Formula Companies Push Breastfeeding Mothers to Fail

“This was from a bag that was given to me at the hospital after giving birth. At first glance I actually thought it was an alternative to the usual formula bag they give. Hah. Nope. It was a cute bag filled with a can of formula, coupons, a little freezer bag for breast milk storage (cool!). I feel like it should say, “Congrats new breastfeeding mom, here’s a can of formula just in case you fail!”  By the way, baby is 5 days old and we kick ass when it comes to breastfeeding!” ~Trisha

Where to even begin? This isn’t to knock formula feeding moms (that’s my disclaimer as I have formula fed one of my children). This is the fact that mamas who want to breastfeed from the beginning are pushed to give up and fail. There is nothing that supports breastfeeding in the bag. Freezer bags? Come on. How about nipple shields or cream or coupons for things related to nursing? Some other great ideas are making sure there are great lactation consultants available or resources for breastfeeding support.

It’s quite disgusting actually. How is giving a formula bag celebrating birth and breastfeeding? To those that wonder why women push to have breastfeeding seen as normal…this is what they are up against. This is why it is so important to nurse our babies and let others see us doing so!

Have your formula bags, but don’t label them for breastfeeding moms. It’s a slap in the face.



  • Annette

    Unfortunately, formula companies have no profit in a breastfeeding mom. So why give them things that actually HELP them? I would VASTLY prefer to get nothing at all then to get a crappy formula branded bag full of their “helpful” products. Ugh!

  • Nikole

    I agree. This is why I left mine at the hospital after giving birth to my son. I didn’t want anything that was going to be an alternative option for us. Breastfeeding was a huge struggle for us. But he is now 18 months old and still nurses. Im so happy that it worked out for us, and I wish more moms would take the time to actually try it.

  • erica

    i can’t agree more. not only do you get the bag at the hospital, you get TONS of formula samples in the mail! seriously, for months before and after, i had TONS of free formula making it’s way into my home one way or another.

  • Katie

    it’s really messed up that they give these out and label them specifically for breastfeeding moms but i did get a thrill out of the huge stack of formula (like 5 cans!) i got from the mail and in the hospital. every time i got another one i added it to the stack and every week i would look at it and say WOW! look at all that formula i’m NOT using! i did eventually donate it all but any amount i get this time around i might throw a party and throw it away.

    • Michele

      Try your local women shelter or any place where women could be desperate. I doubt a women going through abuse has high success at Bfind so at less it’s not wasted and could help the shelter. I keep all my coupons and things I receive in the mail for these women who have no other choices and are in a bad place already. Not as good as BM, but in some situation, it’s OK food. Better then ppl i know who dilute with water when they are out of money =/

  • Crystal

    I hate this stuff! When my boys first went into the NICU I got a NICU “kit” that included a bunch of stuff from Similac. Granted yes the little cooler type bag for my milk was cool as was the 3 storage bottles, but everything else was for formula. When we left the NICU each baby got a graduation kit which included a cans of preemie formula, more coupons for formula, and more ways to sign up for more free samples. Both boys were on my breastmilk the entire time and are still being breastfed. We have had so much success being away from the hospital without the stress of them trying to push formula onto us.

  • Hannah

    In New Zealand they cannot hand out samples in packs or as promotional unless its a follow on formula ie. 6-12 months/toddler milk, maybe they should push for that to happen everywhere?? I reckon milk donors should become more known, that way people would put more effort into breastfeeding and the ones who cannot have a healthy alternative 🙂

    • Michele

      We don’t get those at the hospital either in Canada, they were crazy pro BF at my hospital. I got some in the mail a little and gave it away to needy ppl so they didn’t try diluting their formula with water to save money =/ I also agree about BM banks, it should be everywhere and over supplying mamas should take part at making more babies healthier. Ahhh my fantasy world!! =)

      • Norine

        Yeah, here in the US, it’s all about the almighty dollar, not what’s best for babies and mommas. Someone needs to make the US follow the WHO guidelines like everyone else.

