Are Hospital Goodie Bags Sabotaging Breastfeeding?

Are the freebies you are given in hospital when your baby is born sabotaging breastfeeding?

Some people are campaigning for hospitals to remove the freebies new mother’s are given when they have their baby.

Free things for the babySo, what are usually contained in these goodie bags?

  • Free diapers
  • Free samples of baby wash
  • Formula samples and/or coupons
  • Coupons for other baby products

Some say the formula coupons and samples are sabotaging breastfeeding. I’m not so sure.

I could argue that giving free diapers is also sabotaging cloth diapering. Is it?

As new mothers we do have the right to choose. We also have the obligation to educate ourselves about breastfeeding.

Personally I was given a lot of formula coupons – in France formula feeding is the norm. Did these coupons ever entice me? No. Did I keep them? No.

Did I read about breastfeeding? Yes.

Even in France where the number of women breastfeeding past 3months is the lowest in Europe (in spite of having the highest birthrate) there were free classes provided by midwives on breastfeeding leading up to the birth.

We have access to information. A lot of information.

Shouldn’t we be educating pregnant mothers about breastfeeding rather than blaming the hospitals for giving goodie bags?

34 Responses to Are Hospital Goodie Bags Sabotaging Breastfeeding?

  1. I didn’t get a goodie bag 🙁

    But it wasn’t because I didn’t get one and didn’t get any coupons or free samples that I didn’t chose to formula feed my baby. I chose breast because it is best and I believe in giving my baby the best start in life possible.

    The hospital where I had originally planned to give birth (Croix Rousse in Lyon) gave free seminars and invited lactation specialists and support groups into the hospital and on the maternity wards. My choice was made after attending a meeting when I was 3 months pregnant.

    • I don’t think it’s either or. In fact, I strongly believe that it should be both – YES support breastfeeding (and I mean pay more than lip service to it), and NO do not send mixed messages by saying “we support breastfeeding but don’t worry, here’s some formula just in case” (the subtext being “so many women are not successful that we think you may well need this formula” and “we would rather you just used formula than expect us to help you with breastfeeding”).

      • Ameena Falchetto says:

        The goodie bag I was given was clearly branded by the companies who paid for the bag and majority of the content – I *think* it was a formula company so I KNEW it was nothing to do with the hospital and I demanded help with breastfeeding.

        Pulling the bags won’t solve the problem without making more access to information.

        • “Pulling the bags won’t solve the problem without making more access to information.”

          I agree completely – that’s why I think we need both. As breastfeeding guru Dr Jack Newman has said, putting pressure on mums to breastfeeding without giving them the support to succeed is just cruel.

          • Ameena Falchetto says:

            Yes that is so true. Putting pressure without support is cruel. Saying that I had no support after 6 days PP and I suffered so much – The pressure I put on myself was immense and that’s what kept me going. I emailed Jack and he replied almost immediately – he’s an amazing person.

    • Ameena Falchetto says:

      You got a SERIOUSLY raw deal – you didn’t get ANYTHING?

  2. Congrats on the sleep, it must feel wonderful! The bottom line is things are culturally based. I feel breast is best so that is what I did, but if you big-picture it, are those children stupider? Malnourished? Disadvantaged? Probably not. So to each their own.

    • Ameena Falchetto says:

      Well, I am a formula fed baby and I can tell you I am a genius 🙂
      I don’t think a formula sample is really going to make a mother stop breastfeeding if she really wanted to make it work.

  3. Before I even got pregnant, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. Now, at 28 weeks pregnant, I just completed by childbirth classes (in the US). Breastfeeding was covered much more than formula feeding. Our teacher even reminded us to check with our insurance companies, as many of them will help cover the cost of a breast pump. I also know that the nurses in the hopsital where I plan to deliver are very helpful with breastfeeding.

    I’m sure there will be formula samples or coupons in the bag the hospital sends home with me, and I know I will get samples or coupons in the mail after giving birth, since creating a baby registry at any store puts you on the formula companies’ mailing lists, but just becaues I get them doesn’t mean I have to use them.

    I think that as long the hospital doesn’t ONLY encourage formula feeding the samples are relatively harmless. It’s up to individual mothers to make their own choices.

    • Ameena Falchetto says:

      You are so right! That is great that you got so much info on breastfeeding! Hoping the last few weeks of your pregnancy go smoothly! 🙂

  4. I agree. I like the goody bags. Even though I never used the formula samples or coupons I gave them to people who did and it helped them. I wish that breastfeeding companies would give coupons. Free sample of lanolin creme, breast pads, coupon for breast milk storage bags. There are lots of opportunities here that aren’t being seized.

    • The goody bag I got from motherhood maternity had a sample of lanolin cream from one of the bf companies as well as formula. I think they’re starting to figure it out.

    • Ameena Falchetto says:


      I did get a free sample of lanolin in my bag and it was a lifesaver! But yes, breast pads would have been great oh and actually pads too – I had no idea how many I would need and I sent DH off to the supermarket a few times to stock up.

      It would be great to see more breastfeeding products in the bag – I don’t get why they don’t include a small catalogue of nursing bras too – I struggled to find them in France and ended up ordering from abroad.

  5. How hard is it to say “no thanks” or to toss the coupon for the formula?

    I get handed flyers to sales I don’t want to shop at, samples from “beauty” kiosks that I don’t want (and I especially loved the time they gave one to my TWO YEAR OLD), catalogs from stores I have no interest in ordering from, and coupons for items I have no need for. Purchasing the sunday paper for the coupons doesn’t require me to purchase every item for which a coupon is present. Much as I can with the formula coupon, I choose to discard the detritus, keeping only what is actively useful to me.

