Last week a breastfeeding counselor named Megan posted the following story on a message board for lactation professionals:
I was just visiting a friend who had her baby yesterday (April 19) at Holy Redeemer Hospital in Meadowbrook, PA.
She told me that an OB/GYN at the hospital said to her, "Lipil formula is the best." My friend replied that she was breastfeeding.
The doctor responded by saying, "Well I figured, but if I tell you that 'Lipil is the best', then we get free catered lunches from Panera!"
The National Alliance for Breastfeeding Action has received many reports of formula salespeople conducting contests to see which nurse can influence the most mothers to use formula.
One contest was for the nurse who collected the most formula bottle caps. Nurses would go into each mother's room with a bottle of formula, whether or not the mother was formula feeding, open the bottle, pocket the cap, put her name on the cap and place it in a box to be counted at the end of the contest period.
I've heard of one hospital where the formula company salesman used to go into the nursery - where there are newborn and sick babies - and clip formula company logos onto the nurses' stethoscopes.
Then there are the goodies for tired and overworked nurses. One of my friends who worked in a hospital in California says that she got so tired of hearing the nurses call out "Hey, the formula company guy brought frappuccinos again!" At another hospital the formula company rep brought would bring in a gigantic box of Godiva chocolates at the holidays - which sat in the breakroom next to the lactation consultant's homemade oatmeal cookies.
That's why the Ross training manual says, "Never underestimate the importance of nurses. If they are sold and serviced properly, they can be strong allies. A nurse who supports Ross is like an extra salesperson.” (Abbott Labs v. Segura, 1995)
Did you experience anything like this? Want to fight marketing on maternity wards? Check out Ban the Bags and No Free Lunch. I particularly like their pen amnesty program. If you'd like to complain to the hospital mentioned above, here is their email comment address.