  • Charity

    I was pushed to fail my first baby. The nurses gave him formula in the nursery against my wishes and it was all downhill from there. I had absolutely no support from anyone. Not even the LC assigned to my case. I was downright obstinate with my second. I took the bag, but left the samples and coupons behind. When I was discharged the nurse brought it out to me saying, “You forgot your formula for your baby!” I said, “No I didn’t. That stuff will never cross my baby’s lips.” Then she tried to guilt me into taking it by saying they had to throw it away. I told her that’s where that junk belonged anyway. 🙂 I gave the samples to a friend who was breastfeeding when I had my third. There was one nurse that had an open bottle with her every time she came into my room (ever 30 minutes or so). I was pleasantly surprised to see no “breastfeeding success” pack in my room with my fourth. They gave me a packet of information with no mention of bottle feeding. It went straight from breast feeding to diaper changes and intact care! All four were at the same hospital and with the same OB practice (primary care with a CNM). In the 2 years between my third and fourth babies they became a lot more mother-friendly and even more baby-friendly.
    Bottom line is that they shouldn’t give out those bags unless momma asks for one. Yeah, those free diaper bags are kinda nice, but when you’ve just had your 4th baby you really don’t need another bag. LOL Thank you for writing this. We need to draw attention to these kinds of actions by formula companies (and it’s not just formula companies, it’s just about every corporation out there).

    • Marlene

      The reason the one nurse came in with open bottles so often was probably because of contests that formula reps would put on for the nurses. A popular one used to be that for every bottle they got someone to take (and the “proof” was a bottle top), they had an entry into a drawing for all kinds of swag. It is so disturbing.

  • Holly

    I agree! I was shocked to see inside mine that there were little two ounce freezer bottles… and regular nipples.. Kinda like “Here is a bottle for you to refrigerate/freeze breastmilk and here are the nipples you can use on them”. No warning that those nipples are ones that commonly cause nipple confusion! 🙁 UGH! I was so angry 🙁 *I* know better but not every mom does! 🙁

  • Carrie

    I happily accepted all coupons, free samples, and formula related junk from my care providers (even our pediatrician had them!) and tossed them directly in the trash!

  • Tina

    I had a formula bag with my first (10years ago), but not with my second (1yr old). The hospital was made aware of my decision to bf, and they provided a LC to make sure I’d have no issues with attaching before I gave birth and then she came to check up each day I was there after birth. If I would have needed assistance, she would have been there more. But! The hospital was packed when we went in and they needed to clear me out sooner than expected (I didn’t care) so they gave me a ‘thank you bag’ that had a bunch of homemade onsies, blankets, burp rags, and a quilt! They’re bags made by a group that donates them to the hospital for low-income individuals (which I am anyway…), but I was so ecstatic with it!

  • Rachelle

    Here where I live in Brazil its much more normal to breastfeed, but instead of formula pushing its pill pushing. All the doctors and nurses automatically prescribe a pill to increase milk production, they don’t even wait to see if its actually necessary! I was so disgusted when I found out that all the new moms I knew were taking a pill because they were afraid they might not produce enough milk. Can’t they just let nature be?

  • Nicole

    I birthed our 2nd in Cincinati, Ohio about 2 years ago and they did offer me some formula samples because she was in the NICU for several days. When I turned them down the LC on staff gave me my breastfeeding bag. It had nursing pads, a couple types of lanolin cream, milk storage bags, and nipple wipes (which I found odd). I was very pleased with my kit.

    It’s not just formula companies setting us up for failure (as I did recieve what I thought to be a very nice breastfeeding kit). The nurses in the NICU refused to let me nurse my daughter for almost 48 hours. I wasnt able to see her for several hours because I had some serious complications, but I stayed with her as much as I could from that point to be sure the nurses didn’t give her any formula. After two days of begging to nurse and being told I wasn’t allowed the nurses started trying to guilt me into formula. One nurse went as far as to tell me “Wouldnt it just be better if you’re baby was out of the NICU even if it means you don’t get to breastfeed.” I was shocked! The only thing that was wrong with my little baby was that they never let her nurse! Once they finally let me start nursing she was out of the NICU when the doc made the next rounds commenting “she must have just needed a few days to adjust to life outside the womb.” I told him off too! She didn’t need to adjust, she just needed some damn breastmilk!

