There is a hullabaloo happening as hospitals all over the United States are “banning the bags”, basically saying that infant formula samples should not be handed out to each new mother in hospitals.
Words like “choice” are being thrown around.
Choice is what a mother chooses to do, what a mother wants to do, and what a mother sets out to do. Her choice is her initial goal. Statistics show us that most moms at most hospitals want to breastfeed, and that their breastfeeding goals are measured in months rather than in days.
Statistics also show that large numbers of those moms who have “made their choice” are unable to go through with their choice. They crash headfirst into barriers, are sucked under by booby traps, are sabotaged by misinformation and a lack of support.
When a woman has a goal and is given a gift that lowers her chances of succeeding at that goal, that is not “choice”, that is sabotage.
If a woman pays a lot of money to go to a weight loss clinic where she is given gift bags full of sample sized candy bars and coupons for snack foods in a trendy little bag with a token nod to her goal in the form of an inexpensive food scale for counting calories.. That is not “choice” that is sabotage.
Hospitals are not banning formula, they are banning the practice of handing out gifts that undermine a choice that mom already made. Hopefully they are also handing meaningful support with follow-up options for moms that are struggling. Hopefully they are handing out meaningful expectations on how long it might take for mom and baby to get into a groove. Hopefully they are handing out the tools that moms need to follow through with their choice.
When mom has made the choice to formula feed, formula is still available. When mom or baby have a health condition that makes formula necessary.. Formula is still available. It is just treated differently and with the respect that it deserves as something that can save a baby’s life when needed rather than something that is handed out in pretty little bags to moms who said that they really don’t want to use it and they want to make breastfeeding work.
When formula is available to mothers who wish to formula feed and to mothers who need to formula feed, and when it is not being handed out to moms that do not wish to formula feed… Whose choice does that remove?
Look beyond the rhetoric. The ban on the bags doesn’t remove choice from anyone other than the formula marketing companies that want those bags on the nightstand of every single woman who struggles for a minute.
The ban of the bags, the push to make education and support readily available, and the public awareness campaigns that are happening are not intended to remove the choice of mothers. Rather, they are intended to chip away at the damage done by decades of overzealous formula marketing that has gone unchecked and that has sabotaged the efforts and wishes of many women in this country.
Choice happens when women have access to the education, the means, the knowledge and the support to make the decision that they feel is best. Choice does not happen when we shy away from providing education that might be seen as “judgy” of mothers who had their choice removed. Choice does not happen when free samples are given to moms that sabotage their efforts.
Statistics say that moms want to breastfeed. Statistics also say that most moms “fail”. How is it giving women a “choice” when we give them gifts that sabotage their chances rather than gifts that maximize them?
Choice is what a mother decides, not what she is pulled into by a free gift in a moment of self doubt.