Three days after my daughter was born, I was tired and exhausted. I had been up all night with her the previous two nights and wanted to sleep. I thought, “I wish we had bottles and nipples so my husband could give my daughter formula and I could sleep.” Thankfully, I did not ask.
Fast-forward to my second pregnancy. When the free infant formula samples arrived, I told my husband, “Hide them. I do not want to know where they are, and you will not get the formula unless absolutely necessary.” Even though my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter was not hindered because of the free infant formula samples, I wanted them out of sight and out of mind with my son.
It’s a free infant formula sample, so what’s the big deal?
As a marketing strategy, giving infant formula samples to expectant and new mothers is brilliant. But for breastfeeding mothers, receiving those samples is not good. Breastfeeding is challenging enough as it is, especially for first-time mothers. They do not need the temptation to give their baby a bottle of formula. If breastfeeding is very difficult, mothers may be more likely to supplement with the “free” infant formula they were given.
If it’s a hospital giving out the samples, mothers may think that formula feeding is equal to breastfeeding. In reality, the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh those of formula. Hospitals that give out formula undermine a mother’s ability to breastfeed. One study showed that removing samples from hospital discharge bags has increased a new mother’s duration of breastfeeding for the first 10 weeks postpartum. Women who have not received formula samples have been more likely to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months.
You may think the infant formula sample you received is free, but it is not free. The cost is passed on to the consumer. Here’s an example: Target’s up & up™ Infant Formula Advantage costs $23.49 for 40 ounces, compared to Similac® Advance Powder, which costs $24.99 for 23.2 ounces. That’s $1.50 more for only about half the amount of formula! Another example: a 22.2-ounce tub of up & up™ Infant Formula A.R. is $16.99, but a slightly smaller tub (21.5 ounces) of Enfamil A.R. Infant Formula Powder is $25.99. Similac and Enfamil are both companies I have received “free” formula from, but as you can see, both are vastly more expensive than Target’s generic brand.
What can you do to avoid letting free infant formula samples get in the way of your breastfeeding?
- Find a healthcare professional who is knowledgeable and supportive of breastfeeding. How can you tell if this is the case? Look around the office when you first visit. What do the posters, pamphlets, and other educational materials look like? Do they have a formula logo on them? Are there cans of formula sitting around the office?
- Deliver at a hospital that has banned bags from formula companies from being given to new mothers in the hospital.
- As tempting as it may be, do not use the samples you were given (unless it’s medically necessary).
- Surround yourself with others who are supportive of breastfeeding.
- Give the infant formula samples away. Some women are not able to breastfeed. Others choose to formula feed. If you know someone who can use the sample, give it to them. Or give the sample to a food bank.
Did you receive formula in the mail? Were you given free infant formula samples at the hospital?