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Hospitals encouraging new mothers to breastfeed by scrapping free formula programs


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(NaturalNews) A major shift seems to be taking place in how the conventional medical system views appropriate feeding protocols for newborns. A recent study found that many hospitals across the country are now ditching free infant formula handouts in an attempt to encourage new mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies rather than pump them up with soy protein, corn syrup solids, and other processed additives.

Published in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics, the paper looked at the prevalence of hospitals and birth centers distributing infant formula discharge packs to breastfeeding mothers in the U.S. between 2007 and 2013. They discovered that almost across the board, hospitals are implementing new no-formula protocols to promote breastfeeding over infant formula.

Epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Nelson, M.D., and her colleagues evaluated data from the Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care survey, which is administered every two years to all hospitals with registered maternity beds. The survey includes questions about how many infant formula discharge packs are distributed to new mothers before these women are discharged from the hospital.

With a nearly 98 percent response rate, the survey is considered a highly credible indicator of infant formula distribution trends among hospitals and birth centers. Based on the responses gathered, the team calculated that infant formula distribution rates dropped by an astounding 41 percent between 2007 and 2013, falling from 72.6 percent to 31.6 percent.

Similarly, teaching hospitals have almost completely abandoned the practice, with only 5.5 percent of them giving out free formula in 2013. Six years prior in 2007, 63 percent of teaching hospitals handed out free infant formula.

The most dramatic decline occurred at hospitals with the highest numbers of babies delivered. In 2013, less than 12 percent of high-volume delivery hospitals handed out free infant formula. In this case, "high volume" refers to hospitals that deliver at least 5,000 babies annually.

Infant formula companies are just like Big Pharma: they give free samples to hospitals to gain customers

A major issue with handing out free infant formula to new mothers is that it encourages these women to avoid breastfeeding their children, maintain researchers. Nearly 80 percent of new mothers start out breastfeeding their children, according to the data. However, after about one week following birth, 25 percent of these drop off and begin using formula instead.

"Hospitals and health care systems are places we look to for guidance on health," says Dr. Jennifer Nelson, lead author of the study and a researcher at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as quoted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "When hospitals distribute formula to breastfeeding mothers, it signals that formula feeding is as good as breastfeeding."

Part of the problem is that infant formula companies actively distribute samples to hospitals as a way to boost sales and establish brand loyalty, essentially exploiting new mothers who don't know any better. The practice is akin to how Big Pharma hands out drug samples to doctors, who then pass these drugs on to their unwitting patients.

"The first few months of breastfeeding are highly dependent on the delivery hospital experience and the connection to community support," adds Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a professor of pediatrics at Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey, who wasn't involved in the study. "Evidence shows that providing new mothers with free formula in hospitals or as part of discharge packs (free gifts) decreases overall and exclusive breastfeeding."

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