September 21, 2007

To breastfeed or not to breastfeed. That is the question. Don't let the current hospital movement influence your choice!

I know I've written about this before in a previous post ... about how difficult it was when I decided not to breastfeed my fourth baby (and I don't mean the decision itself was difficult -- it was that the health care providers around me were unbelievably difficult). Well, I'm just glad that I'm not giving birth today because of the self-righteous stance that a slew of hospitals and providers around the country are taking.

What's happening is this: there's a movement involving hospitals in New York, California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Texas to stop giving out free formula samples to new moms. The thinking behind this movement is that because the American Academy of Pediatrics has determined that breastfeeding is best, then new moms should not be exposed to a 6-pack of free formula bottles because, heaven forbid, they will most assuredly become instantly swayed to give up breastfeeding. I mean, who are we as women to actually make the choice on how best to feed our babies?

And so what about the women who end up having to have an unplanned (or planned) C-section which can delay milk production by several days? Or the women who have babies that suffer from severe allergies? Or the women (like me) who choose to take an anti-depressant, that happens to be very dangerous to an infant, in order to be able to function as a mother? I'm sure there are plenty of new moms who are suddenly confronted with a change in plan and have to use formula for one reason or another, and are unprepared ... it is essential for them to have easy and free access to formula.

Whoever had the idea that mothers need to be denied something in order for them to make the "right" choice (according to the mandate of an organization) is absolutely crazy. And, not to mention, obviously a man. This isn't an Orwellian world we live in -- at least not yet. Let's protect our right to choose how we feed our babies.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are very uneducated when it comes to breastfeeding. What is the big deal? Oh, I know, you're not confident in your decision. Moms don't get a free pump at the hospital so why should they get free formula?

Kristin said...

I appreciate your comment. I'd be interested to know why you think I'm uneducated about breastfeeding. I have breastfed two of my four babies and know quite a bit about it, the perils of pumping, etc. I'm very confident in the individual decisions I made when it came to feeding my children. I'm not sure about the free pump issue -- that would be extremely helpful to new moms and I would think that hospitals would be open to providing them if they don't already. When I gave birth to my twins, there were several breastpumps that were available in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where one of my twins stayed for two months and I used them frequently.

ripley said...

I love your blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I believe that women have the right to choose and I don't think that it is right for hospitals to choose (basically) everything for their newborn babies. Like I said, I love your blog and your sense of everything being equal.

Kristin said...

Thanks so much,Ripley, for your kind comment!! I'm with you -- the hospitals must think we're morons if they believe that taking away the free formula samples will in any way impact a new mother's decision to breastfeed or formula feed.
I'm so glad you visited my blog!
Best,
Kristin

Anonymous said...

If you want to formula feed then why can't you just bring your own formula from the beginning? Why does it have to be free? Also, in case many of you didn't know, the reason formula is so expensive is because they spend so much money in advertising and free samples that they have to make up the cost somewhere.

Kristin said...

Well, my main worry about the hospitals no longer providing free formula is for the new moms who find themselves unexpectedly unable to breastfeed for whatever reason. It may be hardship for them to just run out and buy formula in the beginning when they weren't expecting not to breastfeed. The formula producers/distributors are more than happy to provide the free formula -- it seems crazy to me that the hospitals would refuse to pass it on to new mothers.

I appreciate your comment!
Best,
Kristin

Anonymous said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I've been struggling with the shame that goes along with doing what I had to do (take Prozac) to save my sanity and survive to be a good mother while hearing and seeing all the messages around me that implied that I somehow didn't want what was best for my baby because I couldn't breastfeed her. Your audio comments on what you did to have a successful next pregnancy brought me to tears. Even though it's been a year since the peak of my postpartum panic disorder, I still feel quite isolated in my experience and found great comfort in hearing your story of survival. Thank you for bravely speaking out!

Cindy Fey said...

I did a 180 turn on this issue. After giving birth to my first baby, I saw the freebie formula and was incensed. How could the hospital cooperate with this blatant marketing ploy dressed up like a gift! Breast-feeding mothers need support, not encouragement to use formula! Then I had my second baby. Again, I was waking up multiple times each night to nurse. This time around, I was grateful for a choice. I would still nurse all day and night, but at 4 a.m., I made her a bottle of formula, thank you very much.

