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Talking Points

Put Infant and Mother Health Before Product Marketing

Top Talking Points: Infant Formula Marketing in Healthcare Facilitiesi

  • Hospitals and doctors’ offices shouldn’t be used as marketing vehicles for any product, period. This is especially the case where products that are potentially harmful to public health are concerned. Marketing products that run counter to accepted public health guidance compromises the ethical principles that these facilities ought to uphold.
  • The aggressive marketing tactics of the infant formula industry undermine breastfeeding, which is medically recommended. Formula companies engage in this practice because it leads to greater formula sales: women who receive formula samples are less likely to breastfeed exclusively and breastfeed for a shorter duration.
  • All leading health groups agree: breastfeeding is best for babies. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is the unanimous recommendation of health professionals, based on indisputable research findings
  • By distributing infant formula samples or marketing infant formula in any way, healthcare facilities are explicitly endorsing the product. Medical evidence shows that healthcare providers should be promoting breastfeeding whenever possible. Moreover, if formula is needed, there is no medical evidence suggesting that one brand of formula ought to promoted over another.
  • Formula samples in hospitals aren’t “free.” The costs of using formula far exceed those of breastfeeding. Even for formula-feeding parents, samples are costly. The formula included in hospital discharge bags is the most expensive variety. Mothers who receive a particular brand in the hospital are likely to stick with it, costing them up to 700 dollars extra per year.
  • Formula marketing-free hospitals are a crucial aspect of making hospitals baby and mom-friendly. In order for moms to have the best shot at successfully breastfeeding their babies, they need lots of support and guidance. A hospital that tries to provide this support, yet still gives out formula samples is undermining its own efforts.
  • Formula samples can be risky business for infants and hospitals. High profile stories about recalls of contaminated formula have been in the news lately. Most hospitals have no stock control and do not record the lot number on the bag and the name and contact information of the patient it was given to. So, if a recall like those in recent months occurs, hospitals can’t inform parents, opening the door to potential harm to infants and liability for hospitals.
  • Big corporations are putting profits before the health of mothers and babies. Formula makers aren’t putting families’ best interests first: they give out samples in hospitals because they know it will boost formula sales — and hinder breastfeeding.

Questions? Need more info? Contact Kristen Strader  at kstrader@citizen.org.


[i] Thanks to Ban the Bags for many of these points. See http://www.banthebags.org