  • Sara

    I would also love to see a breastfeeding company put together bags for nursing moms! But in the mean time a great use for the formula in these bags is in your emergency kit. It could be useful for a formula feeding family that is not prepared during the first 24 hours after a disaster, or could be used if for some reason mom is separated from dad/caregiver & baby or otherwise unavailable to nurse.

  • Katie

    I completely agree that these bags shouldn’t be given at hospitals.

    BUT, if you do receive one, please consider donating the formula. I was a foster parent for several years, and always appreciated any donated formula that I received. It was always nice to have one can on hand, so if I received a baby overnight, I didn’t have to leave the house to pick up formula at midnight.

    I am a mom of 4 kids who have all been breastfed. I don’t think these bags should be in hospitals. But I also realize there is a time and a place for formula, and the people who need to use it, appreciate it being donated (and I get that the marketing is insidious and designed to cause moms to doubt themselves).

    • Scooping it up

      I appreciated this comment. As an adoptive mom to three and mom to three bio as well, I don’t love when we mothers get so riled up about this that we call formula “poison.” Because I felt that way with my bio kids, and was disgusted by formula and realized how hurtful that sentiment is to foster and adoptive moms for most for whom breastfeeding is not an adoption but we outspoken and passionate breastfeeders are not sensitive sometimes. Te fact is, formula is a really great second option, not many foster and adoptive moms will be able to bf. And formula doesn’t kill babies. It keeps them alive. Many smart, wonderful babies I know in adoptive families are attached, joyful children and were bottle fed formula and we need to be more respectful that this is OK. So even though we should DARN RIGHT support and encourage more breastfeeding from moms who’ve given birth and hospitals should stop the bags with formula for SURE, going so far as to throw it away because it is “nasty trash” and being snarky about it is hurtful. And wasteful. Please donate it to a women’s shelter. – a formerly snarky breastfeeder

  • Eva

    When I had my first in 2009 I took the basic childbirth class in my OBs office (terrible info, but that’s another story). At the end of our session, the teacher handed out two different bags, formula vs breast feeding moms. I got the breast feeding bag of course, it had samples of lanolin, belly stretch mark lotion, breast feed guide book, la leche league contact info magnet, 2oz freezer containers and I’m sure some more things that I can’t remember. The bag itself was to store frozen milk! I thought it was great!

  • Missy

    I had both of my children in a very un-breastfeeding friendly hospital. They do everything in their power to get you to fail. My niece and I started a local breastfeeding bag project and targeted that local hospital. We were supported by some very major companies and some very tiny companies. They provided us with literature, free samples of vitamins, tea, nipple cream, butt cream, storage bags, magnets, we had brochures, coupons, information in screen printed shopping totes. We presented them to the hospital and waited for them to call for another batch. We decided to take them another batch anyway and discovered our beautiful breastfeeding bags designed to encourage and support new breastfeeding moms had been stuffed in a linen closet. When they finally did give them out, they didn’t go to breastfeeding moms, they were ransacked to get samples out of and it was a disaster! We have since redesigned our bags and now have prenatal bags at an OB office and pediatric bags at a local pediatrician. They are very supportive of our endeavor. I just hope the hospital catches up! I encourage you to find a local bag project (there aren’t that many) and offer yor help or start your own bag project!! It is a great feeling knowing you are giving breastfeeding bags that are helpful, don’t undermine their breastfeeding relationship and support moms who might not have it otherwise!

    • Marlene

      What athe wonderful thing you and your group did. What that hospital did was nauseating. I would have contacted the media to do an exposè. I am so glad that you did find a way to get the bags into the right hands.

  • Carrie

    Wow I can’t even believe you get these kind of bags. We only get a bounty bag here in Australia which basically is full of pamphlets with lots of information for new mummys, some sample sanitary pads, sample pots of Sudoderm a couple of newborn nappies, nappy bags and some sachets of baby bath lotion. If you want formula / bottles you have to bring your own. I actually had the opposite of them trying to force BF down my throat when all I wanted to do was give my daughter a bottle. I was 17, scared and my baby was screaming in hunger. I wish now 11 years later I persevered with BF but never mind when I have another I will persever more.

