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Delaware bans hospital gift bags of baby formula

via Delaware DPH
A screengrab from a state Department of Public Health video promoting the benefits of breastfeeding.

For years, hospitals in Delaware and nationwide have given free baby formula to new moms. Research shows it makes moms less likely to breastfeed -- and Delaware is joining a growing push to change that.

The First State is now the third in the nation to ban the practice of giving out formula bags. Lisl Phelps is a nurse consultant with the state Department of Public Health. She says breastfeeding reduces the risk of infant infection, obesity, type 1 diabetes and leukemia.


"We don't want women to feel pressure to breastfeed," Phelps says. "What we want is for women to make that decision to breastfeed."

Phelps says the state recognizes that some families may still opt to use formula -- and hospitals will still help new moms get in touch with the state Women Infant Children or WIC program if they need financial help.


But she says the free formula is donated by brandname companies -- meaning it advertises a product that can cost hundreds of dollars more a year than identical generic alternatives.


"When you go to the doctor, when you go to the hospital, you expect them to give you things that are healthy. You expect them to endorse healthy things and not really advertise for things, so to speak," Phelps says. "And that's what these formula discharge bags are doing. It was an inadvertent endorsement of formula."

Delaware's new ban didn't require a regulatory change, like in some other states and cities. Phelps says the First State's six maternity centers were already moving to ban formula bags on their own.