Maternity Ward Swag

Published: Friday, May 11 2012 1:22 p.m. MDT

Gifts for new mothers are often a welcome sight, but when those gifts discourage those mothers from doing a good thing for their child, it may be time for hospitals to reassess. During their stay after baby is born, new mothers receive infant formula starter packs, to help mom through the first few weeks, until they can get to the store and buy.

While doctors will often recommend breast-feeding, there is room for improvement in support of breast milk over formula.

The support of hospitals is crucial to getting more women to begin breast-feeding and to do it longer. And yet many hospitals hand out free formula samples, which, according to a 2006 report by the Government Accountability Office, tend to reduce breast-feeding rates among the women who receive them. Its easy to understand why the hospitals continue to do so: in exchange for giving out samples, formula manufacturers provide hospitals nurseries and neonatal intensive care units with much needed free supplies like bottles, nipples, pacifiers, sterile water and more formula.

Its easy to understand why the hospitals continue to do so: in exchange for giving out samples, formula manufacturers provide hospitals nurseries and neonatal intensive care units with much needed free supplies like bottles, nipples, pacifiers, sterile water and more formula.

But the practice is opposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, among others. Doctors can recommend breast-feeding all they like; when hospitals send new mothers home with a commercial product that often bears scientific claims on the label about digestion and brain development, it sends a very different message. (Breast milk is better, but its a rare breast that sports such a label.) Regardless of the medical evidence, the science behind formula not to mention the convenience can be difficult for mothers to resist.

To read the full story visit The New York Times.

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