US hospitals have banned supplying formula marketing materials and free samples to new mums.
With less than half of babies born in New York being exclusively breastfed in their first days, all 126 of the state’s birthing hospitals will now adopt the strict regulations.
The New York State Department of Health says hospitals will also need to tell new mums about the ‘risks of early pacifier use,’ because, ‘the use of pacifiers can interfere with the mother’s ability to recognise early feeding cues and make it difficult to establish breastfeeding’.
In a bid to lift breastfeeding rates, hospitals will now be prohibited from giving new mums gift bags that have formula marketing materials and samples.
Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker says the measures are aimed at supporting and encouraging new mums to exclusively breastfeed, until their baby is six-months-old.
The amended regulations require hospitals to place newborns with their mothers immediately after delivery, unless contraindicated. Studies find that infants who have skin-to-skin contact with their mothers have more stable heart and breathing rates, better temperature regulation and higher glucose levels. Both mother and infant are less stressed, and breastfeeding is more likely to be initiated.
“The amended regulations help ensure that we provide the support and encouragement new mothers need to breastfeed their babies and continue to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker.
“Research shows that breast milk provides unique nutrients and antibodies that help protect babies from diseases such as ear infections, lower respiratory infections and diarrhea, and decrease the risk of asthma, diabetes and obesity later in life. For women, breastfeeding lowers their risk for breast and ovarian cancer, as well as diabetes.”
Besides the early skin-to-skin contact requirement, the new regulations require hospitals to discuss with patients the risks of early pacifier use. The use of pacifiers can interfere with the mother’s ability to recognize early feeding cues and make it difficult to establish breastfeeding. Pacifier use is also associated with early termination of breastfeeding. Both the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Paediatrics recommend that pacifier use be delayed until one month of age, and that after six months of age, infants should be weaned from using pacifiers because of the increased risk for ear infections.
In addition, the amended regulations prohibit hospitals and affiliated clinics from giving out gift bags that contain formula marketing materials such as coupons or free samples to new parents, a practice associated with a shorter duration of breastfeeding. Most hospitals in New York have already voluntarily stopped distributing free formula and marketing materials, but the amended regulations help ensure that the remaining hospitals do so, too.
The new policies do not affect infants whose mothers have chosen formula feeding or for whom breastfeeding is medically contraindicated. Hospitals will still provide formula to those infants while they are in the hospital, and will be required to provide individual training in formula preparation and feeding techniques.
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