The American Academy of Pediatrics has resolved to recommend that pediatricians and other healthcare providers and facilities stop giving out free formula, formula coupons, formula gift bags, and even formula company published handouts to their patients, according to Inquisitr on July 27, 2012.
Anyone who has had a baby in a hospital setting, or visited a pediatric or Ob/Gyn office in the last decade or two knows that free formula samples and coupons are readily available; sometimes even on display. Many members of the healthcare team in these settings will tell you that new moms come prepared with their “coupon” (usually found in baby or parenting magazines) for a free formula gift bag. If you thought you got this free bag because the formula companies were being nice to new moms; think again. A great marketing tool, these free bags come at a price. What is the price paid, by both breastfeeding and formula feeding moms for these free bags?
1. These gift bags undermine the confidence of moms who choose to breastfeed. They make breastfeeding moms believe they need a little bit of formula at home, just in case. The problem of having these samples at home is instead of calling for breastfeeding help when times get rough, new moms reach for the formula. Reaching for the bottle and the formula can create havoc on a breastfeeding relationship. It can decrease a mom’s milk supply, which even further undermines her confidence in her ability to breastfeed her infant. This leads to a downward spiral, all thanks to this free gift.
2. These gift bags increase the prices of formula. If you are a formula feeding mom, you may be wondering: what is wrong with these bags if you are choosing to formula feed anyway? Expansive marketing and financial efforts go into making these bags, formula samples, and coupons readily available to new moms. The money has to come from somewhere; the consumer. The cost of these gift bags are passed onto families who buy formula.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also believes that healthcare offices and facilities that hand out these gift bags are displaying the message that they do not primarily support breastfeeding. For this reason, and those listed above, the AAP has released a resolution from their annual leadership forum in June of 2012, which was released on their website on July 26, 2012.
“The distribution of formula company products by a health care provider – hospital, nurse, or doctor, is nothing more than advertising. It is not generosity on the part of manufacturers. There is no “gift” in a “gift bag” except that from the healthcare system applying a seal of approval to the formula manufacturer without compensation.”
The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. Around 6 months of age they advise adding in supplemental solid foods. They recommend mothers keep breastfeeding along with giving solid foods until at least 12 months of age; longer if both mother and baby want to continue the breastfeeding relationship.
Formula feeding has been associated with higher rates of respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses in infants and children, as well as increased risk ear infections and poor dentition. Many other health risks for mothers and babies have been linked to not breastfeeding.
An effort has been underway for several years by breastfeeding supporters and healthcare workers to “ban the bags.” However, this is the first time they have had the official support of the AAP.
Perhaps the infographic from the Daily Momtra says it best: “There is no ‘gift’ in a ‘gift bag’.