Is Massachusetts Ban on Baby Formula Marketing in Hospitals The Right Way To Encourage Breastfeeding?

Tuesday, December 27th, 2005
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

In an attempt to encourage breastfeeding among new mothers, the state of Massachusetts last week banned hospitals from giving out free formula company diaper bags to new parents.

The state cited studies that have shown that the bags interfere with breastfeeding, causing moms to switch to formula sooner, or quit nursing altogether– even when the bags do not contain formula samples.

I am a strong advocate for breastfeeding, noting among my own circle of friends of those who opted not to breastfeed. Their children really do seem to get sick more often than those who were breastfed.

While I appreciate the rule’s effort in promoting breastfeeding, I don’t know that a ban on the distribution of formula is the right way to achieve it.

Instead of banning the distribution of the formula, why not take the opportunity to hold group classes with new mothers while they are in the hospital on breastfeeding techniques and encourage them to breastfeed. I can remember when I had my first child, the feelings of frustration and discouragement the first week or so of breastfeeding. Without a strong network of support from my family and my friends, I may not have continued.

How great it would have been to sit in a room in the hospital with other frustrated new Moms with a nurse educator, to learn techniques and share experiences. Just knowing that other Moms were probably as uneasy as I was would have gone a long way toward easing my mind. Most of the Moms I know who stopped breastfeeding, did so out of frustration of “not getting it,” fear that the baby was not getting enough food or their own discomfort; not because they were given a diaper bag from a baby formula company.

This ban also may have other implications beyond just the hospital’s distribution of formula. Will physicians’ offices also be banned from distributing formula? How will this impact families who rely on the samples of formula that they receive to offset the cost of formula, which can run about $40 per week?

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