Cedars Sinai and UCLA Medical Center have joined a growing list of hospitals across the country to stop distributing free infant formula take-home-bags to new mothers in an effort to promote breastfeeding.
A new report by Public Citizen shows that the majority of facilities on U.S. News and World Report’s 2013-14 “Best Hospitals” have either completely ended or substantially reduced distribution of free infant formula.
The survey comes after years of campaigning by a national group called "Ban the Bags," which took aim at formula companies for using hospitals "to peddle products to new mothers with what appears to be a stamp of approval from the medical establishment." The group contends that take-home formula sends the wrong message.
"Numerous studies show that women are likely to breastfeed less, and for shorter durations, if they receive formula samples and promotional materials in hospital discharge packs," said Eva Seidelman of Public Citizen.
Scientific evidence on the benefits of breastfeeding is uncontested, though not all mothers can or choose to breastfeed their infants. And another recent study showed small amounts of formula can help breastfeeding.
According to the report:
- Sixty-seven percent of top hospitals in gynecology (30 out of 45) ranked by U.S. News reported they do not distribute formula company sponsored discharge bags, formula samples or other formula company promotional materials to mothers in their maternity units.
- Eighty-two percent (14 of 17) of U.S. News’ Honor Roll - or overall best hospitals - reported a policy or practice against distributing formula company sponsored discharge bags or other promotional materials.