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Jezebel likes formula samples; please respond

post #1 of 79
Thread Starter 

As many of your know, Public Citizen just started a petition to end formula samples in hospitals and it's the first time an advocacy group, outside of the breastfeeding community, has done so. Already nearly 12,000 have signed the petition and PC has a good track record (since 1971!) of doing effective social action.


In an article on Jezebel, (with a huge photo of a bottle), Tracie Egan Morrissey says she WANTS formula samples and describes how hard breastfeeding is in a way that noone would want to do it.


She also brings up the choice argument (fueled by formula companies). Please comment on this article or respond in some way.


I wrote a blog about the issue of formula marketing to new moms in hospitals and the new PC petition.

post #2 of 79
Of course we all like free stuff. Having free formula samples makes it more convenient not to breastfeed. It doesn't stop the parents ability to make a choice to have formula, it just makes it. Little less convenient to obtain it. If its 3 am, the newborn has been up for an hour, there's trouble latching or whatever, if there's formula in the house it makes it easy to fix the problem and get back to sleep. Having free formula samples provided supports undesireBle outcome as per our national health goals as stated in health people 2020.
post #3 of 79
Thread Starter 



post #4 of 79

Interesting point I read a while back: Even if you need to use formula, you should be against those free formula samples.  Guess who pays for all those samples?  Those who buy formula and pay a higher price for it so that the formula companies have enough profits to provide a free can of formula to every new mother they can reach.  Most women want to breastfeed.  Why not do something that helps them be successful in their choice rather than applying pressure to them to make a different choice?

post #5 of 79

Agreed.  Plus,  formula samples recieved and distributed by a health care facility sends a message that formula is an acceptable substitute for breastmilk.  Too many pediatricians and maternity wards speak "from both sides of the mouth" when dispensing the samples (or other 'gifts' from formula companies) saying, "breastmilk is best" but also "here is something other than breastmilk to feed your baby". 

post #6 of 79

Honestly, I'm a little afraid to comment on that jezebel article.
My experiences are this: with my first I was uneducated in the practice of breastfeeding. The nurses who tended to me and my daughter were not very friendly or willing to help. One flat out told me to just give her a bottle because otherwise she would be jaundiced and she wouldn't be allowed to leave the hospital with me.
I gave in to pressure and used the samples from my bag and as a result my milk took even longer to come in. My daughter was diagnosed failure to thrive and I was encouraged to switch exclusively to formula because of her 'weak suck.'
Using the samples didn't make those early weeks easier for me, they only made them harder. I can honestly say I would not have used the formula had all had there not been ready mixed bottles in my discharge bag. But that's just me. Everyone's experience is going to be different.
We were still able to successfully breastfeed, my daughter and I, and well past the 1 year mark.

post #7 of 79
I commented.
post #8 of 79
Originally Posted by JMJ View Post

Interesting point I read a while back: Even if you need to use formula, you should be against those free formula samples.  Guess who pays for all those samples?  Those who buy formula and pay a higher price for it so that the formula companies have enough profits to provide a free can of formula to every new mother they can reach.  Most women want to breastfeed.  Why not do something that helps them be successful in their choice rather than applying pressure to them to make a different choice?

This exactly.  I'm sure we all support breastfeeding and a mother's right to choose what's right for her.  To me it has nothing to do with those free samples.  If a mom uses formula in the hospital, bill her for it like any other supply.  Everyone has the free choice to obtain it before or after the birth of their child.


We all know that it promotes formula feeding.  We all know that formula companies are not doing this out of the kindness of their hearts.....if it did not net them customers, they would not do it.


It's also been shown that breastfeeding mothers are targeted because they are more likely to be brand loyal if or when they switch to formula after breastfeeding.


post #9 of 79

I think blaming free formula for mothers not breastfeeding makes about as much sense as blaming halloween for being overweight. The biggest problem is the hospitals themselves. Some are great and have lactation consultants galore and pumps if you need them and all kinds of advice, others have nursing staff that scare the crap out of new moms by telling them their babies are hungry and they need something to eat. The fact of the matter is that if, as a new mother, you are not determined enough to breastfeed to overcome a free sample of formula, you probably aren't going to last very long without buying some at the store anyway. My son was in the nicu for 5 days after his birth, and despite having a lactation consultant for a mother, a lactation consultant on hospital staff, and several nurses who also happened to be lactation consultants in the maternity ward, my son was given formula one ill fated evening when a nurse told me he was crying because he was hungry and couldn't get enough milk from me. I was pumping every 2 hours in addition to attempting to nurse him and I was exhausted, but we made it through. At my mother's insistence (the lactation consultant) we took the formula samples. the package had been opened for my son (who only took a whopping 4 oz the whole 5 days) so they couldn't use it for any other baby anyway) just in case we had one of those 3am situations. My son never received a drop of formula after we left the hospital, he's 23 months and we're in the final stages of weaning. I was terrified those early days in the hospital because I had read books on breastfeeding telling me that giving your baby any formula would ruin them. I wish my son hadn't received it in the hospital, I really don't think he needed it, however I also think its important that we give new mom's room to stumble. Opening one tiny 2oz freebie bottle of formula at 3 am because your baby won't latch and you're exhausted is not ideal, but its also not the end of the world, and certainly does not need to be the end of breastfeeding. If a slightly sated baby, and slightly more rested mommy can return an hour or two later to try again, and maybe with a little less stress actually succeed, who is it really harming? It would make sense to ask a new mom if she would like the formula for a wide variety of reasons, but coming down like a ton of bricks on formula, when hospital is much much more to blame, is just ridiculous.

