Statements in Support of Public Citizen’s Campaign to End Formula Marketing in Healthcare Facilities
"Approximately sixty one percent of California
Hospitals have stopped marketing infant formula. Unfortunately, not all
hospitals have taken this initiative, including many hospitals that serve
California’s poorest women and infants. It’s time to address this harmful
practice that puts women and infants at risk for poor health outcomes. By
starting with a few small policy changes, all hospitals in California can have
a major impact on the health and welfare of our youngest residents."
— Robbie Gonzalez-Dow, Executive Director, California Breastfeeding Coalition
"There is a long history showing that industry practices across a variety of issues can severely undermine health and safety outcomes. The actions of the formula industry are no exception. By aggressively marketing formula to new mothers, these companies discourage women from breastfeeding, a critical prevention strategy that we know protects both mothers and infants from a variety of illnesses and disease."
— Sana Chehimi, Program Director, Prevention Institute
District of Columbia
"Healthcare facilities should market health and nothing else. When a facility claims to promote and support breastfeeding, yet distributes industry-sponsored formula samples, it sends a mixed signal. I applaud those facilities that take a stand for their most vulnerable patients by putting an end to this practice."
— Dr. Sahira Long, President, D.C. Breastfeeding Coalition
"Current children's health care providers need to recognize that most mothers in our practices, 70% at least in most areas of the state of Florida, really want to breastfeed successfully. Things have definitely changed since a generation or two ago when many of us may have trained. It is time to recognize that feeding our babies human milk rather than cow and soy based formulas is probably the most impactful positive health intervention we can support for the health of our patients since the development of vaccines. We have to learn to think of alternative milk formula as just that, "Alternative"; a great thing to have available for defined medical indications when the best choice, human milk feeding, is not possible. We need to imagine a not too distant future when at least 90% of our moms successfully and exclusively breastfeed their babies according to current WHO recommendations for optimal health. "
— Dr. Judy Banks, North Central Florida Breastfeeding Coalition
“Endorsing alternative feeding methods confuses the public into thinking formula is comparable to breast milk and violates our code of ethics as practitioners by encouraging the use of suboptimal infant nutrition. While alternative feeding methods are useful and necessary clinical experts suggest to utilize them when medically necessary.”
— Jessica Gordon, Florida Hillsborough County Breastfeeding Task Force
“We support health care professionals promoting the healthiest start to life. Therefore, we encourage the elimination of industry-sponsored formula samples, which we see as a deterrent to breastfeeding and a waste of resources. The marketing of infant formula to new parents by health care professionals undermines confidence in the normal and critical process of exclusive breastfeeding.”
— Claire Eden, North Georgia Regional Breastfeeding Advocacy Group
"Breastfeeding gives babies a healthy start, and reduces health problems down the road for both babies and mothers. Yet mothers face many obstacles to success in sustained breastfeeding. Free formula is one of these, since it undermines early efforts to establish breastfeeding. Mothers who discontinue breastfeeding in part due to the availability of free formula, later deal with high costs related to long term formula feeding, as well as with more health risks. Because CLOCC supports all measures that help breastfeeding mothers and babies and our Healthy Places initiative is specifically focused on hospital practices that support breastfeeding, we support this drive to eliminate formula discharge bag distribution at health care institutions across Illinois."
— Adam Becker, Executive Director, Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC)
"According to the 2009 Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) survey two-thirds of Kentucky hospitals still act as advertisers for infant formula companies by handing out free formula samples to breastfeeding moms. Though the hospitals that do this often mean well, they are subtly undermining a mother's decision to breastfeed as well as her confidence that she can feed her baby. LINK would like to thank Public Citizen for leading this campaign to get infant formula marketing out of health care facilities."
— Cerise Bouchard, President, Lactation Improvement Network of Kentucky (LINK)
"The Missouri Breastfeeding Coalition supports Public Citizen’s Campaign requesting hospitals to stop distributing industry sponsored formula samples in maternity wards. Even though Missouri’s breastfeeding rates continue to rise, we are still well below national averages and far from the Healthy Peoples 2020 Objectives. We encourage all hospitals in Missouri to make a commitment to adopt evidenced-based maternity care practices and to take this giant step forward in removing commercial barriers to breastfeeding."
