Last week, I received an e-mail, asking me to join in and sign the petition, that is being brought against Bounty, who provide sample packs, and take photos of newborns, on maternity wards up and down the country.
From what I can work out, having read a few articles, blogs and opinions on social media, the ladies that work for Bounty, in some hospitals have overstepped their mark, harassed and hassled new mothers, personal contact details have been passed on to marketing companies, and a lot of Mum’s have felt that they were vulnerable, tired, and hormonal after giving birth, and didn’t need to have to deal with, in what some cases sales person, trying to get them to pay for photos of their baby, at a time when they didn’t feel ready to make a decision about such things. Many mums felt they weren’t made aware that their personal details would be given to other 3rd parties, and felt that that sales tactics for the newborn photos were beyond what was acceptable. Also, there have been some families, who have sadly lost their baby, ether during or after birth, or are dealing with the stress and anxiety of a very sick baby, in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, who have felt that the Bounty representative was something that didn’t help them, and made their situation worse, in the middle of a traumatic time for them. Having worked as a nurse, with families of very sick babies and children, I can see where this would be an issue. In a stressful, and emotional situation like that, you don’t need to be harassed to buy photos of your very sick baby, or be filling in forms for samples when you don’t even know if you will be taking your baby home with you.
There is a campaign, led by Mumsnet, to have Bounty services removed from Maternity Units across the UK, to stop women feeling like they are under pressure, to buy photos or give their details to a company, shortly after they have given birth.
I do understand where some women are coming from, because I remember feeling tired, sore, anxious and vulnerable after I had given birth, and the first time round, after Big Girl’s birth, I was unwell, recovering from some fairly serious surgery, a blood transfusion, and was on a rather scary cocktail of medications and bed ridden. I was not up for dealing with even well meaning visiting friends, much less someone wanting to take photos of my newborn. To be fair, the Bounty Representative for our maternity unit didn’t visit me until 3 days after Big Girl was born, because she had been told that I wasn’t well, and was recovering, and she came, after my midwife checked with me, that I was fine to speak to her. She was lovely and very sympathetic, brought me a cup of tea (I could barely walk) and chatted to me for a good half an hour. When I told her that my friend was doing all of our baby photos (as a professional photographer) she didn’t pester me, and she left me with my pack, and even popped back the next day to see how I was doing. Second time round, I wasn’t so unwell, and it was a different lady who came round, but again, she accepted when I refused the photos, and was polite, and chatty, admired the New Born Small Boy and left me with my pack, with no problems. I didn’t feel pressured or harassed.
I do however, think that it is unnecessary for women to have to deal with strangers trying to sell them stuff, when they have just had a baby, and it isn’t acceptable for personal details to be sent on to 3rd parties without explicit permission.
I personally, found some of the information and samples in the Bounty pack quite handy, and some of the vouchers were useful. I did get a little bit annoyed that the week Big Girl turned 6 months, a pack from a formula company arrived in the mail with “ideas on weaning your baby” etc. in it when I was still breastfeeding and had no intention of stopping, at that point (formula companies are not allowed to market to mothers of infants under six months, in the UK) and did wonder if it had been sent via my details going to Bounty, but I threw it away and thought nothing more of it. Bounty have not attempted to improve the practice of their representatives, despite many complaints, and the staff on maternity wards are busy, and overstretched as it is, and don’t have time to monitor an outside agent, working amongst them so, the situation continues, with some mothers feeling very unhappy, and some liking the Bounty packs and visit, and others like me, feeling fairly neutral. Bounty, also is paid by the Tax and Inland Revenue organisation to dispense various forms and information related to Child Benefit and other payments some families may be entitled, too, so most parents want to take the pack, simply for that information. I personally think this is wrong, despite my neutral feelings on the whole Bounty pack thing. These forms could be easily given to families as part of their discharge from hospital paperwork, by the midwife, or given to them by their health visitor, during the post partum visit every mother should receive after she goes home with her baby.
Part of me is enraged that vulnerable women have been taken advantage of, at such a vulnerable time, and part of me quite like the Bounty pack, and found it useful.
Is there a way for information and resources, vouchers and the various documents to be given to parents on an “as wanted basis”. I don’t remember being asked if I wanted the Bounty representative to come round, until she actually came. Should I have been asked when I was admitted to hospital in labour? I can’t actually remember that bit at all, or what the protocol should have been? Should Bounty be made to tighten up it’s practice, not be paid to distribute the government forms, and the photography aspect be removed entirely?
Should Bounty be banned from all hospitals or should they continue to be allowed to do what they do?
I am not sure whether to sign the petition or not, right now….
I’d love to hear what other Mums (and Dads too) think about the whole Bounty issue?