Let me start by saying that I support a person’s right to choose to do what they wish with their own body. Period. I know that unless I support a person’s right of choice, that I can’t expect my own right to choose to be supported. Especially when these choices are controversial.
This means that I support your right to do any manner of things. You wish to do drugs, go ahead. (Yes, I think they should be legal, but that is another post, for another day.) You want to have an elective c-section, fine. Breastfeed, great. Not breastfeed, yes, even that. Ultimately, the choice is yours, the family is yours and you are the one who must deal with consequences of your actions.
I choose specific things based on my own homework and my own feelings of what is right, good and proper for our family. They may or may not mesh with yours. I don’t care. I don’t have a right to get in your face about it, anymore than you have a right to get in my face about it.
There is currently a petition going around to ban free formula samples from hospital “gift” bags. There is also currently a backlash that states that removing the formula samples is hindering women’s autonomy and choice surrounding what to do with their bodies and their families.
Let’s break it down, bluntly. Breastfeeding is best for your child, barring certain medications being consumed, or mental health issues. (I would never encourage someone to breastfeed to the detriment of themselves.) This we know. Every agency in the whole damn world knows that breastfeeding is the best choice and actively promotes it.
Formula fills a need for those who are unable to breastfeed, or cannot do so without great difficulty. It helps lots of women and babies. It is not the devil, it is a tool. It is something that is a blessing and a miracle to have available when needed.
So, those are facts. Now, if every woman who could breastfeed did, and those who couldn’t had formula to use instead – awesome. No issues.
This is where the pesky marketers come in.
The ones whose entire job is to sell you something. Something you may not need. Ever. They are underhanded, they create situations designed for them to succeed and you to rely on their product. Make no mistake, they want you to buy something. If you think that these free samples are somehow given out of the goodness of their hearts to help all the women who can’t breastfeed, then you are deluded. They are put in there to market a product and make them money.
Not providing company funded samples does not in any way take away your right to choose to breastfeed or not. The formula is still available, still covered under WIC. No one is taking that choice away from you. They are removing marketing from a place where it is easy for marketers to prey upon people. Fact is, women are vulnerable after having a baby. There is a lot of information, a lot of hormones, a lot of to take in all at once. If you think they don’t know that, that you might spy that can of formula after a night of bad sleep and think, hey…I don’t have to kill myself, then you are wrong. They know that. That’s why they gave it to you.
And then once you have gone down that road, chances are you will stop breastfeeding, and you will be buying their formula until the baby is done with it. Hey, look, they sold not only that first can of formula, but potentially YEARS worth of product. Bully for them, eh? They just made a crap ton of money!
So, that’s where my beef is. With the companies who are doing this to market a product, at a time when a woman may not be able to make an informed choice.
Hospitals often don’t provide adequate help to get new moms established breastfeeding. And when it comes to low income women, they often really don’t want to expend the effort, time or money to help. Far easier to just give them a bottle, and call it art and send them out the door. In those situations, how can a woman make an informed choice about whether or not to use the free sample? About whether or not they want to breastfeed?
Moms come to the hospital prepped with all sorts of things: clothing, blankets, pacifiers, and on and on. If you want to formula feed, come with formula. Your choice, but actively make that choice. On your own, without someone making a slick gift package designed to hit you when you are at your most vulnerable.
This isn’t about restricting anyone’s freedom of choice, or being anti-feminist, it is about not advertising to women with newborns. It is about giving people the option to decide, on their own, without advertising, which they want to do.
Boobs can’t advertise and provide free samples, if they could, then I would be down with free formula samples in the hospital.
About Adina North
Adina North is the Assistant Community Manager for MotheringDot Community. In her previous life she was a professional stage manager and worked extensively in theatre. She has been a part of MDC since 2003, starting out as a volunteer moderator. She has one daughter, and another on the way.