post #10 of 79

I completely disagree. I've been reading the Fearless Formula Feeder since before my daughter was born, and while I'm well aware of the "booby traps", I know there are people who DO want formula samples in the hospital. FFF has discussed this topic on her blog several times. I think it's kind of paternalizing to say "Oh, you'll make bad choices, so you can't have this", particularly for moms who know they intend to formula feed. I think that there are many factors at work that undermine women's ability to breastfeed our children, but it's harder to make a macro cultural change than to just guilt moms a little more! Show me an America with a year of paid maternity leave, paternity leave, and free lactation support for everybody, and then maybe we can talk about that 6 months exclusive breastfeeding goal being realistic for everybody. Sometimes it's just not, and there are so many ways in which moms don't get the support we need that fixating on free samples that some people actually want strikes me as petty.

post #11 of 79

My breasts are mine.


As a feminist and doula, I'm concerned that threads/commentary like this don't give mothers (women) of all backgrounds enough credit to choose the best for their children, themselves and their families given their circumstances. I know and respect a number of wonderful mothers who do not nurse. I respect women and I need us to have options. I need us to know that at the end of the day, we make the important choices about what our bodies will do and who they are for. The question of whether to formula feed or breastfeed is very personal and critiquing women like the one who wrote the Jezebel article is not an empowering direction for women or their children. Mother-blame runs rampant in our society, and the "mommy wars" won't stop until we understand that the choices of individuals are circumstantial.


Like it or not, in OUR society (unlike many others), full-time nursing is a privilege afforded to women in specific circumstances. Like erigeron, I'm aware that this conversation is directly influenced by the lack of support that mothers garner from this exorbitantly patriarchal society.


Societies wherein nursing is mandatory are also societies which, by the same token, are critiqued by westerners as being oppressive of women and children.


Personally, would I choose formula over breast milk? I really hope not. It wouldn't be my choice. And I'm aware that my privilege has a lot to do with that, including my mental/emotional health. Do I think that means that women and children should be ruthlessly marketed to? Absolutely not. I find hospital marketing repulsive. But I do feel that threads like this one are easily translated by diverse formula-feeding mothers in a myriad of circumstances as shaming and guilt-inducing. And we all know that there is enough mama-blame and mama-guilt to go around without pointing fingers at each other.


A mother who nurses because she's made a concerted, liberated choice to do so is far healthier than a mother who nurses out of shame, pressure or fear. A mother who has made a choice to formula feed instead of resentfully nursing is the healthier of the two. Mothers who feel unable to nurse are NOT lesser mothers. Let us not police each other.


What's more, I'm not sure how many of you are familiar, but Jezebel represents intersectional and accessible feminist media. I would caution us against flaming Jezebel as a media outlet when much of the material is influencial in to giving voice to many, many issues regarding the liberation women, girls and mothers.

Edited by habitat - 4/11/12 at 10:59pm
post #12 of 79

I agree with most of that, except the part about full time  nursing being a priveledge. It requires some effort, especially if you have to work, but its your child and its worth the effort. Statements like that contribute to the idea that the only way to breastfeed is to be a stay at home mom. There are laws now requiring employers to provide breaks and privacy for pumping, and we have very good mechanical pumps available at your local target, so it is not a privelege, except in the sense that you have the privelege of experiencing a different level of bonding with your child. Anyone can breast feed, and everyone should, but I feel with this, like i do with abortion, while i don't agree with either abortion or formula feeding (not equating the two just making a comparison) I do believe that the ones who suffer most when moms are forced to make a decision rather than choosing for themselves are  ulitimately the children..

post #13 of 79

Could someone please explain how FREE formula is a "right"?  We're talking about the free distribution, not the use of formula.  


I think a lot of you are ignoring the truths about marketing this stuff which is what giving away free samples does:  market the product.  It is not about giving that baby food to live, it's about getting you to give them your money.


