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West Virginia Has Banned the Bags!

PRESS RELEASE 1/24/18:  West Virginia joins only a few other states that have “banned the bags” now that all maternity hospitals in the state no longer distribute complimentary formula gift bags containing cans of formula, coupons, and other advertising. For years, infant formula companies have provided new mothers with these gift bags when they left the hospital. By distributing the gift bags, health care providers appeared to promote formula over breastfeeding. Today, West Virginia celebrates an important public health milestone for improved newborn health and wellbeing.


“West Virginia is only the 7th state to ‘Ban the Bags’”, said West Virginia Perinatal Partnership Director Amy Tolliver. “Today we are celebrating our West Virginia hospital partners.”


Research has shown that the free bags increase formula sales and decrease the duration of breastfeeding. Eliminating these gift bags is a nationwide effort supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The Ban the Bags campaign originated through the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition.  Rhode Island was the first state to eliminate the bags in 2011, followed by Massachusetts in 2012, the cities of Washington, District of Columbia and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2014, Delaware and Maryland in 2015, and then New Hampshire in 2016.


Breastfeeding protects babies from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, allergies, and asthma. Babies who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese. Additionally, mothers who breastfeed have less risk of breast and ovarian cancers and lose pregnancy weight faster.


“Like so many other health statistics, West Virginia ranks low (#47) in breastfeeding rates.  You have to start somewhere though and West Virginia’s breastfeeding coalition --the West Virginia Breastfeeding Alliance (WVBA), has been working hard for many years to better promote and support mothers nursing their children.  By focusing on the “10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding”  WVBA has worked with WV birthing facilities and health care providers to foster those practices that improve mother baby care and help women be successful in their breastfeeding goals.  Asking hospitals to “Ban the Bag” and therefore not market anything but health was a natural step in this direction. “ quote from WVBA Project Director Molly McMillion.


The Healthy People 2020 initiative, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), calls for mothers to breastfeed their infants for at least one year after birth. Of West Virginia infants born in 2013, 14.1 percent were breastfed exclusively through six months, compared to 22.3 percent nationally and the Healthy People 2020 goal of 60.6 percent. At one year, 18.3 percent of West Virginia infants born in 2013 were breastfed, compared to 30.7 percent nationally and the Healthy People 2020 goal of 34.1 percent.


A study published in the journal Pediatrics estimated that if 90 percent of U.S. families followed guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the U.S. would annually save $13 billion from reduced medical and other costs.  According to the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, U.S. households with breastfed infants can save between $1,200 and $1,500 in infant formula expenditures in the first year.

The West Virginia Perinatal Partnership is a statewide partnership of healthcare professionals and public and private organizations working to improve perinatal health in West Virginia. Founded in 2006, the Partnership coordinates programs and develops policies to address the State’s health outcomes among mothers and their babies.



West Virginia Bag-Free Hospitals and Birth Centers:


Berkeley Medical Center, Martinsburg, WV

Bluefield Regional Medical Center, Bluefield, WV

Cabell Huntington Hospital, Huntington, WV

CAMC Women and Children's Hospital, Charleston, WV

Camden Clark Medical Center, Parkersburg, WV

Davis Medical Center, Elkins, WV

Fairmont Regional Medical Center, Fairmont, WV

Family Care/Women’s Care Health Center, Scott Depot, WV

Grant Memorial Hospital, Petersburg, WV

Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, Ronceverte, WV

Jefferson Medical Center, Ranson, WV

Logan Regional Medical Center, Logan, WV

Monongalia General Hospital, Morgantown, WV

Ohio Valley Medical Center, Wheeling, WV

Pleasant Valley Hospital, Point Pleasant, WV

Princeton Community Hospital, Princeton, WV

Raleigh General Hospital, Beckley, WV

St. Joseph's Hospital of Buckhannon, Buckhannon, WV

St. Mary's Medical Center, Huntington, WV

Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital, Weston, WV

Thomas Memorial Hospital, South Charleston, WV

United Hospital Center, Bridgeport, WV

Weirton Medical Center, Weirton, WV

West Virginia University Hospital, Morgantown, WV

Wheeling Hospital, Wheeling, WV

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