Public Citizen Tells Hospitals to Stop Handing Out Free Brand-Name Infant Formula
Public Citizen has mailed a letter to over 2600 hospitals across the country advising them to stop handing out free infant formula at hospitals, calling it "marketing for drug companies." Signed by over 100 organizations, it's part of a new drive the organization is launching against misinformation against breastfeeding, which includes online petitions against formula manufacturers Abbott, Mead Johnson, and Nestle, which make Similac, Enfamil, and Gerber respectively. According to a press release:
Hospital promotion of infant formula in discharge bags contravenes the consensus by all major healthcare provider organizations that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after a child is born is best for the health of both babies and mothers. Research convincingly shows that mothers who received infant formula samples are less likely to breastfeed exclusively and are more likely to breastfeed for shorter durations. Hospitals that distribute formula samples are in violation of a 1981 World Health Organization code that prohibits healthcare facilities from marketing infant formula.
Yet, at least two-thirds of hospitals in the U.S. distribute samples of infant formula, even if mothers have indicated that they plan to breastfeed. Succumbing to infant formula companies’ marketing techniques is costly, both in terms of money spent on formula and the health of mothers and children. Formula feeding costs between $800 and $2,800 per year. Additionally, the formula samples usually are brand-name products, which cost up to 66 percent more than store brands. Families typically continue to use the same expensive brand they receive in samples.
Public Citizen is focusing on the marketing aspect, and wants to remove the hospital from a point of marketing—where it should be a place of education, not shilling for corporations. To learn more about the drive, go here.