OK, so here’s something I had to share that’s bound to be a little controversial. A few weeks ago, I was asked to be on the Mike and Juliet show to talk about breastfeeding, in relation to the recent NYC ban on formula bag giveaways at certain hospitals. At the time, I thought that the ban was kind of extreme. Women should have a choice in what they feed their baby, I thought (and said), so they should be given a choice of what type of bag to take home. Why not provide both types of bags, and let the mom choose?
But then I thought about it more. The point isn’t about choice, it’s about what’s good for your baby. Hospitals advocate that new moms breastfeed, yet when mom and baby go home, they give them diaper bags filled with formula. It sends a mixed message. “You should breastfeed, but when you fail (because you might and so many moms do), here’s some formula.” Well, that’s not right. It’s sort of like going to the doctor’s office, being diagnosed with high cholesterol, and then given some McDonalds coupons as you walk out the door. You should eat a diet to control your cholesterol, but you might not, so here’s something to help you out when you fail.
The formula companies will find you. They found the hospitals–they aren’t dumb. They knew that was a way “in” to new moms. (Hey, I work in advertising–and I used to work on a diaper brand. You are always brainstorming ways to expose your product to potential new consumers.)
It’s not like moms depend on those formula bags given away at hospitals. I got tons of free samples and discount coupons in the mail when I had O–from all the major formula companies. In fact, I think Enfamil thinks I had another child, because I’m suddenly getting regular Enfamil samples again (I was getting that Next Step stuff). If breastfeeding doesn’t work for you, it’s easy to find free and discounted formula and formula coupons–at pediatrician’s offices, day care centers (that’s where I took all my samples and coupons), Craig’s list, eBay, and I’m sure various other places I haven’t even thought of.
I would’ve loved to receive a diaper bag filled with breastfeeding accessories–nursing pads, creams, storage bags, cute T-shirts. And if breastfeeding is what doctors and hospitals want new moms to do, then that’s what they should give new moms.
31 thoughts on “Ban on Formula Bags”
I see your point… if medical professionals encourage breastfeeding, why have the free formula sample bags? It sends mixed messages. But, I still think moms should have the option to choose from a formula bag and a breastfeeding bag. Some women choose to formula feed–and they shouldn’t feel like less of a mom or guilty for doing that. Sure, breast is best. But, formula feeding isn’t bad for a baby. So comparing it to giving McDs coupons to a person with high cholesterol is a little harsh. Sure formula doesn’t deliver ALL the benefits that breast milk does… but it doesn’t harm a baby’s health either–formula gives babies all the adequate nutrition they need.
Ack! I worried people would think I was comparing McDs to formula–but I’m not. Really! I support a woman’s choice feed here baby how she chooses.
I was more trying to get across the point that doctors/hospitals are sending mixed messages.
And hospitals shouldn’t sell out to formula companies.
I wrote about this on my personal blog last week too.
The problem that I have with it is that the ban is touted under the banner of supporting breastfeeding. I don’t think it does anything to support breastfeeding and that government officials should be spending their time improving the lives of working mothers – then we can talk of periphery issues like breast or formula feeding.
And yes, I agree that there should be breastfeeding swag!
Birdie–I just read your post. LOVED it! I totally agree with a lot of what you say. Especially about making BFing fun. Although I don’t know about everyone knowing formula giveaway is just free swag/marketers trying to get brand loyalty. I don’t know that a lot of people are that aware.
I hear what you’re saying about the mixed messages. But here’s another perspective: I adopted my daughter so I didn’t have a choice about whether she was breastfed or not (yes, I have read that it’s physically possible to breastfeed an adopted child but it’s a rather complicated process that requires a lot of preparation, so it doesn’t work for many women).
Because formula is looked down upon these days, I feel guilty for using it. When people ask if I’m breastfeeding I sheepishly say “No,” and then feel the need to explain why–when really, it’s none of their business!
I was at the hospital within an hour after my daughter was born and brought her home two days later. The nurses were nice enough to give me the goody bag with lots of diapers, bottles, formula, etc. — and that helped me feel like a “real” mom.
I think it would be nice for hospitals to give moms all manner of help as they send them home with new babies. Free breastfeeding stuff, free formula, free consultations with lactation specialists, support groups for new moms, all of it!
