My small state of Rhode Island was all over the news and social media world today. Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with people talking about the news that Rhode Island would be the first state in the country to ban hospitals from giving away formula samples when a mother and baby go home.
I never got a bag of formula samples either time I had my kids at Providence’s Women & Infants Hospital. I don’t recall being asked with Jackson’s birth but a nurse did ask if I wanted a bag last month when I had Sidney. I declined, mostly because I’m somewhat of a bag hoarder and I could already see BC Man’s eyes rolling out of his head if I brought home another bag to stick in the closet stuffed with bags that never get used. I would have given the formula to a local food bank or shelter since I breastfeed.
I’m torn on this formula freebie “issue.” My first thought was “great, maybe this will help more women breastfeed.” Then my next thought was “ehh, I don’t really want the government deciding if I should feed my kid formula or not.” After reading a couple of articles I realized this was not a law or government legislation, but the seven state birthing hospitals joined forces and decided to be the first “bag-free” state in the country.
Some of the feedback I read on Facebook was that many women were unable to breastfeed for whatever reason and they would have been upset if they didn’t get their free formula samples when going home. This article states that women who are unable to breastfeed will still be given the formula samples to take home.
According to Time.com, 38 percent of Rhode Island mothers nursed their baby six months after birth, significantly lower than the 44 percent national average. Michael Fine, the State’s Health Director, said they hope to raise that percentage to 60 percent by 2020. I believe that’s a commendable goal but will stopping the free samples at hospitals help this? After all, pediatricians and obstetricians will still be able to give the formula samples to patients. If someone wants to formula feed their child, they will formula feed.
Did you know this was a hot button issue? I didn’t realize until I joined Twitter that people felt so strongly about formula samples. There is even a web site for a national campaign to stop formula marketing in hospitals: BantheBags.org. After spending some time reading both “sides” of the debate, I still don’t know how I feel. I do know that I prefer freedom in making my decisions, especially regarding my children. However, Rhode Island isn’t saying you can’t formula feed, they’re just not giving away free samples of formula at the hospitals. Why do we feel so entitled to free samples, anyway? Trust me, after 5 years of selling pharmaceuticals I know that we Americans LOVE some free samples. People would corner me in waiting rooms and parking lots to get free stuff: drugs, pens, a magnet- they wanted it!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this though, is it good or bad that my Little Rhody is first in the country to ban formula freebie bags form hospitals?