It would be easy for hospitals to have formula available for any mother who wants it in a "generic" form.  You don't know what brand of pain reliever you're given, nor what brand of bandage used, why get brand specific for the formula.  


I do not believe in limiting the availability of formula.  It should be there for any one who wants it.  I just think it should be given like an other necessity in the hospital.



post #14 of 79

Marketing is the only way it will be free. Hospitals are not buying the things they send you home with, the samples are donated as a marketing tactic, the same way that we used to get shampoo samples in the mail. Its the reason that anything is given for free. I am a reiki practitioner and yoga instructor and I give free first sessions, you want people to try your product, but should we assume that moms are so stupid they can't see through that? Just because I try something doesn't mean i'm hooked for life, and if I had needed to give my son formula it wouldn't just have automatically been whatever I was sent home with. If you can't make an educated decision about formula despite marketing god help your kids, because there are ads all over the place for oreos and sugar filled cereals, happy meals and all variety of unhealthy things. Marketing isn't going away, we need to make intelligent choices despite the marketing. I haven't seen any commercials for spinach lately have you? But somehow i've figured out it needs to be a part of my family's diet even though hamburger helper says all i need is some ground beef and the stuff they sell in their box. Each and every one of us needs to pull our heads out of the sand and stop buying into every piece of crap we've been spoon fed, and there is no time that is more important than when you are raising a child.

post #15 of 79
Originally Posted by Maria Van View Post

I agree with most of that, except the part about full time  nursing being a priveledge.

I think you're confused about the meaning of "privilege". A person has privilege in society when their situation in life gives them advantages they didn't earn due to their race, sex, economic class, or other features. You may say anyone can breastfeed, but what if you are a part-time, low-income worker whose job offers no mat leave and you need to return to work when your kid is 2 weeks old? (I do know a woman who was in this situation. Her daughter was 9 days old when she went back to work as a waitress. Said child is now in college, so this was a while ago, but it could still happen.) What if you do stay home and your husband works at the crappy job that can support your family but barely, but you need lactation support you can't afford to continue nursing? What if you work as a waitress and can't find time to pump when you go back to work (and most people who work as waitresses probably do not have the extra cash to sue their employers to get compliant with the law)? There are many situations in which privilege, typically economic, can thwart a woman who wants to nurse.


post #16 of 79

I had never heard of Public Citizen. I think it's important that it's a non breastfeeding specific group. Maybe people will take more notice.

post #17 of 79

Here's my thing. People argue that it's a woman's choice. Her body, her choice, when it comes to BFing. And I tend to agree with that. I know, I know. Breastmilk's better. I get that, but honestly, good mothers feed their babies. And I don't like it when we look at formula feeders are somehow being lacking.


That said, if we're going with that "choice" argument, then someone tell me why there isn't a coupon inside that swag bag for a 24-hour on-call IBLC who will make housecalls to help you breastfeed once you're home.


Then we'd really be supporting all choices equally, wouldn't we?


Once I was home from the hospital, I had a really rotten time learning to breastfeed, and I hated every moment of it for the first several months. I paid for an unlimited membership at a local breastfeeding clinic, and due to my socioeconomic level of privelege, I could not only afford that, but I had ample time off work to attend the clinic. I had time and personal resources to pursue my choice.


What about moms who would choose to breastfeed, but can't afford that? What about moms who work 2 jobs and are so exhausted they simply cannot fathom finding time to pump or finding the extra energy/nutrition needed to successfully lactate? 


Some moms want to breastfeed and can't for a variety of reasons. Some moms simply don't want to. And honestly, I don't think that's any of my business. I support a woman's choice. But when I was sent home with formula and no access to any breastfeeding help, I truly did not think the full range of choices on how to feed my baby was supported. And that, I didn't like. I'm not sure we need to nix the formula. But if we're going to give it, let's give something else equal that supports women who choose (or are able to choose) the breast.

post #18 of 79

women in third world countries manage to breastfeed, are they privileged as well? I didn't say it wasn't hard at times, but so is every part of parenting. Sooner or later you have to fight for your kids and for what you believe is right. I know people who breastfeed and I know people who don't, and I hear a lot of different reasons why but mostly it comes down to motivation. If its important to you you will find a way, if its not you buy a can of formula. Its a decision not a privilege.


and Partaria i'm sure if some fantastic lactation consultant wanted to offer free coupons for her services the hospitals would be happy to pass them out. This is not a case of hospitals choosing formula over breastmilk, the formula companies give the hospitals formula. It isn't charged to the hospital or to your insurance. It would be fantastic if health insurance companies would cover a couple lactation consultant visits at home, but thats a seperate issue. Insisting that the samples be disallowed assumes that we cannot make our own choices and is just as bad as all the ridiculous republican mandates about contraception. If the companies want to provide them and some new moms want to accept them how on earth does that impact you or your children? Let them have it if they want it.

post #19 of 79

I respectfully disagree, Maria Van.


