Let me back up. When we first moved to the Ft. Worth area seven years ago, we got a reference for a pediatrician, but only stayed there for about a year. The last straw was when I went to pick up my kids' medical records and -- you might think I'm a bit of a fanatic at this point! -- they asked me to write my kids' names on a pad of paper shaped like a bottle with "Similac" down the side. I refused to use the paper and asked for a regular piece of paper.
Fast forward: we've had the same pediatrician for about 5 years until she developed breast cancer. I never saw any formula anything -- samples, coupons, or notepads! When she got sick, they brought on a new doctor. While I think she likes to hear herself talk, at least I didn't see any formula paraphernalia since she joined the practice.
Low and behold, the doctor we used when we first moved here recently joined this practice too and now there are coupons for free formula! Ugh.
This is not an attack on people that formula feed. I realize there are a million reasons why someone might want coupons for free formula, but again, that is not the issue at hand. This post is about the pediatrician and whether or not they should display formula paraphernalia.
So why is this a problem? First of all, the biggest problem that I see is that it's NOT pushing breastfeeding. By the very nature of having the coupons at the check-out, it sends a message to the parents that formula is endorsed by the doctor. Who can resist a "FREE" coupon for anything? Breastfeeding is also free, but I don't see a sign anywhere that reminds the parents of this simple fact.
|"Please don't offer my mommy formula coupons unless she asks."|
It is well documented that breastfed babies have fewer trips to the doctor's office -- something that benefits them for a lifetime, not just as a baby. When the pediatricians make a comment about never seeing my kids, I always point out that they were exclusively breastfeed with no formula. I hope they make the connection, but it's funny when you have a teenager sitting on the table. Do the pediatricians even recognize the difference breastfeeding makes long-term? So the question must be asked -- Do they push formula so they see the kids in the office more often and therefore, make more money? Just a thought...
When I said something to the receptionist the first time I saw the coupon, I definitely caught her off guard. She didn't know what to say. I wasn't letting it go, however, so she told me to hand her the coupons, obviously so she could end the conversation. I asked if she was just going to put them back out the minute I walked out the door. Pushy, I know. While she said no, when I was back a couple weeks later, there they were!
When I said something the next time to a different receptionist, I went into the whole story about being there for 6 years and never seeing anything about formula in the office until the newest doctor came on staff. Again, silence. They don't see the problem and they don't know what to say. How can they not see that this promotes formula-feeding and sabotages the breastfeeding relationship?!
BFBS Facebook page, a reader sent me a link to an Academy of Pediatrics statement on the distribution and display of formula materials in pediatrician offices. Read it here. It's all about the reasons why having formula materials in a pediatrician's office is a conflict. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and will be setting up an appointment with the head pediatrician to share it.
Several people suggested taking the coupons and throwing them away, but this doesn't solve the problem. Then the doctors and receptionists think there is such a demand, they just get more. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe there is a kickback from the formula company for distributing the coupons.
I told the last receptionist that since it's an area for "free" items, I'll bring her a stack of Resource Guides for the Tarrant County Birth Network promoting Mother-Friendly maternity care and plenty of great lactation consultants! Again, silence.
I believe that it is so important that we speak up about the messages doctors send to new and vulnerable mothers. We cannot expect change to happen and the normalization of breastfeeding to occur unless we advocate for breastfeeding. If you are reading my blog, birth and breastfeeding have likely had a huge impact on your life. Don't be afraid to share that, even if it means defending and promoting breastfeeding to your pediatrician.