Kristin said...

Yes, it is so nice to have a choice! And even better when you're respected for your choice by other moms, whether they're with La Leche or not.

About the accessibility to free formula at hospitals -- I still believe that it's just really great, and at times a necessity for some, to have that access, and if formula manufacturers are willing to give our free formula, why not make it easily accessible for those women who are unable to breastfeed.

I so appreciate your comments, Cindy, and Anonymous, and everyone else. This is an interesting topic and I think needs more discussion.

Warmly,
Kristin

corrine said...

I think access to formula should be limited in hospitals. Not completely unavailable but certainly limited as in not allowing "goodie bags" to be passed out to every new mom. Research a bit more and i think you will find no one wants to completely ban formula from L&D wards. Many hospitals right now give it out left and right weather it is asked for or medical indicated or not. Nurses will sometimes offer formula at the first sign of breastfeeding problems because it is easier for them to deal with ff, and it's often familiar territory whereas assisting a mom with bfing is more time consuming and labor intensive (pardon the pun!). It is absolutely true that limiting availablity of formula increases bfing rates. Of course a new first time mom is going to be more willing to accept formula if it is offered (and endorsed) by her doctor and nurses. I am sorry Kristin but having breastfed a couple of children does not mean you are educated about the politics of breastfeeding. I am positive if you took the time to learn about the history of the formula industry vs breastfeeding you would find it fascinating and eye opening. Check out these links:

A good pro/con debate: http://www.kellymom.com/nutrition/milk/formula-discharge-samples.html

A great book: http://tinyurl.com/2vdqlk

Breastfeeding is a very personal issue. There are many influencing factors in any woman's decision and no one knows every detail. Many years of working with women with PPD has led me to examine my own biases toward formula (bfing was my saving grace during my PPD). The fact is, sometimes meds don't work with bfing and sometimes bfing is just too hard and takes too many emotional resources that a woman with PPD may not have to give. That said, keeping one's self as unbiased as possible takes work and research. the links above a just a starting point, if anyone wants more info just google "free formula in hospitals" "Breastfeeding formula politics" "formula industry breastfeeding" etc.

Anonymous said...

I believe that free formula was still available at the hospital for any mother who wanted it, they just stopped automatically sending every mother home with formula in their "goody bag." Of course some women have very good reasons not to breastfeed, and I'm sorry that the "breast is best" message can cause guilt in good moms. But, it's also true that women who are intending to breastfeed but are a little insecure about it can read into all of the automatic free formula a message that their milk might not be good enough, that they require a formula backup, etc. Once a woman starts to supplement, or to offer bottles just to see if the baby is still hungry, it can start a chain reaction that leads to low milk supply and breastfeeding troubles. The automatic formula for all policies can truly undermine some breastfeeding relationships.

As long as the formula is still available for feeding babies in the hospital, I really don't think it's a problem to not send every new baby home with a free sample.

Kristin said...

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. There are so many different angles in this issue and I've found it really interesting to learn what others think about this step by hospitals.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!
Best,
Kristin

Kate said...

i find it absolutely SILLY that free samples would be limited or banned. i am a breastfeeding mom (my son nursed for 2 years and my daughter is at 7.5 months and going strong) and i have no problem w/ free samples being given out - i received adequate support in breastfeeding (that i didn't have to pay for, ie. a lactation consultant for the duration of my children's nursing) from the hospital why shouldn't a mom who chooses not to nurse or cannot nurse due to a medical condition not have the same support?

i took my free samples home, kept one can for "emergencies" and sent the rest my in-law's church for the needy folks they worship with. the samples in NO WAY influenced my choice to nurse my children. do lawmakers really think we are this wishy-washy? if so could they mandate funding for lactation consultants for those of us who are not fortunate enough to have insurance or get services for free from our community hospitals? and while they are at it can they fund treatment for perinatal mood disorders as well?

Kristin said...

Hi, Kate!

Yes, it is totally silly. And you're so right to bring attention to the fact that there are so many other more important places for the energy to be spent than to get rid of free formula samples. Talk about crazy.

Thanks for visiting my blog!!
Warm regards,
Kristin