The arguments FOR and AGAINST signing a hospital consent form for formula

Parents in New Zealand are now required to sign a hospital consent forms before they are allowed to feed their newborn babies formula. So what are the issues?

Mothers being forced to sign consent forms to formula feed their babies in hospital is outrageous, an academic says.

University of Auckland professor Maureen Molloy said the formula consent forms were a “complete abrogation” of their rights.

[…] Although some mothers reported being refused formula in hospitals entirely, others were met with reluctance and a formula consent form.

Of New Zealand’s 20 district health boards, 18 required mothers to sign consent forms.

Four of those boards only required mums to sign if there were medical reasons for needing formula.

Molloy said she could understand the use of consent forms if hospital staff were in charge of feeding the baby – but not if a mother had asked for formula.

“They seem to me to be coercive – forcing mothers to sign off on the fact they aren’t, in the hospital’s view, doing the best thing for [their] baby.”

They are not stopping them from feeding their baby formula but they are refusing in some cases to supply it. No one is stopping the parents from purchasing it themselves. Breastmilk is free and is indisputably the very best and the perfect food for a newborn baby.

Mother nursing son

The hospital surely is duty bound to discourage food that is second best. If the Mum for whatever reason cannot give her baby the best then she should not feel guilty for feeding her baby formula and should not feel offended that the hospital is promoting what is best for the baby.


Hawke’s Bay mum Nici Baldwin said she asked for formula to feed her screaming and unsettled son when she gave birth in February.

She said she knew she would have trouble breastfeeding as she had with her first baby, but was shocked to discover consent was required for formula feeding.

“I feel like if it’s your baby and you say ‘yes’ that should be enough,” she said.

“You definitely feel like the ogre. You feel like the non-normal.”

When patients check themselves out against doctors advice they have to sign a form so in my mind this is no different. The hospital is duty bound to tell mothers what is best for the baby. If that offends the mother then that is her problem, not theirs. If something then goes wrong the hospital will have protected themselves because the mother can’t then claim that she hadn’t been told.

Baldwin said it was a bad time for mothers to be expected to sign consent forms as many, like her, had had a difficult birth and were not thinking straight.

“An adult doesn’t have to sign consent when a doctor is giving morphine, but you have to sign consent to give a baby food.

“It seems a bit ridiculous really.”

[…] Waitematā DHB was among those that required mothers to sign consent forms.

The consent form stated breastfeeding was recommended because it gave “lifelong health benefits to both mother and baby”.

It included the risk that giving a baby “breastmilk substitutes” could reduce a mother’s chance of breastfeeding long-term.

“It will also expose your baby to a foreign protein (cow’s milk) which increases their risk of allergies, asthmas and intestinal illnesses.”


Health Minister David Clark […] said he understood the importance of encouraging women to breastfeed.

“I recognise the challenges that women face in raising their babies and believe they should be offered as much support as they need, whatever their choices.”

New Zealand Breastfeeding Alliance (NZBA) recently voiced its support of consent forms.

Learning and development facilitator Dianne Powley said if a mother requested formula she needed to make an informed decision as there can be risks.

This is because in years gone by many babies were given formula unbeknown to the parents, she said.[…]

– Stuff

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