OB handing out formula samples -WWYD?

I don't agree. A doctor giving you something is, in most people's eyes, tantamount to his saying "this is what I think is the healthiest option for you." I've heard many people mistakenly say formula is just as good, or that the benefits of breastfeeding must be exaggerated because "I was formula fed and I turned out fine." So not everyone really understands that breast milk is best and the many reasons why. And in that case, a formula sample, especially from their doctor, might really just reinforce misconceptions.
thats exactly my point. if you let your dr choose whether or not you breastfeed then you deserve (for lack of a better word) to formula feed your baby. many many many people have been formula fed and indeed, turned out just fine. breastfeeding is a choice and regardless of how i feel about it i think people should be able to readily recieve samples of products, even if i choose not to use them. if a woman was offered a sample, she declined it, and somehow a nurse or dr made her take the sample then i think there needs to be a letter written. i like to think about the other side when making my decisions. of course we all feel the same way because we chose to breastfeed, but what if you knew from the start that you didnt want to breastfeed or that you simply couldnt. then that sample from would be greatly appreciated.
I have no problem with giving formula to people who intend to use it. It's the fact that there was no discussion and no alternatives.
And I emphatically disagree that if you take nutrition advice from your doctor then you deserve to formula feed. Every woman deserves to have the correct information to base her decisions on.
To Trenell, MizKerri and geeky:
I pray none of you ever has to live in a communist state.

Geeky is my hero. She's the true badass. The badass who doesn't even need to be a badass. There aren't enough O's in cool to describe her.
I have no problem with giving formula to people who intend to use it. It's the fact that there was no discussion and no alternatives.
And I emphatically disagree that if you take nutrition advice from your doctor then you deserve to formula feed. Every woman deserves to have the correct information to base her decisions on.
Originally Posted by geeky
ITA. Even if those of us who do more reading and research know that the doctor isn't always the best source of information on breastfeeding, etc., it doesn't mean that's the way it should be. People speaking up is one way things can change for the better.
Life with Lydia

I don't agree. A doctor giving you something is, in most people's eyes, tantamount to his saying "this is what I think is the healthiest option for you." I've heard many people mistakenly say formula is just as good, or that the benefits of breastfeeding must be exaggerated because "I was formula fed and I turned out fine." So not everyone really understands that breast milk is best and the many reasons why. And in that case, a formula sample, especially from their doctor, might really just reinforce misconceptions.
thats exactly my point. if you let your dr choose whether or not you breastfeed then you deserve (for lack of a better word) to formula feed your baby. many many many people have been formula fed and indeed, turned out just fine. breastfeeding is a choice and regardless of how i feel about it i think people should be able to readily recieve samples of products, even if i choose not to use them. if a woman was offered a sample, she declined it, and somehow a nurse or dr made her take the sample then i think there needs to be a letter written. i like to think about the other side when making my decisions. of course we all feel the same way because we chose to breastfeed, but what if you knew from the start that you didnt want to breastfeed or that you simply couldnt. then that sample from would be greatly appreciated.
Originally Posted by subbrock
It's not so much about the woman deserving it... it's what the baby deserves, and unfortunately the baby has no say in what it is fed.

I think that this practice (formula samples OR coupons) is one of many things that undermines breast feeding and contributes to the abysmally low rates of BF and to perceptions that promoting BF is being a "nipple nazi" or that formula is "just as good". I think doctors should be talking about breast feeding way more with their patients. If someone says they don't want to do it before they even try, it would be nice for the doctor to explore their reasons with them and see if they can get them support to do otherwise. If someone feels they are likely to have problems, it would be good to line up solutions before the baby even comes.

I too gave birth in a very family friendly hospital with mandatory rooming-in, nurses who were basically lactation consultants, free nipple cream etc. and when I got home I had several visits from the public health nurse who helped me with BF and told me about a BF hotline and support group, which I attend. But not everyone has access to those things... and they should, instead of having access to free formula.
Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali











I avoided the whole OB-formula-kickback-scam by using homebirth midwives for the second 2 babies. No formula bate and switch.