    • Madeleine

      Yep same here, the hospital where i gave birth (in Australia) was extremely pro breastfeeding! All of my nurses were either currently breastfeeding(several with 3yrolds and older), or had breastfed, and would constantly spout the benefits and importance, as well as compare formula to “junk food”(liveable but not advisable). I had an emergency c-sect with complications and was out of it and semi-concious for about a week, during which the nurses would routinely come in and hold my son to my breast to feed. Bottles/formula were just about banned and if anyone wanted to use one they would have had to fight for it! Opposite end of the scale

  • Michelle

    Wow reading these stories makes me feel so greatful for the hospital where I had my daughter!! After having to undergo an emergency c-section I was completely out of it for the entire first night so my daughter stayed in the nursery and yes they did give her a small amount of formula but afterwards they did everything in their power to get my daughter to breastfeed (she had latching issues). For the first 24hrs it was very difficult and with her being my first I was worried when she went almost the entire day without eating because as soon as she would touch my skin to breastfeed she would completely fall asleep or become frustrated that she was unable to latch. I would ask if she should get formula and they actually persuaded me not to give into formula quite yet!! I saw a LC 3 times in the first 2 weeks, not including the multiple daily visits while I was in the hospital and never received anything about formula! Eventually with her latch issues I had to switch to exclusively pumping but I just love the fact that my hospital helped me, supported me and provided me with everything I needed so that my daughter could recieve breastmilk and never once tried to sway me or guilt me into using formula!! She is a healthy, happy, thriving, chubby 16lb 5 month old exclusivly on mamas milk and I feel so blessed to have had all the support!

  • Crystal Alan

    I got a diaper bag with a can of formula from the doctor’s office with both of my older two (currently pregnant and seeing different doctor, so we’ll see what happens this time). I got good use out of the bag and just stashed the formula can in the back of the cupboard. I saved it just in case something happened to me and my baby needed food right away. Yeah, with all the coupons and no support and all that, I’m sure it’s very discouraging. But, I figure it’s a free bag and a free emergency stash for baby. Thankfully, I never used it and gave it away once my kids no longer needed it. I nursed the first one for 15 months and the 2nd for 18 months. 🙂 Neither one ever took a bottle, not even pumped milk.

  • Rachel

    Wow this is a big change from what we see over here in NZ! Its the complete opposite, we would love to see more support for formula feeding families over here. We recently had an add pulled from t.v because it had a well known rugby player bottle feeding their baby on it. What the public didn’t know is that those children have a dairy intolerance. I’m all for breastfeeding by the way, if you can and are able to then why not?! But there shouldn’t be pressure from either point of view, each family is different.

  • Shelly

    At least you got a cute bag out of it.. I had twins and got not one, not two… Four. That’s right the hospital gave me four bags with formula samples and coupons in. Not just 1 kind of formula either. They gave me gerber good start and similac. I told them in the hospital that I wanted to ebf and they were saying ok, then first chance they and my mom got, they had a bottle in both babies mouths. Dd was a champ at bfing too.. Had a few probs with ds, but we were doing ok. Just cause my milk hadn’t come in yet… And they wonder why my dd is getting fat and is always eating. And I’m still being pushed to fail by my mom and others. As were only 2 1/2 months, I’m gonna start eating better and get my supply up and hopefully tell them to kiss it and get back to ebm… At least for a while.

  • Kathleen Neely

    I dont remember getting anything from the hospital, they encouraged me to breast feed even when I didnt really want to. I had to but everything.

  • tamara

    did anyone notice they have money saving ideas? heres a money saving idea dont use formula then you save the money that you would be spending on it

  • Marlene

    I would love to see more baby friendly hospitals. I was very happy that my pediatrician’s office never gave me formula samples or had formula advertising. The room that has stores samples is very open and near the front. I did see samples in there, but I never saw any patients being given any. Our pediatrician thinks human breast milk should be available in the grocery store! I am also guessing that if she were the only pediatrician in the office that there wouldn’t be any sample cans of formula in the office at all.