— Diane Bibb, Co-Chair, Missouri Breastfeeding Coalition
companies in recent years have been called to task for the unethical ways in
which they have marketed and provided incentives to hospitals and providers to
consider and use their products. Pens, mugs, free trips, and lunches were a
part of the modus operandi of pharmaceutical representatives. Today you can’t
find a pen or mug with a medication name anywhere in a hospital, yet pervasive
marketing of infant formula still occurs across health care settings.
Pharmaceutical companies make formula, but do not extend to that market the
same ethical considerations that they do for the medications they make. Our job
as health care providers is to advocate for our patients and to assist them
with an informed consent about infant feeding, the same way we do for other
medical decisions. It is time to level the playing field so that mothers
have the ability to make a fully informed decision about infant feeding.
It is time to remove formula marketing in all health settings. Currently
in NH, approximately 30% of birthing hospitals purchase infant formula, with
others also planning to do so in the near future. Not only is this the
right thing to do ethically, it is the right thing to do for maternal and
infant health. With increasing concern and attention drawn to issues of
ethics and corporate compliance, the Public Citizen effort is coming at just
the right time."
— Joyce Kelly, co-project leader for the New Hampshire
Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding Project
"The majority of new mothers, almost 80%, choose to breastfeed after birth. Our experience shows, and research confirms, that the early use of infant formula interferes with breastfeeding in several ways. New mothers frequently tell us that they use formula simply because they were given it in the hospital, believing it must be important. Hospitals should provide formula in the hospital to women who choose it. However, they should not give out free formula and samples, essentially acting as marketers of this commercial product, which undermines a woman's choice to breastfeed. Hospitals should promote and market good health, not commercial products."
— Dr. Susan Verchzhalek, Vice Chair, New York State Breastfeeding Coalition
"Evidence suggests that hospitals are undermining breastfeeding by giving infants formula and handing out free samples to new mothers. According to the CDC, New York State hospitals have the second worst record in the country for giving infant formula to babies -a third of all infants receive formula before they are two days old."
— Michael Seserman, Chair, New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance (NYSHEPA)
“Advertising infant formula in healthcare settings undoubtedly fosters misperceptions and has been shown to undermine women’s confidence in their ability to successfully breastfeed, particularly when marketing is distributed through the health care setting. We cannot count on the formula manufacturers to change their practices: they have a product to sell. Healthcare providers, on the other hand, should “do no harm” by ceasing distribution of infant formula advertisements. The North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition thanks Public Citizen for asking for just this.”
— Emily Taylor, Chair, North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition
"Infant formula competes with mothers’ milk. There is a legitimate use for infant formula and manufactured baby foods – but not in the quantities and qualities that are currently being produced and marketed in highly unethical ways. Hospitals should not willingly accept the role of “stealth marketers” for products sold to vulnerable populations (pregnant women and new mothers) that specifically target infants – the most vulnerable population of all. We call upon hospitals and formula manufacturers to apply business ethical principles to the production and marketing of infant formula."
— Linda Smith, Ohio Lactation Consultant Association
“Exclusive breastfeeding for an infant’s first several months with continued breastfeeding through at least the first year as other foods are introduced has been shown to have important positive health outcomes for both infant and maternal health. The Ohio Breastfeeding Alliance supports efforts to end the unethical and aggressive marketing of infant formula inserted in industry sponsored, allegedly ‘free’ discharge bags, which are handed to new parents bymaternity hospital healthcare staff. Research has shown that this practice undermines breastfeeding exclusivity and overall duration of breastfeeding, thereby undermining the breastfeeding intentions of the majority of new mothers in Ohio."
— Delores Keith, Co-Chairperson, Ohio Breastfeeding Alliance
“The Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington would like to acknowledge the many hospitals in Washington State that have done away with infant formula discharge packs, having recognized the adverse effect these have on breastfeeding outcomes. We encourage those facilities who continue to distribute formula at discharge to stop this practice and to contact the BCW for support in doing so.”
— Rachel Schwartz, Program Manager, Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington
“La Leche League USA supports Public Citizen’s national campaign asking hospitals to stop allowing the distribution of industry-sponsored formula samples to new moms. LLL USA believes breastfeeding is important for the lifelong health of our children. We need to do all we can to support women in their choice to offer their babies the very best. By giving formula discharge bags, hospitals are saying to women that they expect mothers to fail at breastfeeding. Instead La Leche League USA encourages all birthing facilities to follow best practices by providing breastfeeding mothers with information and referrals to follow-up support for breastfeeding so each mother can achieve her own breastfeeding goals.”
— Brenda Bandy, LLLI USBC Representative