Tag Archives | Marketing

Applauding Maryland’s Ban the Bags Initiative

The Maryland Breastfeeding Coalition has recently initiated a movement to “Ban the Bags” in Maryland. They sent the following letter and video outlining their efforts to to the CEOs of all birthing hospitals across the state, requesting the removal of all commercial infant formula discharge bags. We applaud their efforts and look forward to hearing how their actions support mothers and babies in Maryland. We hope that their letter and the influence it has can serve as a model for other states and countries to make the same changes in their communities.

banthebagsThe Maryland Breastfeeding Coalition lauds and strongly supports the recent release of the Maryland Hospital Breastfeeding Policy Recommendations by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). As part of these recommendations, in an effort to protect and improve maternal and infant health in our state, we write today to urge your hospital to join with all hospitals in Maryland in discontinuing the distribution of commercial infant formula discharge bags. The initiative to ban the practice of marketing formula by health care institutions and professionals in all birthing hospitals is supported by DHMH’s recommendations, as well as other public health authorities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control, and the 2011 Surgeon General’sReport.

Banning the bag is feasible!  Your hospital can join those hospitals that have committed to protecting breastfeeding and refuse to act as marketing agents of formula companies.  Several Maryland hospitals have already banned the formula company discharge bags without significant hardship or obstacles. In the process, they have been able to simultaneously increase their marketability.

  • Through working with their purchasing and marketing departments, some like Upper Chesapeake Medical Center and Shady Grove Adventist Hospital have designed and distributed their own discharge “gifts” which advertise their respective hospitals.
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital stopped giving out formula samples over three years ago as part of a hospital-wide effort to stymie the marketing of pharmaceuticals within its facilities.  The hospital administration has chosen not to give out a replacement bag.
  • Other hospitals such as Memorial Hospital at Easton discontinued distribution at the behest of Risk Management upon investigating their liability in the event of a formula recall or a baby getting sick from expired or contaminated formula.

While these hospitals and others no longer hand out formula bags upon discharge, banning the bag never prevents a mother from obtaining free formula samples if she so requests.   She can simply be directed to call the toll-free number on the back of every formula container to receive free bags, coupons, or samples. Your hospital aims to promote the health of infants and mothers, but when providing the bag and/or formula samples, the ongoing promotion of infant formula sends the inaccurate message that these products are medically approved, endorsed, and necessary.

The Maryland Breastfeeding Coalition has prepared a brief power point presentation to highlight the research regarding the effects of formula discharge bags and discuss further how hospitals can approach banning the bags. We encourage you to view and share it with your staff.

For more information, you can browse www.banthebags.org, and Public Citizen .  You can also visit the website of the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition which has successfully led all 49 of Massachusetts’s birthing hospitals to ban the bag.  Our own Maryland Breastfeeding Coalition website will soon contain links to the You Tube video for staff and other resources. Help us make Maryland the next state to successfully put the health of our youngest citizens first by banning the formula discharge bags from all birthing hospitals. Please contact us if the Maryland Breastfeeding Coalition can be of further assistance to you, or if you have any questions.

Please share this information with other relevant departments within your hospital. We very much appreciate your time with this matter.

What is your community doing to eliminate the marketing of formula in your hospitals?

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Just When You Didn’t Plan Anything for World Breastfeeding Week…..

World Breastfeeding Week brought about wonderful opportunities to engage with our communities about the incredible impact of breastfeeding.  This is one IBCLCs account of her thought process as she navigated doing a live, on-air television interview.

By Denise Altman, RN, IBCLC, LCCE

One day last week, after seeing my patients, I checked my messages and listened to one from a reporter wanting to ask me some questions about World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). My knee jerk reaction was either to not return the call-I had been at the beach for a week and was woefully behind-or hand her off to another IBCLC practicing in a pediatric office. However, I just don’t have it in me to pass up a marketing opportunity, so I called her back.

She sounded young, and was calling about WBW in general but she also wanted to know what exactly I do. She didn’t know much about the Affordable Healthcare Act but knew that there were parts that addressed breastfeeding . She wanted help with a story angle and maybe a live interview.

