The Unwanted Package

In the last week, eight of my breastfeeding friends plus me have received formula samples in the mail.  One of my friends isn’t even married with children and she received samples.

Mine was for “my special preemie” and they sent formula designed for preemies (which in and of itself is a joke).  I feel really bad for the representative I got on the phone when I called to complain.  I was passed along until I got a supervisor and got somewhat of an apology, but even that isn’t enough.  I know it wasn’t customer service or the sales representatives that sent it to me, but they are the ones I could talk to, and I needed to vent.  (If I talked to you on the phone and made you feel bad, I am truly sorry!)

Now, a lot of people will disagree with me (mainly formula feeders), but sending out samples in the mail to people that didn’t request them is just plain wrong.

This isn’t a post about breast being best or about if people should donate the samples they get.  No, this post is purely and simply a post about how giving out samples of formula to women is just plain wrong.

My friend Accustomed Chaos wrote an incredible post about the WHO code (which the United States signed) and how everything formula companies/hospitals/doctors are doing is violating this code.

Just to summarize the WHO code which deals with breast-milk substitutes including infant formula, other milk products, food & beverages when marked (or represented) as full or partial substitute of breast-milk, feeding bottles and pacifiers & bottle nipples (taken from Accustomed Chaos’ post):

My abridged version of the code:

  • No advertising of any of these products to the public
  • No special displays, discount coupons, special sales for products within the code to consumer at retail level to induce sales
  • No free samples to mothers or pregnant women, infants or children – including gifts or articles which may promote use of breast-milk substitutes or bottle-feeding
  • No promotion of products in health care facilities, including the distribution of free or low-cost supplies – no posters, brochures or special displays in a health care setting
  • No company sales representatives, in their business capacity, are to advise mothers, pregnant women directly or indirectly
  • No gifts, personal samples or low-price sales to institutions, organizations or workers within the health care field
  • No words, pictures or statements idealizing artificial feeding, no pictures of infants on labels for breast-milk feeding substitutes.
  • Information on artificial infant feeding should clearly state the superiority of breast feeding & a clear advisement to only use at the advice of health care provider
  • Unsuitable products (sweetened condensed milk, almond milk etc) should not be promoted for babies & be clearly marked as so – including no instructions on how to modify for the purpose of infant feeding

When you turn on the TV, most times you *will* see a commercial for how baby formula is now “just the same as breastmilk”.  You will see advertising for baby bottles, for companies that say their product is the best thing you can give your baby.  And, regardless of what you think, we are taken in by advertising.  Or what would be the point of them spending millions of dollars on one commercial?

The marketing and promotion of something that isn’t as good, hell it isn’t even comparable to breastmilk, is in direct violation of this code.  Every day, families see these commercials or are handed formula samples, and since they say that it is a good choice, or it is the best for your baby, they question their own parenting choices.  Especially if they are in those first few weeks of breastfeeding and are having troubles.  Nothing is worse than handing someone a food that isn’t comparable, and telling them it is easier and better.

I have a friend that used formula strictly because it was there.  Babies nurse all the time, a lot of the time not because they are hungry but because they need the contact from their mother.  They were with them constantly for 10 months, it isn’t normal for them to be separated for hours after birth.  They are used to hearing her heartbeat, to feeling her breathe.  When you take that away, they are being put into a world they don’t know and don’t know how to find the comfort they once used.

So they turn to comfort nursing, which can last hours or days.

This is normal. This is how baby’s are made to be.

When new mothers get these samples in the mail, when they are tired, touched out, worried, and don’t have the support nursing mother’s need, it is a very easy option to use.  And, it always seems to come in the mail when mothers are worried about supply or are very very tired.

This is wrong.

My experience is different, since I was sent formula for my dead son, but it is still the same.  I received samples of formula when I did not ask for them.

And this is the crux of the problem.

When people receive these samples, it raises the cost of formula.  They can’t be sending out cans of formula without upping their cost.  They are hoping that people buy formula because they used it and now have to with their child, and if it doesn’t happen, like with me, they are losing money.

And the mothers that use formula are the ones that pay.  Literally.

Formula is already very expensive without it being pushed up even more.

Now sure, in essence, those that receive formula samples could donate them to women’s shelters or to formula feeding families.  Which is great.

However, it was sent to them.  The company has their name and address.  The only way to truly show they do not want these samples, because even calling them does nothing, is to send this formula back.  My friend @moshermama wrote all over the box that it wasn’t wanted, that their slogan was wrong, and then preceded to to call them and chew them out, same as I did.

It isn’t as simple as donating the formula and it will never happen again.  I wish it was that simple.

These companies need to know what they are doing is wrong.  It is undermining a breastfeeding relationship strictly for monetary gain.  It is undermining women’s confidence.  They are flat out lying to them.

These companies need to know that their samples aren’t appreciated.  These companies need to know that they are violating a code which our country signed.  These companies need to know that they are not only ruining something natural, but they are hurting children, especially premature children.  Many studies have proven this.

