[UPDATE] by Lanetra Bennett - April 25, 2012 - 6:12 pm
Many hospitals give new moms gift bags to take home with their bundle of joy.
But, there's a new campaign to get infant formula taken out of those goodie bags.
Laurianna Lahtinen breast fed her baby. She says in a way, she kind of understands why public advocacy groups want hospitals to stop handing out infant formula.
Lahtinen says, "As a brand new mom, it's really stressful. you don't know what to do with this new baby. So, to have a case of formula just sitting there, it's kind of like a relief, oh, I don't have to worry about breast feeding today. I can just give her this bottle."
The North Central Florida Breastfeeding Coalition and the Hillsborough County Breastfeeding Task Force are calling for hospitals to stop including industry-provided samples of infant formula in new mothers' discharge bags.
The groups say endorsing alternative feeding methods confuses people into thinking formula is comparable to breast milk.
Kimber Shannon says she breast fed her daughters for two weeks, then started supplementing with formula because she had to go back work.
Shannon says, "I didn't know if I'd be able to nurse that whole time or how that was going to work out. That was my goal to be able to nurse and use the breast milk and pump at work. But, it's challenging, it's really hard to balance that. So, I knew I'd want to have some back up with formula."
Shannon says different mothers and children have different circumstances. She says she knows someone who didn't have a choice but to use infant formula.
Shannon says, "She wasn't able to nurse so she was only taking formula. But, she was having a lot of acid reflux and had to get a certain brand and was really expensive. You never know."
The organization has launched an online petition calling on the three major formula makers to stop marketing their products in health care facilities. So far, they have more than 14,000 signatures.
Although Lahtinen says she can see how having formula readily available my make a mom take the alternative as their first choice, she doesn't agree that samples should not be given away.
Lahtinen says, "There are a lot of families who maybe can't afford it. So that really might help them get started. I think that hospitals should continue to do that. They give diapers to everyone. Some people do cloth diapers. Should they not give regular diapers?"
The Press Release from Public Citizen is below.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - April 25, 2012 -
The North Central Florida Breastfeeding Coalition and the Hillsborough County Breastfeeding Task Force are joining Public Citizen in calling for hospitals to stop including industry-provided samples of infant formula in new mothers' discharge bags because the distribution is unethical and violates good public health policy. Public Citizen sent letters, co-signed by more than 100 other organizations, calling for the end of the practice to the administrators of 2,600 hospitals across the country, including 101 hospitals in Florida. The letters are part of a new, nationwide Public Citizen campaign that is aimed at both hospitals and major formula makers.
"Endorsing alternative feeding methods confuses the public into thinking formula is comparable to breast milk and violates our code of ethics as practitioners by encouraging the use of sub-optimal infant nutrition," said Jessica Gordon, chair of Tampa, Fla.'s, Hillsborough County Breastfeeding Task Force. "While alternative feeding methods are useful and necessary, clinical experts suggest to utilize them when medically necessary."
Added Dr. Judy Banks, a member of the North Central Florida Breastfeeding Coalition, "Current children's health care providers need to recognize that most mothers in our practices, 70 percent at least in most areas of Florida, really want to breastfeed successfully. We have to learn to think of alternative milk formula as just that - alternative - a great thing to have available for defined medical indications when the best choice, human milk feeding, is not possible."
Public Citizen also has launched an online petition calling on the three major formula makers - Abbott (maker of Similac), Mead Johnson (maker of Enfamil) and Nestle (maker of Gerber) - to stop marketing their products in healthcare facilities. So far, the petition has more than 14,000 signatures.
Hospital promotion of infant formula in discharge bags contravenes the consensus by all major healthcare provider organizations that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after a child is born is best for the health of both babies and mothers. Research convincingly shows that mothers who received infant formula samples are less likely to breastfeed exclusively and are more likely to breastfeed for shorter durations. Hospitals that distribute formula samples are in violation of a 1981 World Health Organization (WHO) code that prohibits healthcare facilities from marketing infant formula.
Yet, at least two-thirds of hospitals in the U.S. distribute samples of infant formula, even if mothers have indicated that they plan to breastfeed. Succumbing to infant formula companies' marketing techniques is costly, both in terms of money spent on formula and the health of mothers and children. Formula feeding costs between $800 and $2,800 per year. Additionally, the formula samples usually are brand-name products, which cost up to 66 percent more than store brands. Families typically continue to use the same expensive brand they receive in samples.
"Hospitals and doctors' offices shouldn't be used as marketing vehicles for any product, period," Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said. "They certainly shouldn't be pushing products that harm the health and wellbeing of babies and new moms."
Added Elizabeth Ben-Ishai, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen's Commercial Alert project, "When hospitals distribute formula samples, they are engaging in marketing for major pharmaceutical and food companies. Many hospitals are actively trying to promote breastfeeding in their obstetrics units. But by continuing to allow marketing of infant formula in their facilities, they are undermining their own efforts."
Children that are not breastfed have more medical problems, including severe lower respiratory tract infections, obesity, diabetes, childhood leukemia and more. Women who do not breastfeed have higher rates of diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer, post-partum depression and bladder infections.
U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, acknowledging that breastfeeding is one of the most highly effective preventive health measures for mothers and babies, in 2011 issued a Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. Among other actions, Benjamin highlighted the need to "ensure that the marketing of infant formula is conducted in a way that minimizes its negative impacts on exclusive breastfeeding." She called for holding marketers of infant formula accountable to the WHO code and ensuring that health care clinicians do not market formula by providing venues for its advertisement or distributing samples.
Many hospitals across the country have stopped distributing formula samples. A 2009 study by the CDC found that 34.2 percent of hospitals nationwide have stopped the practice, and in November 2011, Rhode Island became the first state in which all hospitals with maternity wards stopped distributing formula samples to new mothers. A recent study noted that in states with higher numbers of hospitals eliminating the distribution of formula samples, there are higher rates of breastfeeding.
To read Public Citizen's letter, view a complete list of hospitals that have received the letter and learn more about the organization's campaign to stop infant formula marketing in healthcare facilities, visit