Breastfeeding is best: Delaware hospitals banning complimentary formula bags

SUSSEX COUNTY – Breastfeeding is the natural formula for both a healthier baby and mother.

For decades, as new mothers left the hospital, they cradled their swaddled newborns and carried complimentary formula gift bags.

By distributing the formula gift bags, health care providers inadvertently appeared to implicitly promote formula over breastfeeding, the healthier choice.

And, research has shown that the free bags increase formula sales and decrease the duration of breastfeeding.

Thursday, Delaware joined two other states – Massachusetts and Rhode Island – that have “banned the bag” now that all maternity facilities have stopped distributing the gift bags that contained cans of formula, coupons and other advertising.

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital

In promoting breastfeeding, a press conference was held Thursday at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital on hospitals in Delaware banning complimentary formula bags to mothers and their newborns

“Delaware is only the third state to ‘ban the bags’”, said Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf during the July 23 press conference at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. “Today we are celebrating an enormous public health milestone and our Delaware hospital partners.”

Eliminating formula gift bags is a nationwide effort supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Rhode Island was the first state to eliminate the bags in 2011, followed by Massachusetts in 2012.

“Breastfeeding starts infants on a healthy life course because it is the optimal nutrition for infants,” said Delaware Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl T. Rattay. “When mothers breastfeed, they protect their babies from many illnesses and diseases. Discontinuing the formula gift bag tradition clearly defines breastfeeding as the best choice.”

“Delaware hospitals have been happy to work together to support the ‘ban the bag’ campaign,” added Wayne Smith, Delaware Healthcare Association President and CEO,. “This represents an important opportunity for improved newborn health and wellbeing.”

According to Delaware’s Division of Public Health, breastfeeding protects babies from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, allergies, and asthma. Babies who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese. Additionally, mothers who breastfeed have less risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and lose pregnancy weight faster.

The nation’s Healthy People 2020 initiative, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), calls for mothers to breastfeed their infants for at least one year after birth. Of Delaware infants born in 2011, 13.2 percent were breastfed exclusively through six months, compared to 18.8 percent nationally and the Healthy People 2020 goal of 25.5 percent. At one year, 16.8 percent of Delaware infants born in 2011 were breastfed, compared to 26.7 percent nationally and the Healthy People 2020 goal of 34.1 percent.

If 90 percent of U.S. families followed guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the U.S. would annually save $13 billion from reduced medical and other costs, according to the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General. U.S. households with breastfed infants can save between $1,200 and $1,500 in infant formula expenditures in the first year.

“The Breastfeeding Coalition of Delaware applauds our fantastic Delaware hospitals for voluntarily eliminating the formula discharge bags and continuing to support breastfeeding,” said Lisl Phelps, chair of the Breastfeeding Coalition of Delaware. “Giving out free formula is akin to direct marketing of pharmaceuticals in health care facilities.”

Governor Jack Markell declared August as National Breastfeeding Month and the week of Aug. 1-7, 2015 as World Breastfeeding Week in Delaware. His signed proclamation urges “all Delawareans, including families, communities, child care, and health care and business sectors, to adopt policies and practices to accommodate breastfeeding mothers as they strive to provide the best possible nutrition for their children.”

For more information on breastfeeding, visit the Breastfeeding Coalition of Delaware at www.delawarebreastfeeding.org/ or the CDC at http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/.

The Sussex County Post delivers news from Georgetown and southern Delaware. Follow @SussexPost on Twitter.

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