Earlier this month, Massachusetts became the second US state to ban infant formula gift bags. Dr. Lauren Smith, Medical Director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health told Boston.com that, “We applaud the effort of all of the hospitals to make this explicit statement of their support of breastfeeding here in the Commonwealth.”
According to the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition,
“In 2005, nearly all maternity facilities in the state were giving out discharge bags from formula companies. The marketing technique is particularly effective in lowering breastfeeding rates in part because of the implied endorsement of the hospital and health professionals. The bags often come with a requirement that hospitals get their formula for free, which contributes greatly to unnecessary use of formula by breastfeeding mothers. Research has consistently shown that such use is one of the strongest predictors of early breastfeeding failure— with a resultant increase in formula sales.”
Last fall, UMass Memorial Medical Center decided to stop distributing formula bags due to institutional pressure to avoid corporate marketing on hospital materials. Dr. Ellen Delpapa, Medical Director, Labor and Delivery told Boston.com that, “We now give women a free canvas bag with our hospital logo, but it doesn’t have anything in it. So far, we’ve had no complaints; no one has missed the formula.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first six months to provide babies with protection against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies. Breastfed babies also have a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome and a reduced likelihood for obesity.