In 2007 New York City made the decision to stop the practice of formula freebies in 11 of its city hospitals. The study was performed in 2010, and found that 25% of hospitals are changing the tradition.
“We found a trend, in what I consider to be the right direction, that more hospitals are discontinuing sample pack distribution,” said Anne Merewood, PhD, one of the report authors, who happens to be the director of research for the Breastfeeding Center at Boston Medical Center.
She sides with the Centers for Disease Control, who state that formula samples tend to negatively affect exclusivity in breastfeeding, particularly among first-time moms and those facing postpartum illness.
“Once hospitals look around and see others are not doing this, they stop, too,” Merewood added.
The study states that the medical community is largely against free sample distribution, creating a conflict of interest among professionals.
There have also been more targeted efforts, says Catherine Pearson of the Huffington Post, including the “Ban the Bags” campaign, which says it aims to stop “aggressive formula company marketing tactics in hospitals” as they “undermine mothers who chose to breastfeed.”
Susan E. Burger, PhD, president of the New York Lactation Consultant Association, said the samples can be a hassle for hospitals, which have to expend man hours stocking shelves. But she said “the most obvious and well-documented problem here is that there is clear evidence that the promotional samples reduce the doses of breast milk that infants receive.”
Opposition to the movement has arisen, citing cases where milk is late coming in after a cesarean delivery, where, for the health of the baby, formula supplementation is necessary.
Dr. Shieva Ghofrany of Stamford Hospital said that she too has seen cases where the formula helped new moms through a tough first night.
“Some women don’t realize how hard breastfeeding can be,” she said. “So they go home with nothing and then they have a situation at 4 in the morning where they’re scrambling, and the husband is wondering what to buy. If the patient doesn’t have a couple of samples to get them through to the next morning, it can make them much more anxious.”