Twenty-four Okla-homa hospitals are participating in a pilot program called “Ban the Bag” and have agreed to stop the practice of sending new mothers home with commercial formula discharge bags, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Hospital promotion of free infant formula samples has long been known to reduce breastfeeding rates. New mothers who have any problems with breastfeeding are more likely to turn to the “free” formula given to them by their hospital than to call someone for help. The “free” formula becomes very costly when it contributes to Oklahoma’s low breastfeeding duration rates.
Formula bag promotions contribute to Oklahoma’s low score on the 2012 Breastfeeding Report Card released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This report consistently measures hospital practices and works to increase the number of births at “Baby-Friendly” facilities. The report shows only 71 percent of Oklahoma mothers started breastfeeding, which is below the national average of 77 percent. The report also found that only 33 percent are still breastfeeding at 6 months, and that number drops to below 15 percent at 12 months, also well below the national average.
Low breastfeeding rates are one of the reasons Oklahoma continues to rank in the top 10 nationwide for obesity, diabetes, and infant mortality. Evidence is overwhelming that breastfeeding improves the health of mothers and babies while formula feeding adds a significant cost to families and our state.
The CDC report found that hospital support for breastfeeding has improved throughout the country and since 2009, the Oklahoma score on the CDC’s Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care survey has increased from 55 to 62, from a possible score of 100. Also, the report found that in Oklahoma, no births occurred in “Baby-Friendly” hospitals, because Oklahoma does not have any hospitals with the World Health Organization designation.
Hospitals that encourage mothers to exclusively breastfeed are following best practices and the recommendations of most major medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the CDC and the OSDH.