Canada's largest obstetrical facility, BC Women's Hospital, has become Canada's first hospital to refuse free supplies of infant formula.
Under BC Women's new policy, all infant formula will be paid for. The practice of hospitals accepting free or low-cost supplies of infant formula has long been seen as a deterrent to breastfeeding duration. Free supplies encourage the practice of routine supplementing with artificial feeds, formula, glucose or water.
A recent survey of maternity practices in Canadian hospitals showed that in some hospitals over 70 per cent of breastfed ifnants receive supplementary feeds. Supplementation in hospital is linked to early cessation of breastfeeding. One study found that women whose infants receive supplements while in hospital are up to five times more likely to give up breastfeeding in the first week, and twice as likely as women whose babies were not supplemented.
BC Women's was encouraged by the provincial Minister of Health, Paul Ramsey, to take this step. He applauded the hospital's stand against the manufacturers of infant formula.
When health care is influenced by the vested interests of industry, it can be detrimental to patients - in this case to babies and their mtohers. Research shows that when formula is free and easily accessible in hospitals, it generally hampers the efforts of women who choose to breastfeed
BC Women's will be tracking this new policy for one year by monitoring how much formula and which kinds of formula are used. The cost of purchasing formula for one year is estimated to be $60,000. This is a small price to pay to achieve breastfeeding-friendly policies.
INFACT Canada is pleased to commend BC Women's Hospital for being the first hospital in Canada to take this step. We trust this will be one more on the road to full compliance with the International Code and mother/baby-friendly practices.
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