I would also love it if every new mom had a special nurse to go home with them for the first few days. I sure could’ve used that to ease all of fears and answer my questions (including about breastfeeding and bottlefeeding).
I totally found the free formula samples helpful. Damn, formula is expensive, so anything I got, I used. That was after I tried breastfeeding. I don’t think it’s a mixed message to tell women that hospitals prefer breastfeeding and then give them formula samples. I think women too often are not given enough credit for their ability to make choices. Like we’re little weak-brained dummies who can’t make a decision like whether or not to breastfeed and might be swayed by a cheap plastic bag filled with Enfamil packets. Most moms think it over carefully. Most moms try breastfeeding. And then there are those who decide not to do it. They don’t need the guilt trip, thanks. Not that *you’re* giving them guilt, but you know how much of it is already out there for moms.
I also found the McD’s reference harsh, but I love ya, and I know you didn’t mean it to come across that way. The fact that it did is just another example of how women often feel guilty about the choices they make when they’re just trying to do what’s best for their families.
I don’t want to give anyone guilt–we’re against guilt! There are woman who can’t breastfeed, don’t want to breastfeed, tried it but stopped, didn’t try it and then wanted to–all sorts of women with all sorts of choices and decisions. Just how it should be.
I guess I felt when doctors or pediatricians give you something, it seems like they are “condoning” it. They all tell you that breast is best, but slip you the formula. I know that for me, and most people I know, breastfeeding was pretty hard in the beginning–the getting up constantly at night, the soreness, etc. And with the formula right.there. it would have been much easier had I decided to quit. And I often thought about it. But if the formula wasn’t there, I probably wouldn’t have entertained the thought quite so much. (It would’ve been much harder to drag my tired ass to the store and fork over the cashola than “pop it out” one more time.)
I also received the Enfamil diaper bag when leaving the hospital. Actually it ended up being the perfect size diaper bag for a while. It also helped cart stuff home from the hospital, other than that, I would live without it.
In fact, when I weaned my daughter at 11 months I finally threw out all the free sample formula. For some reason I couldn’t find a facility willing to accept it as a donation.
There are many breast feeding related things that I had to figure out on my own. A breast feeding diaper bag would have been really helpful. Probably would have saved my husband some embarrassment when I sent him out for nipple cream…
The hospitals don’t have to give people free things, so I don’t understand the uproar when they are taken away. Tela, I agree with you. Hospitals should support and educate about the best and healthiest way to take care of yourself and others. Even if the formula is convenient or it takes away guilt, it is a mixed message, and I don’t think they should pass it out. I know a small fraction of women can’t breastfeed, but I really think many jump to that without really giving it a try. Maybe they should feel guilty.
I completely agree with you. I’m breastfeeding exclusively right now and I would have loved a bag full of b-feeding accessories. That said, I took the formula bag filled with samples and I’m plan on using some of those formula checks before they expire since I’ll start supplementing by 6 or 8 months. Those that expire sooner I’m passing along to friends at my day care who are already using formula.
I just can’t say no to free stuff.
I understand what you are saying, but banning formula is looking down on the mothers that do formula feed. I breastfed Jude and Lily, but also supplemented with formula. I think that not offering formula as an alternative just adds more pressure on the mom,(like if you can’t or supplement you are a failure) as if we didn’t have enough pressure already.
I get what Tela is saying in regards to the confusion and, basically, hypocrisy of hospitals to tout one thing and provide you with another.
I do not think she was comparing the ill-effects of micky-d’s to any type of effect formula feeding has on babies at all. I feel she was simply stating that it goes against ‘dr.’s orders’ to eat mcd’s after diagnosed w/ high cholesterol, the same as it goes against ‘dr.’s orders’ to formula feed rather than breastfeed. However, they’d NEVER give you coupons to mcd’s after diagnosing you with high cholesterol and here they are giving you free formula after drilling ‘breast is best’ into every new mother’s confused and exhausted brain. It sends a rather large mixed message and forces me to think ‘shame on you, hospitals.’
Every choice a woman makes in regards to their bodies and the babies they produce is personal and for their own reasons. Tela obviously feels that way completely and stated that fairly well. She’s not against your choice, but against how Dr.’s and hospitals present you with your choice and how it’s their responsibility to take away some of the confusion you are already faced with this huge choice, not add to it.
