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Report: Massachusetts birth hospitals ditch free infant formula gift bags


(CBS/AP) Massachusetts maternity hospitals will no longer offer infant formula gift bags to new moms, according to a new report.

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Public health officials tell The Boston Globe all 49 birth facilities in the state had voluntarily eliminated the giveaways by the beginning of July. The announcement is a milestone for breast-feeding advocates.

Studies have shown that breast-feeding mothers who receive free formula are less likely to be breast feeding by the time their infant was 1 month old.

Massachusetts first tried to end the free formula practice with a statewide ban in 2005. The decision was overturned several months later when Gov. Mitt Romney replaced some members of the council that approved the ban.

"Clinical studies and many years of consumer use have shown infant formula to be a safe alternative which supports normal growth and development in infants," the industry's trade group, the International Formula Council, said in an emailed statement. "At the end of the day, the real objective for any campaign intended to increase breastfeeding rates should be to provide sound advice and support to new mothers."

In November of 2011, Rhode Island became the first state to eliminate free infant formula samples at hospitals, removing them from its seven maternity hospitals.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers exclusively breast-feed for the first six months to provide babies with protection against many illnesses and allergies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says babies who are fed formula and stop breast-feeding early may be more likely to develop diabetes, respiratory and ear infections, and tend to require more doctor visits, prescriptions or hospitalizations. Children who aren't breast-fed are also more likely to be obese and are at a higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Also, mothers who breast-feed have a lower risk for breast and ovarian cancers, the CDC said.

Last year, a CDC report card on breast-feeding found less than 5 percent of U.S. babies are born in hospitals that fully support breast-feeding, and 1 in 4 infants receive formula within hours of birth. The CDC hoped to eliminate the free formula practices at many hospitals.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of a baby's life, with continued breast-feeding along with healthy foods through age 2 and beyond.

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