Breastfeeding Advice From Formula Companies

I took my son to his pediatrician the other day. While waiting for the doctor to see us, I noticed some pamphlets in the waiting room, so I browsed through them. I was horrified to find a pamphlet from Gerber/Nestle on infant nutrition that offered breastfeeding advice (via their breastfeeding helpline) to new moms.

I have always loved my son’s pediatrician – they have been supportive of our parenting decisions and never even blinked twice when we were *STILL* nursing at his 3 year check-up and beyond. They were great for me when I had difficulties breastfeeding in the early days and I especially like them because they take a “let nature take it’s course” kind of path when it comes to childcare and they aren’t quick to medicate.

After my son’s appointment, I approached his doctor about the Nestle pamphlet. I asked them if they would mind removing the pamphlet from their waiting room. I told them that I was happy to have them provide support for moms who choose to formula feed via pamphlets, but I didn’t think it was appropriate to refer moms who want to breastfeed to a formula company when they needed advice. My son’s doctor agreed wholeheartedly and she assured me that they would remove the items from the waiting room.

She then went on to tell me that the reason that they have the pamphlets in the first place is because WIC has an exclusive contract with Nestle Good Start for any formula feeding mom in their program. In order to get formula under the WIC program, the mom MUST use Nestle Good Start or they don’t qualify for assistance. My son’s doctor then told me that in all of her years as a pediatrician – she has NEVER recommended Nestle Good Start to any mom when they wanted to formula feed. She said it is her last choice for formula and she is devastated that because of WICs agreement with them, that she now has to recommend this product to moms on WIC.

I have no idea if this is a national agreement that WIC has with Nestle, or one specific to the Pittsburgh area – but I am sure that you are as horrified as I am that WIC and Nestle are dictating what our doctors are prescribing for moms instead of the doctors themselves. And that in order to get assistance, a mom who chooses not to breastfeed, has no choice about the type of formula she can feed to her baby if she wants it to be covered under the WIC program.

Have you seen brochures like this one at your pediatricians office? What did you do?? I challenge you to talk to you doctor and enlighten them as to why they shouldn’t be handing out breastfeeding advice to moms when it is generated by a formula company. Please leave a comment and share your stories!

4 comments to Breastfeeding Advice From Formula Companies

  • WIC has contracts with Similac, Enfamil AND Nestle/Gerber. They alternate annually which formula is covered by WIC, and yes, without a doctor’s note, that is the only thing WIC will cover.

  • Kristy

    I was a maternity nurse in New Jersey from 2001-2006 & we had to give Good Start formula (back then it was Carnation Good Start but changed to Nestle maybe in ’04?) to any WIC moms who were formula feeding. So this has obviously been a partnership b/t them for a long time. Very sad!

  • decaturmamaof2

    I think this is the case in all states, not just PA. :-( My Ped’s office has NO pamphlets though, and the hospital with which it is affiliated has a strong lactation support program, including a weekly support meeting with lactation nurses present to help.

  • The WIC contract is different in every state and it is up for bidding every 3 years. When I worked for WIC in Pennsylvania in 2002-04, the contract was with Mead Johnson and then switched to Ross. The reason for the contracts is that it drops the price of formula to pennies per can because the companies bid so fiercely with each other to offer the lowest price. Of course, they still profit from the WIC contracts by the sheer volume of formula purchased by WIC as well as the brand loyalty it creates in participants.

    Formula company representatives often capitalize on the WIC contracts in their state by bringing materials and samples to hospitals and pediatricians stating that thier products are the ONLY formula approved by WIC (even though, in the case of need for special hypoallergenic or premature formulas, WIC WILL provide other brands). I’ve found from my experience working both in the hospital and with WIC, there’s a lot of misinformation in the medical community as a result.

    It’s an interesting, and unfortunate, predicament for WIC as it strives to promote breastfeeding.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge