In an effort to encourage breastfeeding, Rhode Island’s seven state birthing hospitals recently stopped giving away goody bags of free formula to new mothers. While they aren’t the first hospitals to go “bag free” — 540 of the 3,300 birthing hospitals across the country have already done it — the new policy does make Rhode Island the first state to have all birthing hospitals agree to participate in the “Ban the Bags” campaign.

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We know that breastfeeding has all kinds of benefits including supporting early mother and baby bonding, reducing the risk of SIDS, helping with postpartum depression, and even boosting Baby’s brainpower. While healthcare officials say they won’t pressure or guilt moms into breastfeeding, the hope is that the lack of free formula will help encourage education and discussions on what’s best for Baby. Even though formula won’t be passed out to all new moms before they leave the hospital, freebies will still be available for those unable to breastfeed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 Breastfeeding Report Card, Rhode Island’s breastfeeding rate is decent — 38 percent of moms are still breastfeeding their babies at 6 months old compared to a national rate of 44 percent. The state’s new goal according to State Health Director Michael Fine, is to get the breastfeeding rate up to 60 percent by 2020. Perhaps the states with the lowest rates such as Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana should follow suit.

Lead image © Raphael Goetter