PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Erin Hill, of Plum, breast fed exclusively for nine months, then transitioned to formula. She was glad to have the formula on hand.
“Because I tried and so desperately wanted to hang on to the breast feeding,” she says. “It was kind of like, ‘He needs milk for tomorrow! What are we going to do?’ So I was lucky to have something in the house.”
At Magee Women’s Hospital, new parents are no longer sent home with a bag of free formula. The hospital stopped doing this to urge mothers to breast feed instead for the nutritional benefits, immune system building and bonding.
St. Clair Hospital still offers formula samples. So does West Penn Hospital along with education and consultation with a lactation specialist.
“Most of our patients choose to breast feed if they can. They’re very motivated to do that,” says Dr. Eugene Scioscia, an obstetrician/gynecologist at West Penn Hospital.
Some say free formula leads to women giving up on breast feeding sooner and some nurses say they feel like formula salespeople by giving away the freebies.
But having formula available could be important in certain situations, such as with premature babies in intensive care and if a mother is on medications that would make it unwise to breast feed.
“We need to look at this very carefully,” says Dr. Scioscia, “because it does come down to a matter of individuals and choices and each patient should have their management no matter what care we give to them tailored to that specific patient.”
Erin Hill’s choice to breast feed was based on what she felt was best for her family. She sees the choice not to breast feed just as valid.
“The breast feeding and not breast feeding is similar to the stay at home mom, working mom thing.”
Massachusetts and Rhode Island already ban hospitals from giving out formula filled diaper bags. This week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is asking hospitals there to keep formula locked up, and to buy their supplies instead of accepting free samples from formula makers.