals sending mixed messages?

According to a study published in Pediatrics this week, the number of hospitals opting to discontinue industry-provided formula samples doubled, on average, in the last four years.

But the majority of hospitals still give away formula, and the number of babies fed formula in the hospital is still high. This study found that 72% of hospitals still give away promotional formula samples.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.  In order to accomplish this or even get close to this, women need much more support in the early days of breastfeeding when it’s the hardest. And part of that support means not introducing formula in the hospital some hours or days after birth.

Last month, a CDC report found that only 4% of hospitals support breastfeeding. This is not to say hospitals are flat out say, “Don’t breastfeed!” Not at all.  The general message is always that it’s a mother’s choice. But hospital practices — such as feeding and giving out free promotional samples of formula — can undermine attempts to get breastfeeding off to a good start, which is more or less essential.

“We know 80% of mothers plan to breastfeed,” said Cria Perrine, Ph.D., one of the authors of the CDC report, but of the 75% of moms who try to breastfeed, half are given formula within the first week. The fact that formula is flowing so readily and given away certainly sends a strong message that this is a medical necessity for the majority of mothers, rather than a choice.

If you’ve already had a baby, was he or she given formula at the hospital? And if you haven’t given birth, what have you heard about the importance of giving or not giving formula within the first week of life?

photo: gregoryrallen/flickr