Massachusetts Bans Formula Freebies

Submitted by Courtney on Sat, 01/23/2010 - 18:52

For years now we have been told how breastfeeding is beneficial to both mom and baby – so why, after I gave birth to my son, did I receive an Enfamil-stamped ‘goodie bag’ loaded with diapers (I planned to use cloth, thank you very much), rice cereal samples (loaded with additives – no thanks) and formula? Oh, how thoughtful of them to attempt to sway me from my breastfeeding desires, all for an obvious profit.

But for tired, new moms who know no better, if they have free formula on hand and are tired or sick or in enough pain to use it, they certainly will. And the formula companies know it.

The ILCA

Thankfully, a breastfeeding advocacy group called the International Lactation Consultant Association in Massachusetts went to work on a nation-wide ban against free formula being given to new moms. Headed by the determined Marsha Walker, the plan to also have every state’s breastfeeding associations and coalitions partner up with the state health department in order to adjust hospital guidelines when it comes to “marketing” formula. The group will then also conduct an assessment of hospitals that do and do not offer free infant formula.

Admittedly, breastfeeding isn’t easy – especially at the beginning. It can sometimes take weeks for the baby to learn how to latch on properly, or some mother’s (myself included) do not produce enough milk initially so the baby has a slower weight gain. But take it from me – there are methods to ramp up your milk production, and your child WILL learn how to latch on properly.

Breastfeeding benefits mom and baby for so many reasons. Babies are receiving personally tailored nutrition that is loaded with much needed antibodies, and mothers enjoy quick weight loss, possibly a slower return of their period, and strong evidence shows that breastfeeding mommies have a greatly reduced risk of suffering from both breast and ovarian cancer.

The 2006 Ban

The evidence has been presented, and the cause has been successful. As of 2006, formula freebies are no longer to be found in hospital “gift bags” in Massachusetts. As the statement reads:

"Today, hospitals have the ability to make choices. The International Formula Council's main concern is that restrictive policy eliminates a mother's right to choose. We believe the choice should be made between the mother and her health care provider. Mothers should be allowed full access to all available information on infant-feeding options and practices, as well as discharge gift bags including samples, which can assist in informed infant-feeding decisions."

Formula is now only distributed on the demand of the mother, or in dire medical situations where it is absolutely necessary – as what formula was initially created for. Congratulations ILCA on a job well done!

photo by Chelly Cruz

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