To the OP, yes, I think you should write a letter. It's underhanded for the OB office to continue to offer those formula freebies when they KNOW it undermines BFing. Proven fact. There's no maybe's about it. The World Health Organization condemns the practice. The freebies are intended to get the mother "hooked", to use the formula when she's having trouble BFing early on, and then once the BFing relationship is destroyed, you get no further coupons or freebies...it's full-price. Formula companies give those freebies out all over the developing world too...it's just wrong.
This particular situation doesn't bother me because I have no problem with formula.

But I do resent how the big pharm companies have doctors in their back pockets and how doctors offices are paid to push their crap on unsuspecting patients.

I can see the parallel between the meds and the formula, I guess.

I would have addressed it in person, though. The letter seems like you're considering filing a class action lawsuit against them or something equally drastic. Why not just a friendly one-on-one?
3b (with 3c tendencies) on modified CG


Last edited by spiderlashes5000; 02-01-2008 at 01:17 AM.
I think a letter is a bit much. If someone gave you a shirt in a size too bigm would you get mad at them for thinking you were bigger than you are? I would think of it as a JIC thign also. like, just in case something happened (God forbid), your baby woudln't go hungry. I mean, it's not like they signed you up for a case of the stuff- it's just a small sample! I thought it was thoughtful even though I was breastfeeding at the time. My gift bag came with a sample of formula, lotion, diaper rash cream, mittons and a Little Golden Book. It's not like the hospital is selling the formula and trying to sell it to you. They benefit nothing from whichever you choose to feed your baby. It was just a free sample. Maybe they should ask if you WOULD LIKE a free sample from now on so as not to offend some people???
A closed mind is a wonderful thing to lose.

"...you could have a turd on your head and no one would notice."~Subbrock

"I had an imaginary puppy, but my grandpa ate him."~Bailey
I think a letter is a bit much. If someone gave you a shirt in a size too bigm would you get mad at them for thinking you were bigger than you are? I would think of it as a JIC thign also. like, just in case something happened (God forbid), your baby woudln't go hungry. I mean, it's not like they signed you up for a case of the stuff- it's just a small sample! I thought it was thoughtful even though I was breastfeeding at the time. My gift bag came with a sample of formula, lotion, diaper rash cream, mittons and a Little Golden Book. It's not like the hospital is selling the formula and trying to sell it to you. They benefit nothing from whichever you choose to feed your baby. It was just a free sample. Maybe they should ask if you WOULD LIKE a free sample from now on so as not to offend some people???
Originally Posted by shelli
Lots of doctors are guilty of accepting kickbacks from the pharmaceutical companies to push certain drugs and products on the patient. That's where the "free samples" come from...pharm sales reps whose jobs is it to entice doctors to prescribe the stuff en masse.

And, less obviously, it was pretty standard for for-profit entities to sponsor and present information given to physicians at professional conferences. Now (as of just very recently), everyone who presents at medical seminars, etc., has to sign a release, naming their employer and who is paying them to present and who has provided the information they're presenting.
3b (with 3c tendencies) on modified CG

I am thinking letter just because when I speak about things that I am passionate about in person I tend to get a bit too excited. Getting things down in writing helps me keep my cool and not sound like a nut or someone on the verge of a class action lawsuit.

If you think freebies are no big deal, check out http://www.nofreelunch.org/ and http://banthebags.org/. Make no mistake, the companies that make the formula are big businesses with a very powerful lobby in Washington. They are not handing out formula samples and coupons out of the goodness of their hearts. All their ads may say "breastmilk is best..." (and I think they may be required to say it by law) but it would help their bottom line (and make them very happy) if every woman in the world either chose not to breastfeed or failed at it, and had to buy their products.

Formula is manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, and like Spiderlashes said, docs and hospitals do benefit from handing out free samples. They get plenty of kickbacks, not necessarily cash, but conference sponsorships, 'educational literature', conference sponsorships, free lunches, etc.
To Trenell, MizKerri and geeky:
I pray none of you ever has to live in a communist state.

Geeky is my hero. She's the true badass. The badass who doesn't even need to be a badass. There aren't enough O's in cool to describe her.

Last edited by geeky; 02-01-2008 at 06:23 AM.
ita with geeky and spiderlashes - not only are the doctors benefitting from the formula pushing but the formula companies publish booklets included with the bags that are filled with "breastfeeding tips". I was horrified when I read the one included in mine.

