baby formula, breastfeeding

New Mothers at a U.K. Hospital Will Have to Buy Their Baby Formula

November 20, 2008 02:01 PM
by Emily Coakley
As worldwide encouragement of breastfeeding continues, one hospital plans to sell formula, not supply it, though officials there call the decision a cost-cutting measure.

Formula for £5

A U.K. hospital will stop supplying formula to new babies, the Rochdale Observer reported this week. It is the first hospital in Britain to do so, the Daily Mail said.

Formula for a baby’s first feeding would be available for free, and parents would not be allowed to bring in bottles and formula, the papers said.

The move could save the hospital up to £30,000 ($48,000) each year. The plan is supposed to be gradually instituted starting in January.

Hospital officials denied charges that they were working toward World Health Organization accreditation for hospitals that encourage breastfeeding. But according to the Daily Mail, the trust that runs Rochdale Infirmary has told employees it’s “not fair to subsidise costs for women who choose not to breastfeed while women who choose to breastfeed receive no financial support.”

The move has upset some, and one person identified only as a “senior consultant” to the hospital told the Daily Mail, “While we encourage breastfeeding, many women are simply unable to do so. To charge them is absolutely preposterous. The ability to pay could affect how much nourishment a baby receives in its crucial first days.”

One of the directors of the trust that runs Rochdale was quoted in both papers as saying babies who need medical intervention will get formula, if they need it, for free.

New parents will have to buy £5 tokens from machines in the hospital and exchange them for a pack of ten bottles with formula.

The policy change, whatever the reason, is part of a larger worldwide trend to encourage breastfeeding, which public health experts believe is the best food for infants.

Last year in the Philippines, grassroots organizations lobbied and received tighter marketing rules for formula companies.  The companies appealed the decision. The Health Ministry’s new rules included banning formula salespeople from hospitals, and prohibiting some advertising.

Alex Padilla, the undersecretary at the Ministry of Health, told Australian paper The Age, “It will not prohibit ads but prohibit false ads that claim things like drinking this formula will produce geniuses, who are loveable and affectionate.”

Opinion & Analysis: No big deal; ‘absolutely appalling’

On the blog Growing Your Baby, the site’s administrator didn’t “understand what the big deal” was regarding the hospital’s decision.

“Even if a mom cannot breast feed, £5 is not an outrageous amount of money to pay for formula if you need it. After all, they will need to continue to buy it in order to feed their baby.”

But not everyone agreed with that sentiment. A hospital employee, Jeanne Ashworth, told the Observer, “It is absolutely appalling that mothers will have to pay to feed their babies. What will happen next? Where will it stop? How long is it before they start making patients pay for food?  Everyone, the midwives, junior doctors, consultants, are all up in arms about it. It beggars belief that they are charging babies to feed. It’s ridiculous.”

Related Topic: No more gifts from formula companies

Most new moms come home from American hospitals with a baby and all sorts of other gifts, including a diaper bag, cooler bag and formula samples, all printed with a formula company logo. But hospitals are increasingly doing away with this practice to encourage new moms to breastfeed.

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