Study: Most hospitals still give new moms formula packs

November 1, 2008

Hospitals in the Eastern US are still distributing formula samples to new mothers.

Though hospitals increasingly are not distributing formula samples to new mothers, doing so is still the norm, at least in the Eastern US.

To determine the proportion of hospitals that distribute free infant formula sample packs, investigators obtained information from 1,295 hospitals in 21 eastern states and the District of Columbia. As of March 2007, 98% of these hospitals distributed sample packs to new mothers, though patterns varied by state and region. The proportion of hospitals that distributed such packs ranged from 70.4% (New Hampshire) to 100% (New Jersey, Maryland, Mississippi, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia).

Of 80 hospitals that did not provide sample packs, 20 reported eliminating them before 2000, and 60 said they discontinued the practice since that time. The proportion of bag-free hospitals rose significantly between 1979 and 2006, and hospitals that dropped them tended to be in focused areas. For example, of 15 hospitals that abandoned sample packs in 2006, five were in New England and five in New York.

Commentary

With a renewed focus on the relationship between physicians, patients, and pharma-ceutical companies, justifying the practice of distributing formula company gift bags to mothers of breastfeeding babies will become increasingly difficult. The practice is not sanctioned by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and some evidence suggests that it is not in the best interest of the baby. Once again, there is no free lunch.

DR. BURKE, section editor for Journal Club, is chairman of the department of pediatrics at Saint Agnes Hospital, Baltimore. He is a contributing editor for Contemporary Pediatrics. He has nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with, or financial interests in, any organization that may have an interest in any part of this article.