Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pandora's Box: Free Hospital Discharge Bags of infant formula--part 1-

                               NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY by ROBERT FROST

                                     "Nature's first green is gold.
                                      Her hardest hue to hold.
                                      Her early leaf's a flower;
                                      But only so an hour.
                                      Then leaf subsides to leaf.
                                      So Eden sank to grief,
                                      So dawn goes down to day.
                                      Nothing gold can stay."

Remember the story of Pandora's box?  According to Greek mythology, Pandora was given a beautiful jar (the box) and told not to open it under any circumstances.  Pandora opened it and all evil escaped onto the earth.  Pandora expected that Zeus would be angry over her disobedience.  But Zeus was not angry because he knew what she would do with the box.  Yes, she was set-up by Zeus. (women in religion and myth seem to bare the responsibility for evil on earth)  

We have our own modern day Pandora's box.  It is exemplified in the hospital gift bags given to  new breastfeeding mothers in which infant formula is part of the gift.  A new mother intending to breastfeed her baby takes home this gift and is "expected" to not use it.  Like Pandora it is a set-up.  There really is no expectation by the gift-giver (Mead Johnson or any other infant formula company) that the gift will not be opened.  And like the Greek myth of Pandora, the woman is blamed for "giving-in" and succumbing to the temptation of using infant formula.  Yet someone set her up and it wasn't Zeus.  Obviously the set up was staged by the infant formula industry.  But this recent event also has a more repugnant aspect to it in that these gift bags have the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) logo.  Thus the implication is that this gift is endorsed by American pediatricians.  Likewise the receiving of a gift by a medical facility implies endorsement of a product.  Of course, mothers ought to ask themselves what other products does the hospital give out free?  Not much--ask for a band-aid or a sanitary pad in a hospital--and then look at your itemized hospital bill.  Yeah sticker shock.  So giving out free formula from a hospital must mean that they think ya really need it cause nothing is free in American hospitals.  In fact I remember a teen mom I worked with to help her with breastfeeding.  She assumed that the case of free formula she was given meant that the medical staff believed that she "needed" it.  In fact it was the reason for my lactation visit--she thought she had to use the formula--like it was a prescription from the medical staff/hospital.  

I was glad to read that the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine wrote an email to Dr. Thomas K. McInerny, President of the Amercian Academy of Pediatrics.  The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is composed of physicians supportive of breastfeeding.  They urged that AAP discontinue its relationship with Mead Johnson.  Hm....think that might be a little difficult since Dr. Thomas K McInerny, President of the AAP is the Editorial Advisory Board Chair for Pediatric Care Online sponsored by Mead Johnson. 

 There is a belief by some people that formula gift bags in the hospital do not impact breastfeeding.  I hear this on formula feeding blogs and there seems to be some resistance by hospitals to discontinue this practice.  In a very interesting research paper entitled, "Marketing Breastfeeding--Reversing Corporate Influence on Infant Feeding Practices," by Deborah L. Kaplan and Kristina M. Graff published in 2008 by the Journal of Urban Health:  Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine;  the authors state, "In 11 studies selected for review by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), seven found that for at least one point in time, breastfeeding rates were lower among women who received formula company-produced discharge packs and/or formula or formula coupons from hospitals, as compared to women who received non commerical packs or no packs at all."

The research paper also states "Adequate food and nutrition are basic human rights. The widespread promotion of infant formula, which provides suboptimal infant nourishment, and lack of community, institutional, and government support for breastfeeding, all undermine this right."

Pandora's box sits on the hospital bed waiting to be taken home by the new breastfeeding mother.  Will she open it or not?  What do you expect she will do? Zeus knows.
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain




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