A growing number of hospitals are saying “no” to free formula samples for new mothers. In fact, as of 2011, nearly half of 2,600 hospitals surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had ceased the long established practice of sending formula samples home with breast-feeding mothers. The trend has only grown stronger since the survey was conducted, with 24 hospitals in Oklahoma and all hospitals in Massachusetts agreeing to the ban.
The developments are part of a nationwide effort led by health authorities and breast feeding advocates to decrease what they claim is the samples’ ability to discourage women from breast-feeding. They hold the theory that access to formula will tempt mothers who have grown weary of nursing due to exhaustion and/or difficulties. Health care reform has further reinforced breast-feeding advocacy, with breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling included in preventive care benefits for health insurance policy holders.
According to studies, the benefits of breast-feeding include a decreased risk of ear infections, obesity, asthma and diarrhea. Most formula companies do not debate the findings, and in fact, typically these companies agree that breast-feeding is the best option.
However, those who are opposed to the formula ban argue that samples should be made available to mothers in the event that health issues occur – for example, a mother produces an insufficient amount of milk to nourish her baby.
Proponents of the ban argue that even a small sample can exacerbate medical issues. Using the same example as above, some health experts warn that women produce less milk when the babies nurse less. Ban supporters also take issue with what they consider marketing of formula companies by hospitals.
Where do you stand on the issue? Should hospitals provide new mothers with options – or does the practice of giving away formula samples ultimately endanger babies’ health?