Romney Is Not a Friend of Breastfeeding

By Peggy O’Mara




In December 2005, thanks to the hard work of Marsha Walker and The Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition, the Massachusetts legislature became the first in the US to prohibit the distribution of formula sample bags in hospitals. However, then Governor Mitt Romney pressured the Public Health Council to rescind the ban.


The council successfully resisted his pressure until he fired and replaced three members just prior to a vote on the ban; in May 2006 it was rescinded. Less than two weeks later, Romney announced a $66 million deal with Bristol-Myers, the world’s largest formula manufacturer, to build a pharmaceutical plant in Devens, Massachusetts.


In June of that year, Massachusetts state representative Helen Stanley (D-Second Essex) introduced House Bill 2257 to protect a new mother’s right to receive formula sample bags in the hospital. The wesbite,  created to oppose the Massachusetts ban — hosted a petition in support of this bill.


At the time, the website,, was registered to eNilsson, an international web consulting firm whose clients included Romney for President. Now it openly states that it “was made possible by a grant from the International Formula Council. “A mirror site,, is copyrighted by the International Formula Council.

The good news is that as of July 1, 2012, all 49 Massachusetts hospitals are voluntarily bag free and Massashusetts joins Rhode Island with its seven hospitals as one of two bag-free states. Seventeen hospitals in Portland, Oregon are also voluntarily bag free.

According to Marsha Walker, who monitors the distribution of formula samples in health care facilities, there are currently 643 bag free hospitals and birth centers in the US.

To learn more about how to help ban the distribution of free formula samples in your local hospital, see the Ban the Bags Toolkit and join Public Citizen’s campaign.


About Peggy O’Mara

Peggy O’Mara founded in 1995 and is currently its editor-in chief. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has lectured and conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League International, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four.

26 thoughts on “Romney Is Not a Friend of Breastfeeding”

  1. I think Mitt Romney is probably fine with hospitals being voluntarily bag free. Some of us believe change should come from the people, not the government. We can’t regulate EVERYTHING. That doesn’t mean Romney is anti-bf. Formula samples are a problem, which is why hospitals should voluntarily stand up.

  2. R’money is for anything he can make money on, no matter who it may have an impact on! Not even close to presidential material- unless those are your values too! Please tell me our country is better than that! Fingers and toes crossed!

  3. This is a weak article desperately trying to find something to criticize about Romney. We know who you are voting for, you don’t have to create a ridiculous slippery-slope argument in order to back up the title of this article, which is a lie.

  4. It’s fine to support parents’ right to choose what to feed their babies. However, institutionalized practices that predispose parents to make a certain choice is not supporting choice. This article points out that Romney has additional interests regarding formula; primarily, that he has a financial interest. Vote for Romney all you want, just be aware that he is willing to use his position as a way to further his own financial interests. Thank you, Ms. O’Mara, for sharing this information 🙂

  5. Doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Romney is all about hurting & degrading women and greed. That is his entire platform and the only thing he hasn’t flip flopped on.

  6. mtnsunshinemama is correct. Romney is fine with whatever will get him what he wants. It was entirely appropriate for the Mass. Health Council to regulate the unethical practice of marketing formula in hospitals. It isn’t hard to find things to criticize Romney about. He has been Numero Uno on my s*** list since 2006 because of this very issue. There’s nothing ridiculous about this article, and it certainly isn’t a lie! You can verify these facts for yourself. You sound as if you are desperate to vindicate him. It isn’t b.s. Look it up.

  7. Yet Obama is Monsanto’s biggest lobbiest… He’ll do whatever to get what he wants as well. There is no such thing as a politician that does the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do.

  8. Thanks madis81, I was about to put the same post on Obama’s Monsanto ties. (Actions speak louder than ideals.) I hope chooses to be more objective in future political articles.
    Time to choose the lesser of the two evils since Ron Paul didn’t get the nomination…

  9. I think Obama has done a lot of things because it was the right thing to do. Like coming out in favor of gay marriage. That was a politically risky move. And Obama definitely wins on the breastfeeding issue. Obamacare covers breast pump rentals. And Michelle Obama promoted breastfeeding as part of her campaign against obesity. (And was criticized by conservatives for doing so.)

  10. Instead of blasting Governor Romney, why doesn’t someone contact his committee or his wife to find out the truth.This man has been blamed and labeled for many things that are not true. I am personally shocked at this article and the comments which followed. Governor Romney is not against breast feeding. Check your facts!

  11. Contact his wife? Are you serious? These facts are not in dispute. This happened in 2006. I was paying attention to it at the time. Lactivists in Mass. finally succeeded in convincing the state Health Council to put an end to the unethical practice of nurses marketing formula to all the new moms in the hospitals. We were all cheering. Then your pal Romney stepped in and fired all the members who voted to halt the practice. Two weeks later it was announced that he had cut a deal with a formula company. We were devastated. Romney was vaulted to Number One on my s*** list where he has remained ever since. I got nervous when he ran for the Republican nomination in 2008. Let out a sigh of relief when he dropped out of the race. This past year has been like a nightmare for me. But it’s over now and I can finally have closure. I think we’re safe from any further attempts on the White House by Romney. I was born in a Mass. hospital and my mother was a breastfeeding mother and she was not supported by the hospital staff, to put it mildly. The nurses tried to undermine and sabotage her. So this issue is very personal to me.