  • hilary

    I have a hard time with the bottle feeding and also people that judge too readily those that bottle feed. I struggled with formula feeding just 2 days after my little guy was born, for both the fact that I felt like a failure as a mother not being able to provide nourishment to my child and I know what commercial formula can do to kids (especially soy and little boys). If I wouldnt have fed my little guy the formula they offered at the hospital, he wouldnt have had any nourishment because I, you see, couldnt sustain him on the almost non-existent milk produced by my augmented breasts (I had a breast reduction some 7 or so years previous). Once we got home, I made my own formula and he has been thriving on it. I got the formula from Nourishing Traditions (book). This is not a pitch for the book but I think it’s important for other mothers to know there are options to commercial formula out there. Of course, my doctor doesn’t agree with homemade formula, even though it has been tested, and just ask my little guy….he loves it!

    • Norine

      Formula is meant for people in just your situation. About 3-5% of women are unable to breastfeed due to reasons like yours! among others. It sounds like you would have provided breast milk if you could have, and that’s all that matters. You didn’t fail at anything. What they don’t tell you is that there are many milk banks, and milk donors available so you can still provide breast milk for your baby. There is even a device called an SNS (supplemental nursing system) that you can put the breastmilk (or even formula) in, and it attaches to your breast (tiny tube) so you can still nurse your baby. Adoptive mums even use these to nurse their babies. I Gish this information was offered to more moms who can’t nurse. I am trying to start a program in my area to encourage and support breastfeeding, and promote information to make it easier and better for moms who can’t.

  • Tina

    Happily, in Australia those little formula company gift baggies are now very much illegal. No woman birthing in one of our hospitals will ever receive one, and in fact midvives are supposed to do all they can to ensure that breastfeeding is at least initiated where possible. While the breastfeeding rates in this country are still pretty abysmal and the support for breastfeeding mums is nowhere near what it should be, at least we aren’t undermined right from the beginning any more.
    Clearly authorities in this country have at least recognised the importance of breastfeeding in building a healthy strong nation and have recognised how damaging these promotional efforts by formula companies aimed at new, inexperienced mums were. If even our government can figure this out it must be pretty plain! Americans, demand that new mums are left in peace to establish bonding and breastfeeding without these clear messages implying failure before you even begin!!

  • Laura

    I am a first time mom of a beautiful 15 wk baby boy. Thanks to the inspiring stories on this blog I was able to have a 100% intervention free natural hospital birth and within 5 minutes of his birth my son had latched on and we began our incredible breastfeeding journey. Sure bfing is not always easy (especially when you’re sleep deprived and you wish your hubby could do a feeding for you, but your baby refuses a bottle of pumped milk; or when it’s growth spurt time and baby is attached to you 24/7), but with determination and support we persevere. Yesterday I received my second unwanted parcel from Enfamil (the first came two weeks ago). How the company got my address but they are pushing their product on me. Thankfully I’m too pissed off to even contemplate the delivered-to-my-doorstep temptation. Oh and to top it off the side of the box said, “breast milk is the optimal nutrition for your baby.It is the gold standard by which we design our formulas.” If they are so supportive of bfing then why send 2 separate packages of formula to a mom at the exact time that most moms in this part of Canada (the Maritime provinces) give up on breastfeeding—3 months. Ridiculous!

  • Megan Casey

    In Pittsburgh, PA at Magee Womans hospital they asked I answered I was bf. I did get the bag and yes there was a can of formula. However there was also some nipple salve that saved my life with my 1st! And pacifiers which I use but many BF Mothers do not. The nurses basically said , and were right, its a great bag so why not take it. And I agreed but they added BF Pamphlets , the name and number of Lactation Expert, prices to rent pumps, and lots of other really helpful things. They had a BIG sign on bassinet she was breast, no fillers, pacifier ok.
    When my baby wasn’t gaining enough from a separate medical issue they still used my milk with added calories. Unfortunately those calories were milk derived which gave my baby tummy issues but we survived. I found them to be surprisingly supportive to my choice. And I did use the bag. I get your point but for me the can of formula was reassurance if I for whatever reason couldn’t support baby , she would be ok. No down time , no hungry baby. This was just my personal experience but I understand not all hospitals but that much time and money for BF mothers.
    Oh I forgot to add, my baby stayed 7 days on ward after birth and when there they were just as supportive. Special bin in special fridge just for my babies milk. They even printed her stickers so all I needed to add was time nursed. Also they let me use their much better pump to express.

