Fact Number One: Exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months is best for infants and new mothers.
Fact Number Two: Hospital giveaways of infant formula samples to new mothers reduce the amount and length of breastfeeding.
Given these two facts, why would hospitals serve as marketing agents for infant formula companies by giving away free samples of infant formula? Why do the formula companies — Nestle, Abbott and Mead Johnson — think they can get away with practices that undermine public health?
The first of these two questions is more mystifying. There is unanimity among health professionals on the key importance of breastfeeding. Many hospitals that encourage breastfeeding by new mothers simultaneously subvert their own health messaging by giving away formula samples, as well as discount coupons and other formula advertising.
If hospitals started out with the simple proposition that they shouldn’t be marketing commercial products, the infant formula giveaway problem wouldn’t exist. In the absence of a commercial-free hospital culture, hospitals take on a duty to be very self-conscious about the ways that they market or tout commercial products. When it comes to infant formula, most are failing to fulfill this duty.