    I’m pro breastfeeding. I hope to successfully bf #2 for 6-12 months (or whatever ends up working out for us…if she’s still doing some nursing at 2 and it works for us, so be it…but the first 6 are what matter most to me). But if it doesn’t work out (and I have multiple personal reasons it might…health conditions, potential medication conflicts, etc) then #2 will be fine on formula, just as her older sister did BETTER on formula because she was allergic to my milk (and my crappy supply almost dried up entirely when I tried the elimination diet—plus I was miserable bordering on suicidal because of ppd–fun times).

    In our effort to educate and to help, let’s not deprive our sisters of other, perfectly legitimate choices.

    I can assure you that when I taught 6th grade, I could tell who had loving and involved parents. I could NOT tell you who’d been breast vs bottle fed.

    At least within the US (where I”m from), I think there are far greater things to be fighting over. Like the lack of reasonable maternity/paternity leave. Or the lack of support for pumping moms. Or or or.

    In Singapore (where I live) there’s the fact that you can get fired for getting pregnant for starters.

    Formula samples? Not a priority.

    • Ameena Falchetto says:

      I have to agree with you. I’d like to think that by the time a woman goes to have her baby in a hospital she’s already done the research or at least THOUGHT about how she is going to feed her baby. I don’t think a goodie bag is going to throw all that out the window is it – really?

  6. I dont think a freebie in a hospital bag would convince me to change my mind on something as fundamental as this–I might decide on a different brand of wipes or creams but not whether to breast feed or not! Interesting debate though.

    • Ameena Falchetto says:

      Yes, I use BiPs shower gel because I got a sample in the hospital and well, it takes me right back to when she was born!

  7. I’m so glad you covered this! I’m in the USA and knew when I got pregnant that I wanted to breast feed. There was plenty of information available and lots of support (my hospital offered free LC support for a year). The hospital also sent me home with a goodie bag from the formula company. I am glad they did!

    My milk took a couple of days to come in and in that time Graham got jaundiced and lost a lot of weight. The pediatrician suggested we give him as much milk as I could express, then give him a little formula. If I had paid for the formula during those first couple of weeks, a lot less of it would have ended up down the sink. Because I had plenty of free formula, I felt fine about “wasting” an ounce here or there, and giving the human milk first. By the time the free formula ran out, my supply was up to the point where he didn’t need any supplementation and everybody was happy.

    Obviously, breast is best. But, that doesn’t necessarily make formula poison. It’s a second choice, and when you need it to ensure your baby’s health and you’re feeling pretty overwhelmed, there is nothing wrong with getting some for free. Just my humble thoughts…

    • Ameena Falchetto says:

      Thanks for sharing – it’s always interesting to hear a breastfeeding mothers perspective on it.

  8. When I first saw a post about this, it sort of set me off, and I was talking to the husband about it. The thing is, while I grew up around breastfeeding, most of my info was still acquired by my own research. Yes, Nestle sucks, and hospitals endorsing a specific brand of formula sucks… But also, moms who don’t bother to research all of their options, well, suck. Because I spent my ENTIRE PREGNANCY reading books and magazines and articles and message boards and cramming like I was about to take my final exams (which I suppose I was!). The truth is, if one bag of formula samples sabotages you, you were probably going to fail anyway. I had a can or two of formula in my home from the time Sebastian was born until a couple months ago and it never even crossed my mind to open it.

    • Ameena Falchetto says:

      I have to agree with you Janine. It’s like saying having a jar of baby food in the house will stop you doing BLW or if you have disposable diapers you’ll never EC or cloth diaper.

      We have an obligation to educate ourselves and make choices. Make that information welcoming, available, and widespread. Don’t blame the goodie bags!

  9. The point of the formula samples in the goody bags is for the mom to hopefully turn to them when the breastfeeding gets tough. What they know is that even a few bottles of formula will reduce the mom’s supply, exasperating whatever issue it was that drove the mom to turn to the samples in the first place. And then the mom uses more formula, and her supply starts to dwindle. And once the damage is done, it is VERY difficult to get one’s milk back. Which is unlike cloth diapering- you can start cloth at any point!

    • Ameena Falchetto says:

      Ok, you do have a point. I do think that if a woman IS that easily persuaded then the bottles aren’t going to make a huge difference. When I was in the hospital with bleeding cracked nipples yelping every time BiP latched on and crying during every feed the midwife offered formula and I said no. Weeks later when I was having the same issues and BiP threw up pink from the damage on my nipples I never once thought to send out DH to buy formula even though I had a stack of coupons and the midwives and my doctor were saying maybe I should. I’d like to think my story isn’t that rare. Maybe it is.

      • The sad thing is it IS rare, though I have the same story! I grew up in a supportive environment (my mom was the Director of a Birth Center) and knew that it would all get better with patience. Not a single one of my friends was successful with breastfeeding, though, because they all listened to their doctors, who told them that 1) the baby needed formula while they waited for their milk to come in, and/or 2) that a few bottles of formula while they let their nipples heal wouldn’t be harmful. They didn’t have the background or knowledge to know that what their doctors were saying was wrong. Having the formula on hand that came home in their goody bag made it that much easier for them to make a bottle. It’s really sad that the current generation of birthing moms doesn’t have the benefit of growing up around breastfeeding, both in terms of getting support/wisdom, and making it a natural/comfortable thing to do.

  10. 3 things – if the formula bags made NO difference at all to breastfeeding rates / formula uptake, the formula companies wouldn’t be giving them out.

    2 – studies have been done that show that mothers given free formula in hospital do, in fact, tend to wean less.

    3 – it’s not “free” formula. The cost of the formula is passed onto the consumer in the form of higher prices.

  11. Um that shouldve said wean SOONER not less lol 🙂

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