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Marketing to Moms Affects Breastfeeding

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The study, which was supported by a grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, involved 444 women at six obstetric offices. On the first prenatal visit, the participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: 235 received a commercial pack consisting of a diaper bag, commercially produced educational material, a can of powdered formula, a business reply card to join a so-called baby club, a coupon redeemable for a case of infant formula, and formula discount coupons. Another group of 209 women received the research pack containing a diaper bag, noncommercial educational materials, a coupon for infant items from a local department store, and a package of electric outlet covers. Interviews were conducted after delivery, and the breastfeeding women were contacted by telephone at two, six, 12, and 24 weeks after birth.

"This is an interesting study because it shows that information given to a woman early in pregnancy will have an effect on her choices," says Anastasia Stekas, RN, MSN, a board-certified lactation consultant at Mount Sinai-NYU Health in New York City, who reviewed the study for WebMD. "Women trust their obstetricians ... and what is given by them is extremely influential."

Stekas agrees with the authors that one of the limitations of the study is the lack of socioeconomic and racial diversity. She also raises the question of the obstetrician's bias. "For the first few weeks, breastfeeding is very hard, and if for some reason the obstetrician encourages a woman to stop, she will."

Vital Information:

  • The World Health Organization prohibits the distribution of free formula samples and promotions in health care facilities, but this is widely practiced in the U.S.
  • New research shows that distribution of these materials can influence more women to stop breastfeeding within the first two weeks after childbirth.
  • In the long-term, there was no difference in breastfeeding habits among women who did or did not receive these promotional materials.
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