I have personally known mothers who have pumped so much and so often, desperate to get their milk to come in, that only blood would come. These women tried everything from prescription drugs to herbs to constant pumping/nursing to get their milk to come, and it wouldn't. 


These mothers grieve the loss of being able to breastfeed on a deep level. They did not suffer from a lack of motivation or trying. It was important to them. They did everything to find a way. And us telling them they did not try hard enough is not helpful. It is divisive and judgmental.


I would also submit to you that women in third world countries breastfeed, yes, but do you actually have statistics on how many of them do? I mean, do ALL of them really? I would guess there are women in those situations who also are unable, and in those cases, often times other women in the community will nurse their babes.


I think the issue is that in the West, where we are returning to breastfeeding, we are finding that it is sort of lost knowledge. Women in countries with long bf'ing traditions have community support from other women who know how and can help. No one in my family or in my circle of friends had breastfed and could support/help me.


I had to go out and pay for that support. I had to find the time to go to La Leche League meetings. I had to find other resources, is my point.


In addition, women in the west often have to work outside the home, sometimes in two jobs in order to make rent for their families. We are away from our babies, very often, by necessity, not by choice. Our families depend on our paychecks for basic medical care and food. When a mother has to return to work in mere days or weeks, she is falling into a "booby trap," that can all too soon end breastfeeding or curtail it, as she struggles to balance all the needs of her family.


It may be helpful to understand that we are talking about privilege as it exists in our culture, not globally. In our culture, it is a fact that breastfeeding rates are higher among higher income women and women with higher education. Because typically these women access more help for their breastfeeding choice, and because they have the resources to take more time from work to learn the skill. And it is a skill that has to be learned. For many of us, I would argue, the majority of us, it does not come without work.


A woman living in a third world country on a farm or in a hut is not as privileged as me. You are right. I have medicines, she might not. I have food, she might not. But when we are discussing how breastfeeding works in our societies, the argument becomes rather apples to oranges. Her booby traps likely look different. She might not have to leave her dwelling to work two part-time jobs on opposites sides of town, neither of which are covered by federally mandated breastfeeding laws because she's only part-time. She might know lots more moms and have family who can help her learn to breastfeed, sharing their experience for free. On the other hand, she might be deeply lacking in enough clean water and good food to lactate as much as she needs, and malnutrition is likely a huge issue for her.


But none of that changes the fact that in the west, and really in most places, I think, the field of choice in one's life tends to expand depending on the amount of money/resources one has. More resources means privilege. I had the leave time and the money to "try everything" to breastfeed, and to not give up on my choice. I had a job to return to that had to allow me to pump. Western women, not women globally, but us western women, who have fewer economic advantages also have a constricted level of access to breastfeeding. 


It is a choice to try to breastfeed. It is a choice to continue trying in the face of challenges. But everyone evaluates a variety of factors when making choices. Time, money, access to help and information, they all play a part in this choice.


Check out these articles on poverty and its effect on breastfeeding:





You can also read about the various booby traps that happen for women in developing nations, including limited access to good nutrition, cultural barriers to breastfeeding, and lack of access to knowledgeable medical professionals:


Edited by Partaria - 4/12/12 at 11:31am
post #20 of 79


Originally Posted by Youngfrankenstein View Post

I think a lot of you are ignoring the truths about marketing this stuff which is what giving away free samples does:  market the product.  It is not about giving that baby food to live, it's about getting you to give them your money.


yeahthat.gif This is about aggressive and manipulative marketing which obviously works... or they wouldn't do it.

It is also NOT the same as shampoo samples... if you use the shampoo samples a few times it doesn't mean that potentially you will need to buy shampoo for the rest of your baby's infancy, lest they starve. 

This is a marketing technique which can potentially take away the choice of the mother.

I view this as just one more little thing that can make bfing difficult. Even if you don't use or want the samples - the message - medical institution giving you this product = it is good/correct/normal, and bfing is what??


ETA: I don't want to imply ffing is bad, not correct, whatever by the last sentence. I don't care what women do really. Ppl around here tend to say bfing is difficult, challenging, but worth it if the mother chooses, but there still seems to be very little support for that by society as a whole. I'm sure formula companies could/already do find other ways to give out samples. I think most women who want to ff understand they will need to buy formula... I don't see as how taking samples out of hospitals is going to affect them in a huge way, or potentially eliminate their option.





The brand name formulas that are distributed in hospital “discharge bags” are up to 66 percent more expensive than store brands. But mothers who start using one brand of formula are likely to stick with it in the long run, making formula samples far from “free.”[2] If they continue using the brand name formulas given for “free” in discharge bags, it will cost at least $700 extra per year.


Edited by slmommy - 4/12/12 at 2:28pm
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