  • Jaime

    I’m pleased to say that the care I’ve been receiving at a military treatment facility has never once mentioned formula in fact at one I’d my prenatal appointments they gave me a booklet specifically ON breastfeeding and not a word about bottles etc. I was impressed.

  • Dani

    When my daughter was born I got the formula bag (not as nice as the one in the picture) plus I was given some more. My daughter took super easily to breastfeeding and we didn’t have to use it, but i wanted to see if she liked it and had DH give her a bottle. She drank it all (after fussing) threw it up and cried for the breast. The formula company FAILED the test and we never looked back. We had the same couple of canisters of formula for over a year and finally tossed them out.

    If it were me, I would toss out the crap inside and use the bag. I wouldn’t leave it at the hospital. Some women refuse to breastfeed because they have been made to think something is wrong with it. I am a small breasted woman and (just my own experience) I always struggled with that part of my femininity coming from a family with large (like DD plus) breasts when I am barely scraping A/B cup. It empowered me to know I AM a woman and these small breasts were loved by my baby (and my new one to come i am sure, due to the output of premilk I am having at 36 weeks), even though my DD plus sister claimed she just “couldn’t” BF my niece. If she has another one and refuses to BF, SHE can have the formula!

  • Holly

    My ob gave me one of these bags and another bag with it. The other bag had regular bottle nipples to put on those “snapies” that are in this bag. I felt like it was saying “Here, pump your milk, put it in these bottles, cihll it with this ice pack and use these nipples so you will never breastfeed again”. Those nipples can cause major nipple confusion especially in a child young enough to only take 2 ounces of milk at a time (the size of the breastmilk storage bottles they give you). It’s infuriating 🙁

  • Jodie

    Wow that is terrible!! there is nothing like that in Australia thank goodness..our hospitals are very pro breastfeeding 🙂

  • Celishia

    I birthed my first child at the hospital and was given a breastfeeding Mom bag in addition to my gift of a diaper bag from similac. My breastfeeding Mom kit did have a the Medela hand pump in it, some lanisoh, breast pads and freezing bags for milk. While I did receive a ton of formula coupons and samples, at least I got a great manual pump for free! It seems my experience even in our area was not standard though.

  • Kate

    Hi All

    What the above compnay is doing is illegal. It is now law in most countries that free formula cannot be given out to new mothers. This contravenes the Infant and Young Child Feeding Policy, followed by most of our globe, including the USA and South Africa.

    Breastfeeding really is the best way to feed your child. I currently work as a dietician in a paediatric ward and see the effects of poorly fed formulka fed children every day. A large majority of the children admitted are formula-fed. Formula is not the same as breastmilk. The companies cannot formulate the same antibodies and immune boosters found naturally in breastmilk and put it in formula.

    Please spread the word about this happening in your hospitals. It is not allowed and is more damaging to mothers and babies.

  • Norine

    There is a huge difference in women who CAN’T breastfeed, and those who WON’T. Only 3-5% of women are physically unable to breastfeed. Studies done over the past 25 years show that 830,000 babies’ lives could be saved every year, by breastfeeding at birth. For women who absolutely cannot breastfeed, there are millions of mums who donate their milk to milk banks. Donor milk can be obtained, and it’s often free! Knowing what I know about formula, when compared to breast milk, I couldn’t ever give my children formula. It has been linked to intestinal disorders, lung disease, and even SIDS. I felt that giving my child formula over breast milk, would be like using a car seat that had been in an accident, or the crib my grandmother used for her babies. It’s likely they will work just great and nothing will happen, but is it worth the risk?

  • Carla

    Hey everyone,
    for sure most of the mothers are physically able to breastfeed but there are so many reasons why mothers also cannot if it is just a psychological reason. I think it is very hard to judge and have prejudices. In the hospitals and also before birth there are people who try to help newly moms to find the best way for their babies and themselves. I would have loved to breastfeed and eventually did for 4 months, I tried to use a breast bump but couldn’t find a good solution for myself so I added formula to the feeding. It took me some time to find this organic formula, this solution that worked out very well for my baby as well as for myself. For sure there are mothers who might be overwhelmed with everything and not prepared but lot’s of mothers are and they don’t take decisions easily. I’d say normally a mother tries to do everything and the best for her child and we should respect this and support each other instead of fighting.

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