The fact of the matter is, hospitals, dr’s and basically all of the medical community is succumbing to the pressures of pharmaceutical companies and the like. They are quick to offer you the ‘newest and best’ drug out there for a problem you have, not necessarily because it’s best for the condition but because it’s been given to them by a pharma rep. This sort of falls into the same category and is just as disgusting of a practice, even if not as potentially harmful.
My point, He Man, is that most women really don’t need “help” making big choices like whether or not to breastfeed. It’s sort of demeaning, I think, to look at us as confused and muddled and unable to think straight and thus likely to succumb to powdered temptation in a cheap plastic bag. I’m all for breastfeeding bags, though. Seriously, while I did breastfeed, it would have been awesome to have some free lanolin and breast pads. Also maybe a coupon for a discount on that godawfully expensive breast pump I was going to have to buy and tote to work everyday. That, more than anything, helped me make up my mind to switch to formula after 3 months.
But, Tela, I don’t think you need defending. Nobody here was offended by your post. Just stating their positions, too. Hugs.
I think that they should offer the bags. It’s about choice and presenting options – not pushing opinions. As a woman that struggled to breast feed her children I felt a lot of guilt when I had to switch to formula pretty soon after my children were born. It was ridiculous. Hospitals need to offer choices – provide information on both sides.
The whole point of this discussion is choice. And everyones comments advocate choice. There isn’t really any need to “defend” either position. All mothers are fully capable of making the choice of what is best for their children. I think both choices are going to be around for a long time to come and you don’t have to accept any thing that is given to you free. If your hospital pushes formula and you chose breastfeeding give the bag to someone who is formula feeding. Formula companies use those as advertising afterall, as Tela mentioned. I breastfed when it wasn’t a popular choice at all, and the hospital nurses actually tried to ‘make’ me bottle feed my child. So times change and all things come full circle.
I read this post the other day and I keep thinking about it. Its really disappointing to see you comparing formula to McDonalds. Formula is not bad or unhealthy for babies! It is absolutely the next best thing. And I didn’t just give her whatever radom sample was lying around. I gave her the specific brand/type prescribed by her doc. (In her case, due to colic, it was soy based.) So the samples from the hospital really had no influence on me at all. Because we didn’t get any soy samples!
I was also really bothered by your word choice here:
“You should breastfeed, but when you fail (because you might and so many moms do), here’s some formula.”
“Fail?” Am I a failure as a Mom because nursing didn’t work out for us? I can’t tell you how tired I am of having to defend myself because my baby is on formuala. I had my own personal meltdown and felt like I was doing less than my best by her when nursing just was not going to happen for us. Even though her doctor, my doctor, the lactation consultants, and everyone else said it was time to hang it up. Even as I type that I feel like I shouldn’t have to justify myself here. (!)
Anyway, I am off the subject. My point is, my baby is about to turn one, she has had one, that’s right, ONE ear infection in her whole little life, she had been to the doctor twice other that her well checks, she is about as heathly a baby as I think you can find! I’d say formuala is serving her well.
I agree that the breast is best, I am a big believer in nursing. I applaud your efforts with your son, and your pump over the last year.
I think you misunderstood me–as many people did, so I obviously need to work on my writing skillz.
I was in NO way comparing formula to McDonalds. I was simply stating how hospitals say one thing, and do another when it comes to breastfeeding–and how ludicrous that would be in other situations (such as high cholesterol and prescribing McDonalds diet, or a diabetes and Snickers diet, or broken ankle and Nike-endorsed running regimen.
Formula is a great choice for many woman. I’m not knocking it. At all. Or a woman’s choice to feed her baby formula. I’m not judging MOMS here. I’m judging HOSPITALS. And the fact that they tell you to do one thing, but support the “back-up” plan, not “Plan A.” (and probably b/c formula companies are giving hospitals these samples for free… Medela isn’t about handing out their breast pads for free.)
You are not the failure here, at all. Hosptials are. For saying one thing, and doing another.