  12. First I must apologize, I responded before I had information on this case. I did a bit of reading on this topic. I did not mean to attack something that is personal to you. It is personal to me too. I am the mother of 5 and breastfed every one of my children. I also believe breastfeeding is best for the child. I also know there are women who are not comfortable breast feeding and/or cannot breast feed. I also know there were times I supplemented my breast feeding with formula. Formula is expensive and I appreciated the free samples. Why take away their choice? I think that was Mitt Romneys opinion.

  13. Romney’s “don’t take away the choice” argument is a straw man. Halting the practice of routinely marketing formula to all new mothers does NOT take away anyone’s choice!! Any one who wants free formula in the hospital can ASK for it! When nurses hand out unsolicited formula, there is an implied medical endorsement. Studies have shown that this practice reduces breastfeeding rates. The formula companies spend money on this marking tactic because it *works.* Most hospitals in Mass. have now decided that the practice should end anyway.

  14. I just want to add a reminder that 2 weeks after he fired the members of the Health Council, it was announced that he had made a deal with Brystol Myers, the largest formula manufacturer in the world. His decision had nothing to do with an altruistic love of “choice.” It had to do with money and corruption.

  15. I would prefer that hospitals voluntarily have ethics, rather than have it legislated upon them, so I’m not sure what my opinion is about the legislation. But it does look kind of shady that he did this and then had the deal with the formula company so soon afterwards.

    I am guessing that most politicians are very uneducated as to the risks of formula advertising and unneeded formula supplementation and base their decisions on what lobbyists push them to do. Breastfeeding isn’t an industry, so it doesn’t really have lobbyists like formula companies do.

    (I voted for a candidate other than the two prominent ones).

  16. Certainly it would be nice if hospitals didn’t do this in the first place, but since they obviously *don’t* have ethics, there needs to be regulation. They shouldn’t be taking bribes from formula companies at the expense of babies’ health. Romney doesn’t give a hang what the effects of formula are. He cares only about himself and his money. I think that’s clear.

  17. I am sorry you are so angry.This really is a matter of personal choice. I believe women are smart enough to figure out what is best for themselves and their children.

  18. I recall this incident involving Romney’s backdoor dealing with the formula lobbyists from when I lived in Mass. too, and it is one of the main reasons I chose not to vote for him in the Republican primary. I do think it is a not so subtle endorsement of one candidate over the other by, to prominently display this accurate blog post focusing on Romney, while omitting to publish a counterpoint illustrating Obama’s strong links to Monsanto, seeing as how both breastfeeding and genetically-modified foods are both major issues of interest to the readership here. I’d say it could be a coincidence or oversight, but historically the publications on this site seem to be very well-edited and coordinated with current events. Instead of inferring which candidate is better, I’d like to see just the hard facts on what our politicians really are up to, regardless of party affiliation. In the meantime, we can someday hope for a president that isn’t beholden to the lobbyists who backed their campaigns…

  19. Breastfeeding is an issue that is second to none in the Mothering world. I think it is entirely appropriate, as an election approaches, to point out the poor record that a candidate has on the issue.
    This is not about any emotions of mine that might be aroused by this incident. And it is not a matter of personal choice. Nothing is stopping mothers from asking for formula. It has been shown that this unethical practice of medical personnel marketing formula in hospitals reduces breastfeeding rates. No one can be expected to be able to figure out the best choice when they are given misinformation or do not have adequate correct information.

  20. This is a great article. Thank you Peggy.
    These formula kits are sent home to vulnerable first time parents and then parents are coached on how to make the formula (how to heat it up, how much to feed your baby, etc.) at the first Well Baby checkup.
    While some mothers legitimately cannot breastfeed… most are never taught what to expect. When breastfeeding hurts or they cannot produce enough milk fast enough, new mothers tend to give up and turn to the GMO soy-based formula as a quick solution. This is a tragedy.
    Our hospitals should be promoting the health and wellbeing of future generations… Instead, many are trading corporate gifts on behalf of new parents.

  21. Great article! I wish there were more watchdogs out there standing up for the rights of our newly born citizens.
    Breastfeeding has been shown to be fundamental to the long-term health of both baby and mother. The prebiotics in breastmilk are designed to develop the baby’s probiotic communities… a baby’s first line of defense against infection. So often, hospitals are quick give new mothers and “out” with breastfeeding, instead of promoting safe and effective strategies to help a woman bring in her milk and increase the volume and consistency of her milk production.
    It is a shame that our hospitals continue to allow corporate advertising to corrupt the intimate relationship between a mother and her newborn. Breastfeeding should not be promoted as a “choice” (of course women always have the person right to say no), but as something that is critical to both mother and baby. Infant formulas (GMO-free, organic, soy-free) should only be considered when women genuinely cannot breastfeed.

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