Maternity wards are shunning the once-ubiquitous goody bags of formula samples, saying they enable new moms to give up on breast-feeding too soon, according to a report in the New York Times. There are statewide bans on formula freebies in Massachusetts — opposed by former Governor Mitt Romney, vote accordingly — and Rhode Island, 24 Oklahoma hospitals have agreed to a ban, and 28 out of 40 New York City hospitals have agreed to store formula samples in a locked cabinet until requested by new parents, thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s nanniest nanny-state program ever, “Latch On, NYC.”
According to the Times, everyone, including formula companies, agrees that breast milk and breast milk alone will guarantee your kid is an allergy-free genius. But formula companies invest a lot of time and money in their relationships with hospitals to be sure they’re the brand sitting around the house when moms get tired of breast-feeding. “The question is whether samples tempt mothers who could breast-feed exclusively for the recommended six months to use formula when they’re exhausted or discouraged if nursing proves difficult,” the Times writes. It’s more than a little insidious that hospitals are offering free marketing for formula companies. But it also seems weird that formula continues to be talked about as if it’s a gateway drug for lazy parenting, and not just the only existing solution to the biological injustice of one parent being saddled with all feeding duties for the first year of a child’s life. And often longer, if the division of parental duties becomes habit and routine.