Story angle? Role of the lactation consultant? Oh yeah, this is worth pursuing.

I spent about ten minutes just talking, and hit her with enough stuff to get her excited. I
then added the suggestion of also having mama and baby on camera. Sold! She wanted a
live remote tomorrow morning at 7:30am. She had to confirm with her producer and I had to figure out how to mange this new activity on a full schedule, so we decided to touch base by phone at the end of the day.

After hanging up, I started thinking….who do I want?

I need a working mama who looks professional but not too “businessey”. Nice round happy baby who is easy going. Both available at short notice. Mama is willing to be primed and focused but can articulate well without script.

Wait a minute! I have a speech therapist in my patient population (this is why I always ask what people do for a living)! I remembered how she communicates, that she works with kids and understands the science as well as the parent perspective. Score!

Next, I have to decide on my two key points (one for each hand). This is my focus for every interview question so I stay on track.

Breastfeeding is Normal.
IBCLC are the Experts.

In between the mental gyrations, I have to do a home visit to see a mama, and of course, line up my on camera mama and consider back up. I emailed the reporter resources from the ILCA website such as What is an IBCLC?, How IBCLCs Make a Difference, and 10 More Reasons to Breastfeed. There is a ton of support materials already created and the added benefit is that the reporter knows then where to go for future stories or additional info. I also suggested live remote from chiropractor’s office where I do classes-it’s a thank you to the doc, plus the space is soothing and quiet, rather than a busy, cold newsroom. I sent a short list of common myths (along with truth statements) and recommended this as the focus of the interview.

Finally, I rearranged my patient schedule for the next morning. Then, I sent a “heads up”
on my personal social media outlets. I think I have done as much as I can, but there must
be something more.

Can I make this opportunity go further?

Once I called the reporter again about the final details, and then suggested that she
continue coverage for the full week. Then I pitched three additional story ideas with
contact info:

  1. A local NICU (the first or only in the state?) that has started using donor milk that has previously had an unheard of necrotizing enterocolitis rate.
  2. Healthy Carolina’s Lactation Program, which is helping to institute corporate lactation wellness program within our local university.
  3. Local Big Latch On event which could highlight lots of nursing mamas and babes in one handy spot.

After then phone call, I then gave various organizational contacts a heads up that TV reporter may call. Not only could they get positive exposure for breastfeeding support, but
is a great way to build or strengthen community relationships.

The night before, I didn’t sleep very well. I hate doing stuff on TV because my double chin always shows, and I tend to talk fast when I get excited about a topic. I decided to channel Leigh Anne O’Connor, who many private practice IBCLCs would vote “Most Likely To Get Her Own TV Show”! She is an IBCLC in New York who often appears in TV and radio spots. She always appears very calm and focused (maybe its her acting background).

In the morning, the reporter tells me that the producer has given not one, but two segments due to all of the good information she presented! I dressed carefully, trying to look both professional and approachable, wearing a pressed blouse with my business logo on it. When the mama arrived, we quickly discussed the focus for her-normal, working mother, benefits from professional standpoint as well as family focus. She nailed all of it, and the baby was so cute reaching for the mic, that I was hard pressed not to laugh through the whole thing. In my head, I repeated “Normal and IBCLC”.


As she was packing up, the young reporter told me she is one of 12 kids, all breastfed.
When she called home the previous night and shared what she was covering and why, her
mama told her she was proud of her for doing this kind of story.

The world is round.

Because of a call that I didn’t want to return, and a TV appearance I didn’t want to do,
breastfeeding support had a good day in South Carolina.

Denise Altman is a private practice LC in Columbia, South Carolina, USA, and author of two textbooks for healthcare professionals; “History and Assessment: Its All in the Details” and “Mentoring Our Future“. A frequent conference speaker, she enjoys sharing topics and stories “from the trenches”. Her professional picture has been photo shopped to remove her double chin. You can reach Denise at obrnmom@aol.com.

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