The best way to accomplish this is to send back those samples.  To call the company.  To write the company.

And to spread the word on the WHO Code.  To spread the word on how breastfeeding is normal and how formula will never compare.

Until we become more active in trying to uphold the Code, many many more breastfeeding relationships will be ruined, and many many more lactivists will be receiving unwanted formula samples.

We need to become a country where women are supported through breastfeeding instead of a country where women are told it isn’t any better than a secondary option.

This Code has been signed.  It needs to be put in full effect.

In the United States, this code is monitored by the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy (NABA). Violations can be sent through mail to NABA, 254 Conant Rd, Weston MA 02493 email:, along with the code watch form.

Please, report these violations.  Report when you receive samples.  Even if you decide to donate the samples, please just do the little thing and report this so we can become a country that follows what we sign.


14 Responses

  1. I blogged about how PISSED I was to get a freaking CASE of formula in the mail just before my last son was born. It really angered me. To me, it was like them saying “We know you’re going to fail – why even bother trying?!” It totally undermines women and tells them that the milk-makers they have sitting on their chests aren’t good enough – that our bodies aren’t good enough to feed our babies. And it’s all a lie.

    What was even worse is that I kept that case in the cabinet assuming that I’d get around to taking it to the shelter. But, as a new mom, I didn’t get around to it, and one night when I was out, my husband cracked open those cans and fed it to my son. Why? Uh, because he’s freaking stupid sometimes and forgot that I had BOTTLES of pumped milk in the fridge.

    The worst part? A month later, he made the same mistake AGAIN and opened ANOTHER can (he’s really unbelievable sometimes.) So there I had two almost full, yet opened cans of formula, neither of which I could donate now, and NEITHER of which my baby ever needed. Those stupid cans caused a HUGE fight between me and the (sometimes totally stupid) husband. Eff you formula companies.

    • Oh I would have been furious too!!! Sometimes men don’t think beyond what is in front of their faces.

      And I agree, Eff you formula companies!

  2. Wow, I would have been so pissed. I can’t believe they did that.

  3. […] I’ve got a short and sweet post. I’m just featuring Kayce of Hearts and Hands. Her post The Unwanted Package is about the formula sample she received this week for her “special preemie” (a son that died […]

  4. Loved this post! I am angry too and I an not even a mum. It is disgusting but I am in no way surprised – this is after all Capitalism at its very best. I think that only vaccines surpass this ingeniously evil type of marketing campaign. The only thing I have a problem with is the donation of it to poor people. I completely understand the logic but somehow I morally I believe it should be disposed of as it really is inferior rubbish. I wish that governments would financially support and promote milk banks instead, so that those in need to receive the best second choice to the gold standard of exclusive at the breast feeding.

    I have heard, that like most things these days, the price of non human chemical baby milk has very little to do with the actual cost of its production or ingredients, but rather the cost of marketing it. Basically, the companies place the price point high, not only to make a large profit but so that they can afford to send out ‘free’ samples, with the hope that like any drug you’ll become addicted or just unfortunately dependent on it and will therefore be in effect ‘forced’ to continue buying the product. Because the bottom line is that no educated, supported and economically able mum would ‘chose’ to buy their dreadful product off the shelf if it wasn’t promoted so well or if wet nurses and milk banks were wide spread viable options.

    This really does (well as least to me) show how inhumane some people can be. I’d be fascinated to know if the CEOs of these morally corrupt companies fed this substandard food to their own newborn babies!? … Oh it just makes me wonder and my blood boil!

  5. Hi. I enjoy reading what you write and am impressed by all that you do. I just wanted to let you know that when I read this post your google ads up top were advertising Enfamil formula. I know it obviously must have been unintentional, but others might be confused by it.

  6. Now the google ads disappeared altogether. Weird. I guess then never mind.

  7. […] pediatrician giving parenting advice that compromises the breastfeeding relationship? Has a can of unwanted infant formula ever mysteriously appeared at your […]

  8. When I read this post there was a google ad for nestle good start. I am reading through my iPhone twitter app, if that helps you figure out why ppl are seeing Google ads.

    • Thanks, I have had one other person tell me that. Still can’t figure out where they are coming from, since I don’t have ads on my site 😦

  9. If its hosted on wordpress you agree to let them run ads w/ or w/o your knowledge ;(

    I remember the confused look when I refused to fill out the form at the u/s tech to get our “special gift.” It is a very wasteful marketing tactic.

  10. I remember when I got a case of formula in the mail… I was mortified because it arrived around my due date, but my son had died at 16.5 weeks. I did NOT see that coming. I couldn’t look at it. I cried. I demanded that it be taken out of my house. My in-laws quickly came over and took it away to donate it. Also around the same time, we started getting a flood of other baby stuff in the mail for the “newly arrived baby” that we didn’t have. Checking the mail was a dreadful task. I had my husband call each company and demand that we be taken off their list and made sure that he at least made who ever he talked to on the phone feel bad about sending us stuff for our dead son. Second time around when I was pregnant I was so paranoid, I made sure not to sign up for anything.

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