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Health and Medicine

Breast-feeding advocates want Ohio hospitals to stop giving out formula
Formula association and hospitals say they're offering options

Maranda Shrewsberry
In The Region:

Breastfeeding advocacy groups have launched a campaign to pressure Ohio hospitals to stop handing out baby formula to new mothers. 

Many hospitals continue to include formula samples in the goodie bags they send home with new moms.  And Dee Keith of the Ohio Breastfeeding Alliance says the formula samples send the wrong message to women who are just learning how to breastfeed. 

“It sends the message that what really happened at the hospital to get you off to a good start was not really the best start for your baby,” says Keith. “So we don’t think you’re going to succeed, so we’ve given you this container of formula just in case." 

Keith says the samples encourage mothers to buy the name-brand formulas, worth billions of dollars. And the American Pregnancy Association estimates formula  feeding costs $50 to $200 a month.

The International Formula Council acknowledges breast feeding is healthier for baby and mother. But the industry trade group defends the giveaways, saying it is providing alternatives for mothers who want them. Likewise, the American Hospital Association says hospitals need to keep resources for every type of mother.

But the Cleveland Clinic stopped giving out the samples routinely two years ago. The clinic’s Dr. Rebecca Starck says, before that, the marketing was extensive.

 “Often times, the formula companies would provide samples to our prenatal offices as well as to the hospital that would go home with the patients with assorted paraphernalia – sometimes coupons for the formula, sometimes they would be diaper bags, etc.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months.  It takes a little more than a week of not breast-feeding for a mother to stop producing milk.

Keith on mixed messages

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MP3 Download (0:13)

Starck on marketing

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MP3 Download (0:16)

Listener Comments:

I'm a WIC Peer Helper in Cincinnati,and I'm excited to know that the Cleveland Clinic made a wonderful choice by discontinuing the formula handed out to their mom's.I only hope that our city will soon be able to follow their lead in discontinuing formula in all of our clinics and hospitals also.I'm sure the hospital and clinic staff know the healthy benefits of breastfeeding.So why not take the time out to bring more clarity to making it a success? Instead of sending mixed messages to mom's by sending them home with the competition(formula).The time it takes to give a mom these bags can be spent answering her questions and helping her feel comfortable with starting her breastfeeding journey,so that it continues at home.Home is where it matters most,when there is no one checking in on you or there to answer all your questions.In my opinion focusing on a great start will increase the staying power and benefits on the breastfeeding journey.


Peer Helper C.Arnold

Posted by: C.Arnold on May 4, 2012 10:05AM
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