Milestone For Breastfeeding Advocates

At the beginning of this month, all maternity hospitals in Massachusetts will no longer hand out formula gift bags to new moms.

Breastfeeding baby

Once a staple of a hospital birth, the formula gift bag is starting to disappear in hospitals around the country. Rhode Island was the first to discontinue the practice of handing out free diaper bags that had formula samples in them, and now Massachusetts is following suit.

But everyone loves freebies!

The main reason that hospitals are steering away from formula samples is that studies have shown that breastfeeding moms who receive free formula are less likely to still be nursing their babies at 1 month of age.

"It’s only too easy to imagine a tired mom, struggling at home to breastfeed her new infant, with the cans of formula sitting in a closet, calling her name."

When I had my kids, the hospital would give me a “breastfeeding” bag, which contained neat things like milk storage bottles and cooling packs. However, they always also included small cans of formula and were heavily branded with either Enfamil or Similac. I was sure that I had made the right choice to breastfeed and wasn’t tempted by the formula, but it’s only too easy to imagine a tired mom, struggling at home to breastfeed her new infant, with the cans of formula sitting in a closet, calling her name.

Slippery slope

And often, it’s a slippery slope -- the baby may have an easier time drinking the formula because it’s less work to empty a bottle than it is to nurse a breast. And family members may not be helping, either. When you’re hormonal and exhausted, and help seems far away, it may seem like the logical choice.

If there is no formula in their closets, moms will be far less likely to be tempted into formula feeding. And they may be more likely to seek help from a certified lactation consultant, support group (online or off) or friends.

Last year, the CDC reported that less than 5 percent of babies were born in American hospitals that fully support breastfeeding. Rhode Island and Massachusetts may be paving the way for more hospitals to be more breastfeeding-friendly.

More on breastfeeding

Breastfeeding on the go
How to get help with breastfeeding
Recipe for breastfeeding success

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