public policy

R.I. eliminates formula distribution to new mothers

Posted 11/28/11

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island’s birthing hospitals have ended the practice of distributing free infant formula to postpartum women at hospital discharge, the first state in the nation to do so.

That milestone will be celebrated at a news conference scheduled for Nov. 28 at the R.I. Statehouse, featuring First Lady Stephanie Chafee, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts, Dr. Michael Fine, director of the R.I. Department of Health, and Marsha Walker, co-chair of Ban the Bags, a national campaign to stop formula company marketing in maternity hospitals

Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of some diseases, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding during infancy helps to prevent children from becoming overweight or obese during childhood and later in life. Furthermore, breastfeeding results in significant cost savings for families, the health care system, and for employers. Multiple studies show an association between the distribution of free commercial formula bags and decreased breastfeeding rates.

In October, Landmark Medical Center and Memorial Hospital joined Kent, Newport, South County, Westerly, and Women & Infants hospitals in eliminating the distribution of formula bags and enabled Rhode Island to claim the honor of being the first state to do so, R.I. Health Department officials said.

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