I think there’s a problem with calling formula a back-up plan, or a Plan B, or anything implying its inferiority to breast. And the diagnosis metaphor isn’t great either. Whether you call it the McD’s for high cholesterol or the running program for the broken ankle, you are still implying a treatment that is NEGATIVE for the diagnosis. In this case, if hospitals were sending you home with cow’s milk samples to feed your baby, NOW we have an issue. But formula? What the hell is wrong with that?? Babies need to be fed either breastmilk or formula. Anything ELSE is wrong and debatable.
I absolutely think hospitals should give the formula bags. I was perturbed when my hospital didn’t give me one b/c they are b’feeding advocates. That’s dandy, I’m an advocate too – going on one year exclusive b’feeding here. That said, I want my free bag.
I got my free bag from my pediatrician. And the bag comes in handy for trips to the gym. And there were some coolers I’ve used on numerous trips that kept my bottles of breast milk cold. But besides the swag, you know what I loved was the literature that came in the bag. It was very well balanced and had good tips for breastfeeding moms. Yep, the FORMULA bag had BREASTFEEDING tips. I actually referenced it a few times. The formula companies know what’s up. They know the studies on breast milk vs. formula. And they try to accomodate your choices. Hey, I might be breastfeeding, but if I was impressed with Similac b/c of what they gave me, maybe I’ll tell a friend. Maybe my friend will use my samples. Win win.
If hospitals feel the need to push breastfeeding harder, then balance it out by giving b’feeding stuff. Free stuff or literature. My hospital gave me a couple handouts all about breastfeeding – tips about “latching on,” nipple care, etc. as well as numbers for lactation consultants, La Leche leagues, etc. And I kept it by my bedside. I even got free nipple cream.
But they shouldn’t have taken away part of my choice. It’s like my doctor diagnosing me with high cholesterol and telling me to change my diet and exercise and then withholds the bag from the Rx company with helpful information about high cholesterol and free samples of their meds. Doc’s role is provide info & education. Both treatment options = good. Choice of treatment = mine.
I have to disagree.
I don’t think there is ANYTHING wrong with implying formula is inferior to the breast. Or calling it a Plan B. It is! Countless studies and doctors will tell you breastfeeding is better than formula. That’s why your formula literature has breastfeeding tips. Even FORMULA companies know their product is not as good as breastmilk. They know BREAST is BEST. Therefore, formula is Plan B.
Now, is formula bad? No. It’s not. But it IS inferior to breastmilk.
I got no help in the hospital when it came to breastfeeding. I practically had to beg the lactation consultant to come to my room, and when she did–she popped in, said my latch was good, and popped out. I’m lucky it was relatively easy for me, or I probably would’ve quit.
I’m happy that some people got breastfeeding support. But MORE people should get that. Not just thrown a free swag bag on their way out the door. If you really want to get into it, it comes down to the state of our current health care system… but that’s a whole other topic for another day…
I completely agree with you Tela.
Breastfeeding is HARD enough for a mom committed to breastfeeding. It’s so easy to give up and use the formula that was given to you when it’s 2am and your boobs hurt and your baby is crying and you THINK it’s because you’re not making enough milk.
The first few weeks are CRUCIAL in establishing good breastfeeding habits. Unfortunately, the first few weeks are also the most difficult all around.
I say “shame on the hospitals” for knowingly contributing to the sabotage of healthy breastfeeding.
And, for the record, I’m not a breastfeeding extremist. In fact, I supplemented early on because, even after trying my darndest, I had to. But it’s confusing for new moms and unfair to the babies whose mothers may have had a better chance at breastfeeding without those doggone formula samples.
I love the idea of the breastfeeding bag too!
Well, obviously this is a subject that people feel very strongly about either one way or the other – which is upsetting in itself. It should not be that big of an issue. And as a mother who not once, but twice opted not to BF (big gasp by modern mama!) I find it just a little extreme.
And for you Tela, I agree with you that your comparison was off. But I also think you should look at your statement about hospitals and doctors pushing/saying one thing and doing another, and your reference to “they all say” you should breast feed. My doctor or hospital never pushed me to breast feed. My hospital asked what I was CHOOSING to do, I told them, that was it. My doctor gave me the information on both, said there were advantages and disadvantages to both. And while BF offered more natural immunities and nutrients that there was nothing wrong with giving formula to a baby. Thank you doctor! Now my youngest is 11, so you can say that those opinions have changed. But my youngest grand daughter is 10 months old and I know my D-I-L was not pressured to BF at B-North. Here’s a reference – breast milk may be filet mignon but that ribeye formula is still a great option. Susan is right, put all the information out there, let women choose – with no guilt.
