Hospitals Giving out Formula Samples

There has been a huge push lately from many supporters of breastfeeding to remove formula from hospitals or stop giving out samples to families.  Some hospitals already have a BYOF (Bring Your Own Formula) policy on the books.  But is this really the best way to increase breastfeeding?  Are samples the one thing that is making women choose to use formula over breastfeeding?  Is it really those hospital samples that they are being sent home with that is sabotaging American women and breastfeeding?

I get the thinking!

As a breastfeeding mother who had to make my wants very clear in the hospital with the birth of my last child I really do get the thoughts behind this.

  • If the formula is there then we’ll be tempted to use it.
  • Having formula around can undermine breastfeeding.
  • And of course it’s obvious that formula companies are doing it all simply as a marketing ploy.  They have got to make money somehow, right?

The Reality Of It All

In actuality if you remove formula from hospitals, then you could be putting many babies at risk for problems.  Babies who need to be in the NICU and need that formula.  Babies whose mothers are ill or unconscious and can’t breastfeed.  There are issues that can come up at any moment making formula a necessity.

Now sure, the hospitals might be able to have formula on hand for these emergency situations, but at what cost?  It will make already inflated hospital bills even higher.

Leaving The Hospital With Samples

Whatever samples I received of formula in the hospital was maybe 5 feeds worth.  I received more formula in the mail from the formula companies.  How did they get my information and know that I was pregnant?  I don’t know, from my buying habits maybe.  Or maybe I signed up for something as a new parents and they just automatically send this stuff whether you are going to breastfeed or not.  For months after my youngest was born we received Enfamil and Good Start coupons in the mail.  That was much more formula compromising my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter and yet somehow I managed to exclusively breastfeed her until she started on some solids around 8 months old.  And she continued breastfeeding until she was 13 1/2 months old.

Of course this is all anecdotal.  Sure, I did it, this time, but my 4th child is the only one I successfully breastfed this long.  I went into the hospital to have my oldest with every intention of using formula.  I breastfed my middle daughter for all of 3 days before she stopped latching and when it’s 2 a.m. and your baby is screaming and won’t latch on having formula in the house sure is handy because without a lactation consultant living in my home and not wanting to make a run to a 24 hour drug store to pay inflated prices on formula it sure was nice to have those samples.

I Firmly Believe The Hospital Hindered Breastfeeding With My Son

In spite of knowing that things could have been drastically different with breastfeeding of my son I still think that formula has its place in the hospital.  I know that I could have handled things differently in the hospital with my son and I did just that when my youngest was born.  When they wanted to give her a bottle minutes after birth I said fine to the formula to help with her sugar levels, but not in a bottle.  And they did find a way to do it without causing nipple confusion in my daughter.

Hospitals Do Have Room For Improvement

I do think hospitals can do things to help women start off breastfeeding successfully.  I know part of those bags that you go home with that contain formula also do contain samples of nipple cream and breast pads which is great.  Not something a formula feeding mom needs and we don’t hear them complaining about that either.  But there is more to be done.

  • They should have lactation consultants available 24/7 in hospitals.
  • When a woman wants to breastfeed if at all possible they should not use a bottle to feed a baby if for some reason formula is needed as it was in my case.
  • Coupons for hospital grade breast pumps would be great.
  • Coupons for nursing apparel.
  • More educated staff to insure a proper start in breastfeeding.

I know these are things I would have benefited from.  When my son had to be given formula because of his jaundice I didn’t know any better at that time.  Later when problems really began to arise with him I realized that there were other ways to have given him formula without using a bottle.

A good breast pump and better nursing apparel sure would have been helpful with all of my children when I breastfed.

And lets face it some nurses are really just better than others.  Making sure that the nurses who are experienced with breastfeeding are taking care of the breastfeeding moms is great.  I know this isn’t always possible if you have a lot of births at once and a lot are breastfeeding, but making sure they are all properly educated will help.

If a woman really truly wants to breastfeed, then she will do it!  No amount of formula samples is going to sabotage that.  Just going by my own experiences, I breastfed my 2nd daughter for 3 days.  I know I could have done more to make that work out better even after giving into the evils of samples that I had.  But I don’t think I ever really wanted to do it then.  With my son I did really want to do it and the only reason we only got to 3 months was because he wasn’t thriving on my milk and he needed formula.  But I learned from that experience and I did better with my youngest.  I wanted to do it and I did it!  I knew we had formula in the house.  As a matter of fact there’s still a small sample can in my pantry.  It has never been opened.

Our energy should not be wasted telling formula companies how to market their product in hospitals.  It should be spent setting up classes for our children in school on breastfeeding awareness and the benefits of it.  Don’t be so worried about those few small samples that hospitals send you home with because I highly doubt that is the single most important reason that more women are not breastfeeding!

What do you think?  Should hospitals remove formula samples completely from the hospital or from the gift bags that they send women home with?


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  1. melanieinoh2003 says:

    I had my first when I was 23 and was determined to breastfeed. The nurses were very encouraging at first but as we got later in the day they did push the formula more. I refused it and he caught on eventually. I have nursed 6 of them now and no amount of formula in a hosp would deter me. I do think it has it's place as some people struggle for whatever reason. We know what is best, but sometimes they just can't do what is best I suppose. 

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