Hospitals May Put Formula-Fed Infants at Risk By Not Giving Safe Bottle-Feeding Advice to All Moms

Red Bank, NJ — A national survey found that 82 percent of nurses provide information to breastfeeding mothers about supplementing breastfeeding with infant formula, while only 46 percent also share material on safe preparation, handling and storage of infant formula with mothers who plan to breastfeed, announced HealthyWomen, the nation's leading independent health information source for women, which supported the survey.  The survey gathered information from 512 hospital-based maternity and neonatal nurses.

"Earlier research has indicated that 80 percent of all mothers will give their babies infant formula sometime during their first year," said Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, a registered nurse and executive director of HealthyWomen.  "So, that means many of these mothers, who intended to breastfeed but later formula feed, most likely learn nothing about infant formula at the hospital where they give birth and may not know important rules for safe formula preparation and storage."

A 2009 review study in the United Kingdom found that common mistakes were made in the preparation of bottles by mothers who reported receiving little information on bottle-feeding from their healthcare professionals. The authors concluded that "inadequate information and support for mothers who decide to bottle-feed may put the health of their babies at risk. While it is important to promote breastfeeding, it is also necessary to ensure that the needs of bottle-feeding mothers are met."

The two leading reasons mothers decide to formula feed their babies is that they plan to return to work or have previously used infant formula for other children, said 40 percent of the nurses polled in the survey. Difficulty breastfeeding/insufficient milk supply is another major factor that 36 percent of the nurses attributed to mothers’ decision to formula-feed their babies.

The HealthyWomen survey, which was conducted by Ipsos Forward Research, consisted of online surveys with maternity and neonatal nurses in July 2011.  It was conducted to learn about the infant-feeding information provided to parents by nurses in a hospital setting.  All participants had at least two years of nursing experience, worked in a hospital and played a role in educating parents on infant feeding options. 

Funding for the study was underwritten by the International Formula Council (IFC), an association of manufacturers and marketers of formulated nutrition products, e.g., infant formulas and adult nutritionals, whose members are based predominantly in North America.

About HealthyWomen
HealthyWomen is the nation's leading independent health information source for women. For more than 20 years, women have been coming to HealthyWomen for answers to their most pressing and personal health care questions. HealthyWomen provides health information through a wide array of online content and print publications that is original, objective and reviewed and approved by medical experts. Its website, www.HealthyWomen.org®, was recognized by ForbesWoman as one of the "Top 100 Websites for Women" for two consecutive years and was recommended by Dr. Mehmet Oz as his choice for one-stop women’s health advice. To learn more, visit www.HealthyWomen.org.

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