Last week’s launch of Public Citizen’s campaign to stop infant formula marketing in healthcare facilities got lots of people talking – and acting. In less than a week, more than 13,000 people signed their names to a petition calling on the three major formula companies to stop using healthcare facilities to market their products. Dozens of news outlets and blogs covered the campaign’s launch, which also included sending letters, co-signed by more than 100 other organizations, to more than 2,600 hospitals across the country. The organizations are calling on hospitals to stop allowing formula companies to co-opt their facilities for profit-making purposes that undermine the advice of all major healthcare provider organizations: Breastfeeding is best for babies and mothers’ health.
People signed on to the petition and cheered our efforts because they agree that allowing corporations to commercialize an environment that we turn to in our most vulnerable moments – when we seek out healthcare – is unconscionable. Moreover, many families know just how challenging breastfeeding can be. Obstacles to successful breastfeeding abound. Prominent among these is the unrelenting pressure Big Formula marketing places on women to use their products. Formula marketing also creates barriers by instilling doubt in many women about their capacity to successfully breastfeed.
The Infant Formula Council, the industry trade group, responded to our campaign in typically misleading fashion. The IFC claimed that we had called for the elimination of “infant feeding education materials and samples for mothers in hospitals.” This “education,” they claimed, is necessary to ensure the health and safety of babies. In similar fashion, the American Hospital Association defended its members’ practices, claiming that “having information and resources” available to moms in hospitals is the duty of responsible hospitals.