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KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Friday, August 03, 2007

NYC Hospitals Dump Formula Samples for Breastfeeding Aids

As a resident of New York State, I'm proud that New York City hospitals are dumping the infant formula samples from the gift bags they give new mothers and putting breastfeeding aids in the bags instead.

This new move is excellently timed; World Breastfeeding Week runs August 1 through 7.

It's wonderful to see some hospitals stop being two-faced. For several years now, hospital maternity wards across the nation have been talking up the benefits of breastfeeding and even offering the services of on-staff lactation consultants to help mothers new to breastfeeding get started ... and then handing them gift tote bags filled with formula samples donated by big bu$ine$$. The message has been "Breast is best, but don't worry about it too much—you can fall back on the crutch of formula even if your breasts function perfectly well and you have no problems producing milk."

Uh-huh. Ever read some of the many reports (and here) and books about how the donation of these formula samples isn't benign but is really a marketing move to make more money for the formula makers? These big bu$ine$$e$ even give away samples in poor nations, ostensibly to help poor women. But these women, whose breasts function just fine, try the formula and soon find their babies hooked on it. And when the samples run out, their breast milk has dried up, leaving them nothing to feed their babies. Or they mix the powdered formula given to them with dirty water, and their babies develop life-threatening diarrhea.

Now, the New York Post article that reported the NYC hospitals' new actions began with a stereotypically whiny lead: "First came smoking. Then there were trans fats. Now the nanny-like city's public-health crusade is taking on the baby bottle." I wouldn't expect straightforward reporting from that pugnacious rag, so I found it easy to overlook the article's undertones. But if it takes a little "nannying" to get society to do the right thing and make it easier and more culturally acceptable for women to breastfeed, is that such a bad thing? Nope.

Updated at 9:47 a.m.: I'm no fan of supermodels, but hey, maybe this'll help some new mother somewhere: Supermodels can breastfeed just like real women can.


LeftLeaningLady said...

BUT (playing devils advocate) in some African nations the HIV positive mothers are still breastfeeding even they were given free formula and they are infecting the children.

I do agree that breast is best. I wish I had had a lactation consultant and La Lache when my son was born.. or just the internet. I breast fed, but would have kept at it much much longer with just a little information.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Well, sure, there are instances when formula would be better, but Nestle and other formula makers give free samples away to all the mothers they can find, HIV-positive or not.

I managed only 3 months breastfeeding my daughter. I was so young (23), had moved to an area where I knew absolutely no one, and had an unsupportive first husband.

Years later, I breastfed my first son for 3 years and my second son for 4. And that ended only about 2 years ago.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

And even for the HIV-positive mothers who really need the formula, what happens when the free samples are gone? Their children may die from starvation.

alicia said...

I wonder why these companies give free samples to poverty-stricken nations (those are the nations we're talking about, right?) - surely it's not a marketing ploy, because once they run out the mothers wouldn't have the money to buy more. Surely these companies know that?

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Yes, it's a marketing ploy, both to polish their image and to gain new customers. The companies are seen as generous for giving away expensive foodstuffs to the poor. They give away the samples to any and all women in poor nations who want them; some can afford to buy more formula later and some cannot.

It also gives the companies an inexpensive way get rid of outdated samples that they'd be required to dispose of at their expense in the U.S.

LeftLeaningLady said...

I was talking about those who are supported by "Doctors without Borders" and others who are doing their best to contain the HIV/AIDS epidemic in poor nations. They are willing/able to provide more formula.

I was 21 when my son was born and I had relatives (older, more educated relatives) having babies at the same time and bottle feeding. I had no idea that babies went through a feeding frenzy at 6 weeks and switched to formula then because I felt like a brood mare. I wish I had had a lot more informaton, I definitely would have breast fed longer.

Breast milk is the best, most beneficial food for infants. But I am not sure that there can't be acceptance for all mothers of newborns. When I was born, breast feeding was not acceptable. I think it it more important to teach new moms to parent.

LeftLeaningLady said...

I hope you don't mind if I add you to my blogroll!

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

I'd be delighted, LLL. Thank you.

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