July 13th, 2012
Mass. birth facilities ban infant formula gift bags
By Deborah Kotz
The last few Massachusetts maternity hospitals that were still offering free infant formula gift bags to new mothers have decided to ban the practice, welcome news for advocates of breast-feeding. All 49 birth facilities in the state have voluntarily eliminated the giveaways by the beginning of July, making Massachusetts the second state to do so. Rhode Island hospitals ended the practice last November.
“We applaud the effort of all of the hospitals to make this explicit statement of their support of breast-feeding here in the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Lauren Smith, medical director of the state Department of Public Health.
In 2005, Massachusetts tried to end the free formula practice with a statewide ban instituted by the Public Health Council, which issues health regulations. But that decision was overturned several months later when Governor Mitt Romney replaced council members who were in favor of the ban.
More than a dozen studies have shown that breast-feeding mothers who received free formula samples after they left the hospital were less likely to be breast-feeding by the time their infant was 1 month old. “Using formula without a medical reason is one of the biggest predictors of breast-feeding failure,” said Dr. Melissa Bartick, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition.