News: Hospitals sending new mothers mixed messages

October 1, 2008

Most hospitals give samples of baby formula to new mothers undermining breastfeeding.

Most hospitals in the eastern U.S. states give samples of baby formula to new mothers when they are discharged, according to a report published in the September issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Anne Merewood, of Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues conducted a study of 1,295 hospitals in 21 eastern states and the District of Columbia to ascertain their policies on the distribution of sample packs of infant formula, using telephone interviews based on a prepared script.

Formula samples were distributed by 94% of the hospitals contacted, although there were regional trends, the researchers report. For example, the proportion in New Hampshire was 70.4%, versus 100% in New Jersey, Maryland, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. However, from 1979 to 2006, there was a decline in the proportion of hospitals that distribute formula samples, they note.

Merewood A, Fonrose R, Singleton M, et al. From Maine to Mississippi: hospital distribution of formula sample packs along the eastern seaboard. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162:823-827.