Should Hospitals Ban Formula from the Maternity Ward?

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Though some hospitals have already banned formula from the maternity ward, new research performed by UC Davis found that mothers who feed their newborns formula in the hospital are less likely to fully breastfeed their babies – and are more likely to quit breastfeeding early.

The research, titled In-Hospital Formula Shortens Breastfeeding Duration, included only women who intended to exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least a week (which meant that they had no plans to use formula in the hospital). The study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, examined 210 babies in the UC Davis Medical Center; 183 received at least some formula. Over the next two months, breastfeeding rates dropped dramatically in the formula-fed group.

Researchers found that between the first and second month, 68 percent of the babies that received in-hospital formula were not fully breastfed. They compared that against the 37 percent of babies who were exclusively breastfed in the hospital. At two months old, 33 percent of the formula babies were not being breastfeed at all and only 10 percent of the hospital breastfed group had stopped breastfeeding. Interestingly enough, researchers involved in the study found that breastfeeding deterrence was dose-dependent, which basically means that the more formula given to babies during their hospital stay, the less likely mom is to continue breastfeeding. It, maybe inadvertently, raises the question: Should formula be banned?

Though it’s completely controversial — and every mom needs to do what’s best for her and baby, first and foremost, Caroline Chantry, the lead author on the study and also the professor of clinical pediatrics at UC Davis Medical Center says, “We are a step closer to showing that giving formula in the hospital can cause problems by reducing how much women breastfeed later. Despite being highly motivated to breastfeed their babies, in-hospital formula use limits this important practice. Given the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby, this is a public health issue.”

The moms in the study indicated that there were a number of reasons their babies were fed formula in the hospital, the most common being that they worried they worried producing enough milk. Others worried that their babies weren’t getting enough nutrition and that baby’s latch was wrong. Chantry believes that these types of issues could be handled in a more meaningful way for mothers: Better education and support. But she also admitted that sometimes, formula is medically necessarily. In those instances, absolutely, positively should a mother get the resources and formula she and baby need.

“These results underline the importance of providing comprehensive support for women who wish to breastfeed,” adds Chantry. “Doctors and nurses must be trained to help, and lactation consultants must be readily available. We need to do more to help mothers overcome breastfeeding obstacles and limit formula use.”

Do you think hospitals need to offer new moms better support when it comes to nursing?

Plus, more from The Bump:

Breastfeeding Advice Your Hospital Won’t Give You

Top 10 Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms

“What I Wish I Knew About Breastfeeding”