By Mike Dougherty

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and area hospitals are kicking it off with a new initiative.

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Six hospitals in Philadelphia have ended the practice of sending new mothers home with a bagful of infant formula provided by the formula company.  It was a marketing tactic that most hospitals in the country had gone along with for many years.

“Research shows that moms who go home with a bag are less likely to continue breastfeeding,” notes Debbie Ferrarello, a lactation specialist at Pennsylvania Hospital, which banned the promotional bags in 2010.

Ferrarello says those bags of formula were giving many moms the wrong idea.

“Mothers are notoriously unsure of themselves,” she tells KYW Newsradio.  “If they go home with a bag of formula from the hospital, they see that as a form of endorsement of the product.  It makes them feel, like, ‘Oh, I must need this,’ since the hospital gave it to them.”

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Philadelphia lags about 15 percent behind the national average for breastfeeding by new mothers.

Ferrarello says there are many health benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby, and she would like to see more of an effort from the mothers who are able to breastfeed.

Katja Pigur, with the Philadelphia-based Maternity Care Coalition, helped helped kickstart the breastfeeding initiative four years ago, and she says the next step is to have hospitals in Philadelphia designated as “baby friendly.”  To earn that designation,  she says, hospitals must comply with a list of ten program requirements (see PDF document).

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