Rhode Island Birthing Hospitals End Baby Formula Giveaways

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Providence, Rhode Island — As part of efforts to support breastfeeding mothers, women who give birth in Rhode Island will no longer receive infant formula marketing packs when they head home from the hospital. Rhode Island’s First Lady, Stephanie Chafee, Lieutenant Governor, Elizabeth Roberts, RI Department of Health Director, Michael Fine, and Marsha Walker from the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition’s Ban the Bags campaign joined the Rhode Island Health Department Monday November 28, 2011 in celebrating the state’s becoming the first in the nation to eliminate the distribution of infant formula marketing bags in all of Rhode Island’s birthing hospitals.

Director Fine, the Lt. Governor as well as the First Lady spoke of their commitment to breastfeeding families and their support of the hospitals’ efforts in this giant step forward in removing the commercial barriers to breastfeeding. State health officials noted that studies link giveaways to decreased breastfeeding rates, which is not in keeping with their efforts to promote optimal health for mothers and infants in Rhode Island.

For more information, see coverage in USA Today.

Can a formula company give good breastfeeding advice?

Studies show that formula marketing bags shorten exclusive breastfeeding duration, even when the formula samples are removed from the bags. How does that work? It’s simple – but subtle. Industry-manufactured “breastfeeding support guides” offer advice that undermines mothers and promotes artificial breastmilk substitutes, as Erin explains beautifully in her guest blog, Helping Themselves: Breastfeeding Advice Nestle-Style.

Breaking news: Formula company capable of shame

Mead Johnson pulls “Breast milk formula” web page title

June 23, 2009– Mead Johnson hit new lows this past week, calling Lipil ‘The Breast Milk Formula” on its web site. The title to the web page was changed to ‘Enfamil “ ‘Lipil” following a concerted campaign by breastfeeding activists to contact the Federal Trade Commission.

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Mead Johnson’s advertising is already under review by the FTC for overstating the health benefits from added fatty acids DHA/ARA. With the recent “breast milk formula” ploy, Mead Johnson sank to new lows, essentially claiming that infant formula is the same thing as human milk.

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Formula company pitches workplace “breastfeeding support”

In another cynical move to market formula in the guise of breastfeeding support, Abbott Labs has partnered with Working Mother magazine to create a “workplace breastfeeding support” kit. Blogging in The Huffington Post, Dr. Melissa Bartick explains why businesses should steer clear of formula propaganda, and instead use the Business Case for Breastfeeding, a federally-funded workplace lactation support program.

Tool Kit

The Tool Kit has moved here.

Moving formula marketing out of hospitals requires a culture change. Many doctors and nurses enjoy giving patients a “free gift,” and don’t appreciate the hidden costs associated with marketing strategies.

Staff may not realized that free samples are linked with earlier use of formula among nursing mothers in randomized controlled trials. Professionals who have never purchased formula may not realize that name-brand products cost a third more than store-brand products, raising costs considerably for bottle-feeding families. Educating care providers and hospital adminsitrators about these issues is the first step toward eliminating these marketing practices. To start the conversation, review our talking points.

This tool kit includes materials developed by the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition and Ban the Bags, as well as letters of support from regional and national organizations.

Whether you are a parent, a concerned citizen, a public health advocate or a health care provider, you can change this practice. Browse our materials for ideas and inspiration, or Download Our Complete Tool Kit for background information, supporting data and educational materials to start lobbying for change in your community.

Gourmet Magazine Blog tackles formula marketing

Writing in “The Kid’s Menu,” Lesley Porcelli describes how she and her baby resisted a barrage of formula handouts and industry-endorsing health care providers to breastfeed successfully. She writes, “The world seems to start pushing formula on mothers at the moment of conception. But what if you just want your baby to drink breast milk?” Read the article.

Ban the Bags featured in Dr. Hale’s newsletter

Marsha Walker exposes formula company tactics in her article, Formula Company Discharge Bags: The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing:

Sampling gets the product into the hands of the consumer, provides for its easy use at the first sign of breastfeeding roadblocks, and starts the process of early weaning – the perfect setup for creating a market where none existed before.

New mothers get mixed messages

Hospitals provide formula sample packs while medical organizations encourage breastfeeding

CHICAGO—A majority of U.S. hospitals on the East coast distribute formula sample packs to new mothers, contrary to recommendations from most major medical organizations concerned about the potential for distributing these packs to reduce breastfeeding rates, according to a report in the September issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. However, the practice is changing significantly.

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CDC report: Most hospitals market formula, undermine breastfeeding

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released results from a national survey of US maternity centers showing that 70 percent of birth facilities continue to market formula to new mothers, undermining health recommendations. In an editorial note accompanying the study, published in the journal “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,” the authors comment:

Facilities should consider discontinuing these practices to provide more positive influences on breastfeeding initiation and duration.

For more information on mPINC, read the press release from the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition.

Breastfeeding rates, and Ban the Bags, in The New York Times

A recent article in The New York Times reported on rising US breastfeeding rates. In the article, Bobby Philipp, a pediatrician at Boston University, pointed to formula bags as a key obstacle to breastfeeding success. Noting that most hospitals still market formula to new mothers, she said:

That’s a problem because at least five studies have shown that when a doctor or nurse hands the family that bag, even if they take the formula out, that mother will have less success with breast-feeding

Read the article

The Language of Banning the Bags

By Melissa Bartick, MD, MS
Chair, Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition

February, 2007 — In Massachusetts, getting hospitals to stop marketing baby formula became a battle of words fought in the press and in the corridors of the State House. In February 2006, then-Governor Mitt Romney directed our state’s Public Health Council to rescind the country’s first state regulation to ban hospital distribution of formula company discharge bags. Romney, his spokesman, and other opponents of the ban argued that women should be “free to choose” how they feed their babies, and that women should not be “forced” to breastfeed. Continue reading