A new study shows that fewer hospitals are sending new mothers home with free formula samples, but that these baby-friendly hospitals are still in the minority.
The study, published today in the journal Pediatrics, compared the rates of formula giveaways in hospitals in the ten states with the best and worst rates.
Minnesota was among the top states for having baby-friendly practices and declining to supply free formula samples to mothers of newborns. The top states also included Washington, California, Vermont, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Oregon and Rhode Island.
The worst states were Arkansas, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia and Iowa.
The study found that the number of hospitals electing to quit handing out free formula samples has grown since they were last questioned four years ago.
Researchers had found that in 2007, only 14% of U.S. hospitals were sample-pack-free. This year, researchers followed up with the states with the best and worst rates and found that of the 1,239 hospitals they re-surveyed, 28% were sample-free in 2010.
Study author Anne Merewood, an associate pediatrics professor at Boston University medical school and editor of the Journal of Human Lactation, says, “I don’t think hospitals are the right place to market anything and I don’t think hospitals should be marketing a product that is nutritionally inferior to breast milk.”
Breastfeeding advocates point out that breastfeeding is the healthiest option for feeding infants by far and that hospitals should do all that they can to encourage and support exclusive breastfeeding. Many advocates point out that hospitals sending newborns home with formula “is like giving somebody divorce papers at their wedding.” The practice can send mixed messages and undermine a mother’s determination to breastfeed.
A CDC report card on breast-feeding released last month showed that less than 5 percent of U.S. infants are born in “baby-friendly” hospitals that fully support breast-feeding. The report also stated that 1 in 4 infants receive formula within hours of birth.
For more information about breastfeeding, see:
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