Massachusetts is now the second state, after Rhode Island, whose hospitals have banned providing infant-formula gift bags to new mothers. All 49 of the state’s maternity hospitals and birthing facilities have stopped – by choice – supplying the freebies to moms upon heading home with their newest addition.
Breastfeeding advocates are thrilled by the news, and MotherBaby Summit hails it a victory. But what do you, Babble readers, think of it?
Read more about the ban after the jump, and weigh in with your thoughts about the Massachusetts decision.
According to the story as reported by the Boston Globe, mothers who receive the free formula are less likely to be breastfeeding by the time their infant is one month old, which is of concern since breastfeeding advocates – including the American Academy of Pediatrics – say that mothers should “exclusively breast-feed for the first six months to provide babies with protection against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies. [And that] breast-fed babies also have a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome and a reduced likelihood of becoming obese teenagers and adults.”
I agree with the ideals of breastfeeding advocacy groups. But sometimes the methods in which these ideals are delivered result in a sort of mudslinging against non-breastfeeding mothers.
Perhaps the move is a push to earn more of the state’s hospitals the “baby-friendly” designation by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, and to end corporate marketing in hospitals. Either way, the International Formula Council doesn’t like the move, claiming that no evidence exists to link these giveaways to a reduction in breastfeeding rates among new mothers – even though the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition claims that “using formula without a medical reason is one of the biggest predictors of breastfeeding failure.”
Critics of the gift-bag giving believe that formula should only be used when medically necessary, and not as a convenience option. But what do real-life mothers say?
I know I hope to be able to breastfeed my children, and if my body allows, I will. But news reports like these always make me wonder how women who use formula for their babies, for whatever the reason, feel. Do stories like this further push to exclude them?
I can’t help but think these types of reports further stigmatize women who don’t breastfeed. While some breastfeeding advocates will “Rah, rah, rah” these moves and maybe even say non-breastfeeding mothers who choose formula for non-medical reasons deserve the stigma because they are making a clear choice that goes against the health of their babies, I’ve always been one to empathize with the underdog. And, yes, I am calling formula-feeding mothers the underdog here. I get the passion behind the breastfeeding advocacy groups – and I even agree with their ideals. But sometimes the methods in which these ideals are delivered result in a sort of mudslinging against non-breastfeeding mothers. And I think any time we judge the way in which others parent, or especially when we insult them for their methods, we become the ugly dogs.
Breastfeeding advocacy is good insofar as teaching those who may not fully understand the benefits of breastfeeding, or insofar as helping mothers obtain their breastfeeding goals. But it is not good when it incites judgment against other mothers, or when it pins women against women – which I fear the latest news out of Massachusetts could do if we simply hail it as a victory with no consideration of what that reaction means to women who cannot breastfeed.
Read more of Aela’s writing at Two Moms Make A Right