WHO/UNICEF release scathing report, call to action on formula marketing

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The World Health Organization and UNICEF have released their long-awaited report on formula marketing. According to the report, “Formula milk is a US $55 billion per year industry that systematically undermines parents’ infant feeding decisions and compromises women’s and children’s health and human rights.” It also states, “Marketing of formula is emblematic of marketing of other products such as tobacco or gambling that prioritize sales over health and well-being.”

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Study: hospital formula supplementation impacts breastfeeding in subsequent children

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July 18, 2021- A rigorous study showed that formula supplementation in the hospital decreased a mother’s likelihood of sustained exclusive breastfeeding. Hospital supplementation decreased her likelihood of initiating breastfeeding in a subsequent child by at least 66%, and reduced the duration of breastfeeding in any subsequent children by at least 6 weeks.

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Massachusetts hospitals eliminate formula marketing, becoming the nation’s second “bag-free state”

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Boston — As of July 1, 2012, all 49 Massachusetts maternity facilities have voluntarily eliminated the formula company diaper bags, traditionally given to new moms at hospital discharge. Massachusetts became the nation’s second “bag-free” state after Rhode Island’s seven hospitals eliminated the bags in 2011. The achievement will be celebrated on July 18, at 10:30 am at Nurse’s Hall at the State House, in an event that includes Dr. Lauren Smith, medical director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

In 2005, nearly all maternity facilities in the state were giving out discharge bags from formula companies. The marketing technique is particularly effective in lowering breastfeeding rates in part because of the implied endorsement of the hospital and health professionals. The bags often come with a requirement that hospitals get their formula for free, which contributes greatly to unnecessary use of formula by breastfeeding mothers. Research has consistently shown that such use is one of the strongest predictors of early breastfeeding failure— with a resultant increase in formula sales.
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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.

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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.