I love how Kris said formula is looked down upon “these days” – so true, so true. BF is “all the rage” and totally re-iterated by extremist comments like modern mama’s that ALL people who don’t even try and breast feed should feel guilty. Well, we don’t. You all seem to be carrying enough of that for all of us.
And Tela, I have to ask if breastfeeding was that hard for you, why did you keep doing it?? Do you really feel your baby will be inferior in some way? Tainted somehow? I think it is your own personal pressure, guilt (there’s that word again) that you anti-formula folk are putting on yourselves.
Were all of you breastfed??? My mother never breast fed us, my aunts, cousins, my own daughter and DIL opted not to breastfeed. We were all working moms who made that personal decision. Why can’t it be just that?? What in the world happened that baby formula is so looked down upon, may even be the anti-christ and soon to be sold only on the black market. It seems a little silly, don’t you think??
And oh yea, isn’t this blog titled Working Mother’s AGAINST Guilt…..nice try.
Breastfeeding wasn’t always hard–but there were times it was hard. And I continued to do it because I was committed to it. I have a fierce stubborn streak, and when I set my mind to accomplish something, I’m gonna do it–come hell or high water.
But how many times do I have to say I’m NOT anti-formula?! I’m not, I’m not, I’m not! I’m pro-breast, but that doesn’t mean I’m anti-formula. I realize breastfeeding doesn’t work for all women–and someone women choose to feed formula for reasons all their own. And that’s a choice they have.
But that’s NOT the point of this post! It’s this: If hospitals are going to tell it’s best to breastfeed, they should whole-heartedly support that positioning. Not anything else.
WOW, this is a tough one and an upsetting issue. I am a mother of teenagers and tried breastfeeding with both my kids, but didn’t have enough milk to continue. I was actually starving my first son and didn’t even know it. I am glad all of you gals had wonderful experiences with it, but not all of us did. Did you ever think that the hospitals give out those bags for those of us who might actually NEED formula? Did you ever think that the breastfeeding companies don’t want to give their products away for FREE but the formula companies do? Life isn’t always about choices, sometimes it is a necessity. Don’t rag on the vendors that want to give away FREE products to those of us that NEED them. I also want to say that my bag included pamphlets on breastfeeding and bottle feeding. Get over yourselves. Don’t try to make us mom’s that bottlefed feel guilty about it. I did what I had to do and I was thankful for the free samples and ALL the information. My mother is a midwife at University Hospital, maybe you should go talk to her about this subject. She deals with pregnant teenagers that are uneducated and poor and need all the education and help they can get. As well as all the choices they have. Maybe you should donate your unwanted bags to those in need and quit complaining about them. She educates them on both bottle and breast. So your comments about ALL HOSPITALS is totally inaccurate. You HAVE to support BOTH options because not everyone is ABLE to breastfeed (we don’t live in a perfect world).
Ok, so I know all of you formula feeders out there are going to be pissed about my comments, but I don’t really care, or I wouldn’t even bother posting.
The obvious truth behind all these defensive rebuttals to this post is you are all essentially insecure with the decision you made and feel the need to continually defend it. If not, this post would roll off your back as simple information and that’s it. It’s a very human reaction, but to blast people who defend their right to breastfeed and are able to do so isn’t the course of action to take.
Seriously, for years and years, we know that this is the best thing for our kids. If not, we wouldn’t, as a species, produce milk in the first case. Breast milk IS plan A- no matter if you are able to produce or don’t want to do it or whatever – it simply is. Formula will always be Plan B. It’s not to say it’s horrible for the baby, BUT it simply is not as good. Whether you can or can’t, want to or not, refuse to or not, that’s the truth and it’s what’s causing you all to be so defensive of the fact you weren’t able or didn’t want to do so.
I’m not trying to put guilt on you for not going that course, but the fact is, you should stop putting guilt on this writer because she could. She is speaking several truths, that MAYBE you aren’t able to handle.