It had outright lies in there about feeding timed feedngs, okaying skipping feedings to give formula bottles (when mom should be pumping any time baby is eating a bottle), and other gems that would assure a mom would not succeed at breastfeeding long enough to establish a supply. Thus ensuring a customer for the formula company.


I always here the "but the samples are good, don't stop that" but believe me, I was getting cases of formula sent to my HOME and I didn't sign up for it. I'm pretty sure that motherhood and some other sites sold my name. If you want formula samples then they will find you believe me.

I do give the advice to first time nursing moms, do not keep the formula in the house. It makes it less likely that you'll be tempted to feed a bottle out of frustration. If there truly is a feeding emergency Walmarts are open 24/7 as are walgreens and you'll make the decision much more likely to be based on emergency rather than just nursing frustration. If you have the can in the house, you'll use it. Once you put anything but breastmilk in a baby the intestinal flora is changed (baby's intestines still have fissures at birth that are healed by breastmilk) so make sure that decision is one not taken lightly.

Like I said earlier, go to LLL meetings, keep the number of a LLL leader handy, a good lactation consultant and plan a followup LC visit for after you get home. Don't just think, "I'll try it" when it comes to breastfeeding.
After my c-section, my milk didn't come in for 6 days. Although I had made up my mind to breastfeed Lucas, I ended up being pretty thankful that I had those formula samples on hand so Lucas didn't go hungry while I waited for my milk to come in.

However, my bag was from Similac and basically contained NOTHING designed to support breastfeeding. I got lots of premade formula samples, a big can, a bunch of nipples that fit on the premade formula bottles and coupons for more formula and other random things. I can see how the bags are really a not-so-subtle endorsement of formula feeding.

I delivered at the hospital considered to be the most family friendly in Manhattan - and while the L&D area was wonderful, the post partum floor was an entirely different experience. They had no real lactation consultants, only poorly trained nurses who made me cry by telling me I was starving my baby, and that if my milk hadn't come in by then (the day after my surgery), it probably wasn't going to and that I should give up on breastfeeding. I was so stressed out and anxious, I'm sure this had something to do with how long it took my milk to come in - I've never cried so much in my life. They actively tried to undermine breastfeeding for me and I'm so glad I stuck with it. I've gotten so much more support from my son's pediatrician than those evil witches who were supposed to be "lactation consultants." Unfortunately, I think it goes a lot deeper than the bags.
3A / 2B / 2C wavicelli



My frame of reference is a little different because I didnn't step foot in a pediatricians office other than to confirm pregnancy at 6 weeks. I did get samples sent to my home - so I agree with the above poster. They find you.

That being said, I beleive in providing informed choice. I believe it's the doctor's responsibility to provide those choices in a way that's in line with what the medicial community supports. In the case of nutrition information & financial support via samples and coupons, the packet should be evaluated to include majority information b-feeding (and breastmilk if it isn't directly from the breast) and some info on how to use formula. It would be nice if LLL offered discounted memberships or books, or local lactician consultants offered free consultations or repeated visits as part of those packets.

But I do understand that these b-feeding supporters don't have the marketing machine and power of the formula companies. Definitely a david vs. goliath situation.

I liked having formula as a backup and I used it when needed. Lex decided he didn't want anymore formula so we're back to exclusively breastmilk.
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Join Date: Apr 2001
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I see a practice that has a couple of forward-thinking OBs and a couple of midwives. The hospital they deliver at is also relatively pro NCB. They routinely don't separate moms and babies at all and I've heard from the local LLL leader what great breastfeeding support they offer.

So I was pretty put off when the nurse handed me one of those stupid formula gift bags, without any sort of discussion about how I plan to feed my baby. I took the formula bottle out and gave it back and said I did not need it (I took the baggie because it was a nice toiletry bag and I am a whore. I just cut off all the Similac labels).

Now I am thinking I should write a letter telling them that I was disappointed, and that a FTM mom who is undecided would likely interpret that as their endorsement of formula over breastmilk, and surely they would not want to do that.

