State bans gift bags to promote breast-feeding– “Mass. hospitals to stop giving diaper bags filled with formula, other freebies”
I know this news is almost a week old now, but I have to applaud Massachusetts’ new ban on distributing gift bags full of formula* to moms in the hospital.
Some view the ban as too extreme, but I think that it helps encourage breastfeeding and I see that as a positive thing. I, for one, would be happy to see hospitals or even other states follow suit.
The article (above) notes that: “According to 2004 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 74 percent of Massachusetts mothers breast-feed, but only 39 percent are still breast-feeding when the baby is 6 months old, below the federal goal of 50 percent. Nationally, about 36 percent of mothers breast-feed at 6 months.” I’ll be curious to see how much (if at all) the percentages change a year after this new ban is in place.
From another article on the subject, “Giving out these bags reduces the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding and is considered unethical by many national and international groups, including the World Health Organization. Multiple studies, even from prestigious medical journals such as the Lancet, have shown that the bags interfere with breastfeeding, causing moms to switch to formula sooner, or quit nursing altogether– even when the bags do not contain formula samples.” “Most parents see these as a “free gift,” but the bags are a marketing technique that implies that the hospital endorses the product, successfully boosting sales of formula at the expense of breastfeeding.”
On one of the Yahoo! Groups I belong to, a few of the moms have been working on letters that we can all send to hospitals in our area to encourage them to adopt the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative as instituted by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. “A maternity facility can be designated ‘baby-friendly’ when it does not accept free or low-cost breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats, and has implemented 10 specific steps to support successful breastfeeding.”
While I don’t believe that it necessarily needs to be legislated by the government, I would like to see more hospitals simply adopt the BFHI policy and not give out formula unless it is specifically requested. I think those steps could go a long way at increasing the number and longevity of breastfed babies.
By the way, here’s a great site about the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in the USA.
*It’s worth noting that the ban does not prevent the hospitals from giving formula to moms who request it.