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Breastfeeding is officially encouraged in most hospitals in the United States, and they also often have lactation consultants on staff to help new mothers get breastfeeding going, and to coach them through any complications they come across. But a the same time, it is still very common for hospitals to give out free samples of infant formula, usually as part of a "go home" packet.

Look at a list that shows new parents what essential baby items they should get in, and you'll almost always get the advice to get infant formula, bottles, and other related supplies "just in case", even if you are planning to breastfeed. This attitude may encourage mothers to quite breastfeeding at the first hint of trouble.

What is surprising is that hospitals, sponsored by formula companies, also do this. A new report showed that giving out free formula samples is less common now than in was in 1997, when the same researchers also collected data on the subject. But "freebie formula" is this the norm. The researchers are concerned that this fact can harm a baby's chances of being breastfed exclusively until at least six months old, which is what the World Health Organization recommends.

Anne Merewood from Boston Medical Center, who worked on the new study, was quoted by Reuters as saying: "If a hospital gives it out... the patient thinks it's the best thing for the baby. The bottom line is that the hospitals are marketing for the formula industry." The new report found that, out of 1,200 hospitals in those 20 states that researchers questioned, 72 percent routinely gave out free formula samples provided by manufacturers. That is a great investment for formula companies, but not a good investment into the future health of babies. Formula should be reserved for those who actually plan on using it.

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