Would you do it? What would you say? Who do I address it to? The senior OB (that I never met)? The OB I did meet?
Originally Posted by geeky
even though i decided to breastfeed our son and he successfully latched on from the start after birth, i still brought home the formula packets that my hospital offered me. i didn't read anything negative into their offer other than that they are given the samples from the formula companies to offer new moms. i didn't have to take it. but i also didn't know how successful the breastfeeding would continue at home. in the end, i didn't have to use the formula; i gave the samples to a friend who was formula-feeding. no harm-no foul.

pick your battles. them offering you formula didn't take anything away from you. you already know that breastfeeding is the way you wish to go. i'd chalk it up to you getting a free bag out of it!
"Dogs stink too, but I like dog stink." ~ rileyb

Last edited by rainshower; 02-01-2008 at 07:57 AM.
I think a letter is a bit much. If someone gave you a shirt in a size too bigm would you get mad at them for thinking you were bigger than you are? I would think of it as a JIC thign also. like, just in case something happened (God forbid), your baby woudln't go hungry. I mean, it's not like they signed you up for a case of the stuff- it's just a small sample! I thought it was thoughtful even though I was breastfeeding at the time. My gift bag came with a sample of formula, lotion, diaper rash cream, mittons and a Little Golden Book. It's not like the hospital is selling the formula and trying to sell it to you. They benefit nothing from whichever you choose to feed your baby. It was just a free sample. Maybe they should ask if you WOULD LIKE a free sample from now on so as not to offend some people???
Originally Posted by shelli
The formula companies do! And at the hospital where I delivered, even though the maternity ward itself was fairly BF-friendly, when we went to the hospital tour, it was in a gorgeous glass atrium. At the break, Nestle reps were there handing out cereal, formula, candy bars etc. Turns out Nestle paid for the atrium and therefore had a deal that they could attend all the hospital tours for expecting parents.

A shirt in a size bigger is a whole different thing. I can change shirts and gain or lose weight whenever I want. I can't switch between formula and breast feeding - for most people, once you go to formula, it compromises your breast milk supply.

As to the "just in case" thing, for me, I am sure my husband and family would be capable of feeding JJ expressed BM until it runs out and then would have plenty of time to go and get formula if they have to. I don't need to have it in the house at this time. That's like having a vibrator around just in case something happens to my husband.
Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali











I see a practice that has a couple of forward-thinking OBs and a couple of midwives. The hospital they deliver at is also relatively pro NCB. They routinely don't separate moms and babies at all and I've heard from the local LLL leader what great breastfeeding support they offer.

So I was pretty put off when the nurse handed me one of those stupid formula gift bags, without any sort of discussion about how I plan to feed my baby. I took the formula bottle out and gave it back and said I did not need it (I took the baggie because it was a nice toiletry bag and I am a whore. I just cut off all the Similac labels).

Now I am thinking I should write a letter telling them that I was disappointed, and that a FTM mom who is undecided would likely interpret that as their endorsement of formula over breastmilk, and surely they would not want to do that.

Would you do it? What would you say? Who do I address it to? The senior OB (that I never met)? The OB I did meet?
Originally Posted by geeky
even though i decided to breastfeed our son and he successfully latched on from the start after birth, i still brought home the formula packets that my hospital offered me. i didn't read anything negative into their offer other than that they are given the samples from the formula companies to offer new moms. i didn't have to take it. but i also didn't know how successful the breastfeeding would continue at home. in the end, i didn't have to use the formula; i gave the samples to a friend who was formula-feeding. no harm-no foul.

pick your battles. them offering you formula didn't take anything away from you. you already know that breastfeeding is the way you wish to go. i'd chalk it up to you getting a free bag out of it!
Originally Posted by rainshower
I think though the point is that they are undermining the possibility of other women breast feeding who are not as informed or confident and that is what is wrong.
Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali











I am thinking letter just because when I speak about things that I am passionate about in person I tend to get a bit too excited. Getting things down in writing helps me keep my cool and not sound like a nut or someone on the verge of a class action lawsuit.

If you think freebies are no big deal, check out http://www.nofreelunch.org/ and http://banthebags.org/. Make no mistake, the companies that make the formula are big businesses with a very powerful lobby in Washington. They are not handing out formula samples and coupons out of the goodness of their hearts. All their ads may say "breastmilk is best..." (and I think they may be required to say it by law) but it would help their bottom line (and make them very happy) if every woman in the world either chose not to breastfeed or failed at it, and had to buy their products.

