Mitt Romney: Why He Championed Free Infant Formula Over Breast-Feeding
If ever there were proof that breast-feeding is a political issue, consider what appears to be a most unusual association between presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the right of new moms in Massachusetts not to be influenced by free hospital giveaways of infant formula, which serve to discourage women from breast-feeding.
On Wednesday, a coalition of breast-feeding advocates will gather at the Massachusetts State House to celebrate the state becoming the second in the nation whose hospitals have banned the distribution of formula goodie bags to mothers who’ve just given birth. There will be cake and coffee, speeches from the medical director of the state Department of Public Health (DPH) and other supporters, all taking place beneath a banner that reads: “Why are hospitals marketing baby formula? Give the bag the boot.”
“Among breast-feeding advocates, this has always been a thorn in our side,” says Melissa Bartick, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and chair of the state’s breast-feeding coalition. “It seems so hopeless to fight against these formula companies, but at the same time, hospitals are marketing baby formula, which undermines breast-feeding and sends a poor message. What’s amazing is that we have been able to stand up to corporate interests in the name of public health.”
Rhode Island, with seven maternity hospitals, set the stage in 2011; Massachusetts has followed in its footsteps, successfully persuading its 49 maternity hospitals that gifting free formula to new moms at a time when the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics have made breast-feeding a public-health priority doesn’t seem very intuitive.