U.S. hospitals are giving away less free infant formula with hopes to encourage new moms to breastfeed

Lynn Griffith
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Many mothers are choosing to breastfeed their children to provide them with benefits that go beyond nutrition.  Breast milk not only contains all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs during the first stages of life, but is also packed with immune boosting and disease fighting substances.  Studies also show that breastfeeding is good for the mother’s health too. (1)

Numerous studies show that babies who are breastfed have a lower incidence of stomach viruses, lower respiratory illness, ear infections and meningitis.  Breastfeeding can even protect against illnesses after infancy.  Studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of developing childhood cancers, and avoid diseases that develop later in life such as diabetes, high cholesterol and inflammatory bowel disease. (1)

Hospitals are giving away less free formula and spending more time and effort on encouraging breastfeeding

This may be one of the reasons why hospitals are giving away less free infant formula.  A new study found that U.S. hospitals are trying to encourage new mothers to breastfeed by reducing the amount of free formula they supply. (2)

Hospitals are gradually moving away from providing formula stuffed gift bags for new mothers.  Only about one-third of hospitals distributed free formula in 2013.  This has decreased 73 percent since 2007.  Researchers reviewed data from surveys sent to all U.S. hospitals and birth centers every two years to see whether women went home with free formula.  More than 98 percent of the hospitals responded to the surveys. (2)

They found that the hospitals who deliver the most babies also have the most dramatic decreases in free formula giveaways. (2)

Many mothers desire to breastfeed and struggle with the guilt that is attached to their inability.  As a result of the pro-breastfeeding movement, mothers whose bodies won’t allow them to breastfeed struggle with sadness and guilt.  Some women may choose adoption or foster care due to a variety of reasons and may face the judgmental glances of those who don’t know.  Other mothers may want nothing more than to breastfeed, but their milk supply is not enough to feed their child.

If you are not a breastfeeding mother, consider healthy alternatives to formula

If you desire to provide your child breast milk, but you do not have a milk supply for whatever reason, there may be options to help avoid formula.  First, you may want to see if there is a donor bank in your area.  Currently, there are only 12 donor banks in the United States, so this may not be a viable option.  Some women will choose to use a friend or family member’s oversupply of milk. (3)

Another option is wet nursing or cross nursing.  This is often used and supported during natural disasters.  This is when a mother will pay another mother to exclusively breastfeed her child.  This is often done between friends and families.  In poorer economic situations, if a baby is found without a mother, another breastfeeding mother in the community will take over feedings for the child.(3)

If a milk bank or utilizing another mother’s breast milk is not an option, consider the use of goat milk.  Goat’s milk is similar to human milk and has been proven to be closest to breast milk.  Goat milk is low in iron, folate, and Vitamin C and D just like breast milk.  It does not contain allergens found in cow’s milk.  Alternating between goat’s milk and breast milk is a great option when trying to increase your milk supply. (4)

If your child is exclusively feeding on goat milk, make sure to add an infant vitamin to the milk in order to assure that they are getting all the necessary nutrients found in breast milk. (4)

Regardless of any mother’s choice of how and what to feed their child, they need support, not judgment.  Remember that every mother, father, and baby are different.  They have different personalities, healthy issues, finances and hurdles to cross.  Instead of the judgmental eye, try giving an encouraging statement to mothers who are just trying to do their best.

Sources for this article include:
(1) www.babycenter.com
(2) www.reviewjournal.com
(3) www.howtolearn.com
(4) www.breastfeedingwomen.com

Image source: flic.kr

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