Formula is manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, and like Spiderlashes said, docs and hospitals do benefit from handing out free samples. They get plenty of kickbacks, not necessarily cash, but conference sponsorships, 'educational literature', conference sponsorships, free lunches, etc.
Originally Posted by geeky
Here's an interesting article on why they say "breast milk is best" and why that doesn't dissuade people from formula feeding. Formula companies are VERY sneaky.

http://www.het.brown.edu/people/kjp/...r_language.htm
Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali











Good article, Amneris. I'd seen it before.
To Trenell, MizKerri and geeky:
I pray none of you ever has to live in a communist state.

Geeky is my hero. She's the true badass. The badass who doesn't even need to be a badass. There aren't enough O's in cool to describe her.
I supplemented both of my kids with formula in the first days (my milk came in late with DS and my DD had lost 15% of her birth weight when we went home) but in both cases I was given bottles of ready-made formula by the Lactation Consultant AFTER we discussed my options (with DS I also got an SNS to use). They were very sensitive and supportive.

To me, this is the way that free samples of formula should be given - not snuck into a bag for a new mom which sends the message that "Here, you are going to need these".

I didn't pick up the freebie bag this time around so I have no idea what was in it. The fact of the matter is, the companies wouldn't be giving samples if it wasn't profitable for them to do so.


I don't agree. A doctor giving you something is, in most people's eyes, tantamount to his saying "this is what I think is the healthiest option for you." I've heard many people mistakenly say formula is just as good, or that the benefits of breastfeeding must be exaggerated because "I was formula fed and I turned out fine." So not everyone really understands that breast milk is best and the many reasons why. And in that case, a formula sample, especially from their doctor, might really just reinforce misconceptions.
thats exactly my point. if you let your dr choose whether or not you breastfeed then you deserve (for lack of a better word) to formula feed your baby. many many many people have been formula fed and indeed, turned out just fine. breastfeeding is a choice and regardless of how i feel about it i think people should be able to readily recieve samples of products, even if i choose not to use them. if a woman was offered a sample, she declined it, and somehow a nurse or dr made her take the sample then i think there needs to be a letter written. i like to think about the other side when making my decisions. of course we all feel the same way because we chose to breastfeed, but what if you knew from the start that you didnt want to breastfeed or that you simply couldnt. then that sample from would be greatly appreciated.
Originally Posted by subbrock
No one deserves to be misled by their doctor. I saw women get probably unnecessary c-sections because they just listened to and trusted their doctor, but I don't think they deserved to get cut open just because they weren't as educated about childbirth options.

Not everyone grows up in communities where they learn about breastfeeding, so they may not question the rhetoric of formula companies, or the free hand outs.

Does that mean their babies deserve an inferior start in life because their mothers didn't know better? Does that mean those babies deserve to get sick more and more seriously and have a higher chance of dying in infancy? Because that is true of formula-fed babies--they are more likely to get sick and die than a breastfed baby is. Do they deserve it? I don't think so.

I don't have a problem with samples for women who say they want them. I have a problem with the doctor just handing them out to everyone without even saying a word about breastfeeding. Because we all know breastfeeding is far better for both mother and baby. It's not like giving someone a free shirt. It's influencing an important choice because the doctor gets kickbacks. Doctors should be more concerned about their patients than about things like kickbacks.

rainshower's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 6,000
a friend who i gave my formula samples to resorted to formula after her baby self-weaned at 6 months. though they were samples, she came to like that brand, and that's what she ended up giving him.

there are also lots of mothers who only plan to breastfeed during maternity leave, with no desire to pump at after returning to work (2 of my nieces, a friend, a few colleagues). so they had to have formula brands in mind. there are also mothers who stay at home and also have no plans to breastfeed beyond the first month or two before transitioning to formula.

there are also lots of mothers who naturally don't produce an abundant amount of milk, and who supplement with formula.

now maybe the way the nurse gave you the bag of formula put you off. maybe she could have been more professional. maybe she shouldn't have assumed that you'd want to take advantage of the samples. that's an issue with her bedside manner moreso than with formula itself.

formula isn't a demon product.

i'm an advocate for women doing what's best for their situation. and i hate for mothers who use formula to feel that they are being measured up by others who didn't choose formula. that's what's wrong. and i just don't believe that there are women who are making formula choices because no one informed them about breastmilk, when they could so easily have educated themselves. you can check out books and videos for free at the library. it ain't rocket science.
"Dogs stink too, but I like dog stink." ~ rileyb

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