Sorry Lactivists, Formula Samples From The Hospital Aren’t The Problem

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new baby gift bagPersonally, I’m pretty proud of my breastfeeding record. When my daughter was born, I did tried very hard to breastfeed for the first six months. I was committed to giving my daughter the best I could, and I knew that meant nursing. When my milk supply was low, I followed literally every tip I could find. I would pump immediately after breastfeeding. I tried every natural remedy my pediatrician approved.

The main problem, according to the numerous lactation consultants I talked to, was that I had returned to work when my daughter was three weeks old. Even though I pumped while I worked, I simply couldn’t take enough pumping breaks to mimic how often my daughter would feed. As a result, my milk supply was always low.

Returning to work three weeks after giving birth wasn’t a choice I made because I was super dedicated to my job. I wish that I could’ve spent more time at home with my little one. But as a single mother who was trying to support a new daughter, I didn’t have a lot of options. Returning to work was a necessity. And it’s also part of the reason that I had to start using formula when my daughter was 3 months old and I just wasn’t providing enough breastmilk. I kept nursing for three more months, but I also supplemented so that my daughter was getting as much nutrition as she needed.

In my circumstance, I believe that a paid maternity leave would’ve helped me to breastfeed through the first year of my daughter’s life.

You wanna know what didn’t have any impact at all on whether or not I breastfed? Formula samples from the hospital. Yes, I’m sure that I got them. I’m pretty sure that the hospitals in my area still give them out to every new mother. And I know that breastfeeding supporters wish that they didn’t.

Last week in the New York Times, one op-ed contributor complained about “Maternity Ward Swag.” She thinks that hospitals should be refusing to give out formula samples that might entice new moms to start supplementing right away, instead of giving time for their breastmilk to come in.

The funniest thing about this piece is that the author admits, “The truth is that for many women in the United States, where paid maternity leave and workplace support for pumping are rare, and where breast-feeding in public is stigmatized, formula is the easier choice. Many don’t have the option to breast-feed as long or as much as they would like.” Her conclusion from this fact isn’t that we should support women who want to pump or fight for paid maternity leave. Instead, she wants to reduce the availability of formula, which is admittedly easier.

Am I the only one who thinks that this logic is a little backwards? Instead of making breastfeeding easier, we’ll just stop giving as much access to formula early on in hopes that people won’t resort to it? I’m sorry, but the formula samples aren’t the problem. Having a sample of Enfamil isn’t going to change the mind of a mother who is really committed to nursing. And if a woman has a hard enough time with breastfeeding, she’ll go out and buy the Similac herself.

Putting energy into removing free samples from hospitals is a waste for those who really want to promote breastfeeding. Focus on providing support for women who are struggling. Fight for better maternity care and policies, so that women can spend more time at home with their new ones. Put pressure on businesses to provide support for their nursing employees. By all means, fight to help mothers breastfeed. But worrying about samples of formula is misdirected anger.

Readers, what do you think? Are formula samples really the problem here?