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For Release: Sept. 10, 2012 - Pamela Williams, Office of Communications - 405/271-5601

Hospitals Encourage Breastfeeding by Not Giving Formula Bags
Will Your Hospital Ban the Bag?

Twenty-three Oklahoma 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, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced today.

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 (CDC).  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.  

Oklahoma hospitals are working hard to encourage breastfeeding and provide quality care to breastfeeding families by joining the Ban the Bag project,” said Becky Mannel. Mannel is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and the project leader for the Oklahoma Hospital Breastfeeding Education Project sponsored by the OSDH under the “Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility” initiative to lower infant deaths in Oklahoma.

“Breastfeeding support is an important strategy toward improving the health of Oklahoma mothers and their children. We must continue to focus on providing better support in our hospitals and communities, and this will, in turn, help improve Oklahoma’s breastfeeding rates. We are very proud of the hospitals that are working to provide a supportive breastfeeding environment for new mothers and babies,” said Mannel.

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.  

Hospitals “bag-free” include the following:

Great Plains Regional Medical Center, Elk City

Jackson County Memorial Hospital, Altus                                

OU Medical Center, Oklahoma City                            

OU Medical Center, Edmond                          

St. Anthony Shawnee, Shawnee

Weatherford Regional Hospital, Weatherford

Claremore Indian Hospital, Claremore                         

Comanche County Memorial Hospital, Lawton                        

Deaconess Hospital, Oklahoma City                                        
Duncan Regional Hospital, Duncan                                           

Hillcrest Medical Center, Tulsa                                                

INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center, Oklahoma City                 

INTEGRIS Baptist Regional Health Center, Miami                   

INTEGRIS Bass Baptist Health Center, Enid

INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Regional Hospital, Yukon                        

INTEGRIS Clinton Regional Hospital, Clinton                          

INTEGRIS Grove Hospital, Grove                                          

INTEGRIS Health Edmond, Edmond                                      

INTEGRIS Southwest Medical Center, Oklahoma City

Norman Regional Health System Moore Medical Center, Moore

Norman Regional Health System HealthPlex Hospital, Norman

St. Anthony Hospital, Oklahoma City

St. John Medical Center, Tulsa

For more information about the Oklahoma Hospital Breastfeeding Education Project

and to learn ways to encourage your local hospital to Ban the Bag, contact:   Becky Mannel, Department of OB/GYN, at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center at (405) 271-4350 office or email:  rebecca-mannel@ouhsc.edu. . The full CDC report is available at www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard.htm.

For information about the “Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility” initiative to reduce infant deaths in Oklahoma, visit http://iio.health.ok.gov.


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