This is what, I feel, continues to be the crux of this continued argument behind breast v. formula. Women are women. We are highly competitive, envious creatures who always want to be right. Just because the choice you either made or were forced to make contradicts the choice someone else makes doesn’t make it right on either side.
Besides, one way or another, this writer isn’t discussing this choice; she’s discussing the issues behind the hospitals giving away free stuff based on wrong motives. Maybe you all should read a bit more before you get your panties in a bunch. Love you all – be good to each other -we’re all in the same boat!!
I didn’t have time to read all the other comments, so my apologies if this is a duplicate.
I have to say, I had a hard time stomaching your use of the word “Fail” in terms of breastfeeding. I get your point an am not trying to split hairs, but to those of us who “failed” we live with that and are reminded of that over and over and over. Plus, we didn’t fail. Things just didn’t work out to continue breastfeeding.
I believe there should be a mixture of products for formula and breast-fed babies in the bag.
So much of what stop the insanity said is incorrect, and untrue, I can’t even comment on them all. I have to just laugh. It is truly amazing how 2 people can look at the same thing and see 2 different things.
So Tela, since we’re debating the hospital and their “wrong motives” I have to say first of all, I don’t believe that ALL hospitals push ALL mothers into breastfeeding (nor should they) so that is inaccurate to me and secondly why?? Why do they have to “wholeheartedly support” that position?? Even if they do think BF is better, why can’t they say we support breastfeeding but here’s a bag with some free stuff and it may have other options in it. That’s not sending mixed messages, it’s called choice. It’s a free diaper bag for goodness sake and it does have things for BF mother’s too. Why does that bother you so much?? I guess that’s why we all have opinions because there is no way you can make me believe there is any harm in that?
And, I’m sorry, but it does seem radical to say hospitals shouldn’t be able to do that solely to show that they support breastfeeding. That’s what this ban is about. It’s not the hospitals saying we shouldn’t give out this free stuff, it’s not the people who enjoy and are grateful to get it. It appears that the people who have a problem with it are the people who are breastfeeding.
You were very clear in saying you were not anti-formula and I am very clear on saying that I am not anti-breastfeeding – but let’s not let anyone take that choice away.
It makes for a great debate though.
Moving on….next topic, circumcision anyone????
But the bottomline, after the debate on choices and breast v. bottle is that HOSPITALS don’t need to be the pusher of the free samples.
Enfamil has a tracking device on every new mom, and they will find you.
Why can’t HOSPITALS be a marketing free zone where they can present their case (breastmilk is best) and let Enfamil or Similac or Nestle do their own legwork.
I applaud the medical community for putting their actions where their words have long been.
I’m mostly with you, Tela and am breastfeeding as I write this. Hospitals shouldn’t give free samples to moms who are choosing to breastfeed. I can personally vouch that in the first few days of nursing my first daughter, I was having trouble and turned to the formula I had been given. This first rough patch has ended breastfeeding for so many moms who had every intention to do so because the formula was right there. With me, the problem was that she couldn’t latch because I was severely engorged and giving her the formula made my problem worse. After getting help from a lactation consultant, I was able to continue nursing for a year.
I do believe that moms who know that they plan to formula feed should be able to receive the free samples in the hospital. For moms who plan to nurse, they should remove the formula from the “breastfeeding support bag.”
Hey – Old School.. you keep up that non-defensive nature of your posts. Truly, you’ve proved me so COMPLETELY wrong in my asessment. I bow to you.
If all the new mother receives is formula-related then I can understand the ban. Here in Arizona, the nurse I had at the local hospital gave us one of those bags (from enfamil) and a HUGE hospital bag of similac 2oz bottles. I wouldnt have found it to be a problem if she hadnt pushed us SO hard to formula feed the entire time when our daughter was doing an ok job of breastfeeding.
The person in charge of checking us out did give us several packets for breastfeeding information, including a pump starter kit from Medela, and offered to take us to the lactation office of the hospital before we left.
If things are balanced like this (minus the pushy idiot nurse) then I see no harm in it. Eventually I had to switch to formula (mostly because of my nerves after seeing how breastfeeding is viewed these days), but they dont give soy in the samples, so I was SOL.