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

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About Our Ad:

Our ad focuses on formula marketing as a consumer issue, and part of a bigger pattern of unethical marketing techniques from the pharmaceutical industry. In this sense, we can show our leaders that this practice affects all citizens, and is not just an issue about breastfeeding.

Because research shows that formula fed babies incur higher health care costs, this results in increased expenditures for Medicaid and private insurers, and can potentially drive up premiums. Research also shows that mothers of formula fed babies miss more time from work, resulting in decreased economic productivity.

Where did we get $700?

Our WIC reference shows over a $700 price difference between formulas marketed by hospitals, and store brands. A conservative estimate shows the name brands cost 66% more. Other sources show an even greater difference in price. The Sam’s Club website shows $.82 per ounce of name-brand powder (in bulk) compared to $.32 for their own brand? more than twice as much.

Research shows brand loyalty runs high with consumers of baby formula. Parents are often hesitant to switch to a different brand if they know their baby is tolerating the expensive brand they started in the hospital.