Chickasaw National Medical Center

Chickasaw National Medical Center

Richard R. Barron

Seven more Oklahoma hospitals, including Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada, have joined with hospitals already participating in the “Ban the Bag” initiative and have agreed to stop the practice of sending new mothers home with commercial formula discharge bags, the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Maternal and Child Health Service announced recently. 

The current total of 28 hospitals means Oklahoma is 50 percent “bag-free.” At least two U.S. states and some large cities are 100 percent “bag-free.”

“Ban the Bag” is a national effort to increase breast-feeding rates by ending hospital promotion of brand name formulas, which has been shown to reduce breast-feeding 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. 

Many Oklahoma hospitals are taking other steps to make breastfeeding easier for their families, including training their staff, providing early mother and baby skin-to-skin contact, promoting breast-feeding right after birth, and keeping mothers and babies roomed together.

These efforts are starting to result in positive outcomes as Oklahoma’s breast-feeding rates increased in four of five categories in the 2013 Breastfeeding Report Card released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Reporting on babies born in 2010, these improved rates reflect several years of statewide collaboration to improve the care and support of Oklahoma’s breast-feeding mothers and babies. 

For the first time, the CDC Report Card shows Oklahoma improved as follows: exclusive breast-feeding at 3 months of age improved from 41st to 25th out of the 50 states, and at 6 months of age from 45th to 24th. Breast-feeding initiation also improved from 39th to 31st and any breastfeeding at 6 months from 43rd to 38th.

“We are moving in the right direction,” said Dr. Edd Rhoades, interim director of the OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service. “It has taken a desire to improve outcomes and a focused effort at multiple levels. The fact that Oklahoma has its first baby-friendly hospital, Claremore Indian Hospital, and that many other hospitals are working to achieve this designation, reflects the recognition that breast-feeding is an important factor in our state’s health.”

Breast-feeding benefits both mother and baby and is one of several steps OSDH encourages families to take to reduce infant mortality. Others include stopping smoking, getting early prenatal care, carrying baby to full-term, ensuring safe sleep spaces for babies, correctly installing child safety seats, recognizing and getting help for postpartum depression and never shaking a baby.

“Oklahoma hospitals are working to provide quality care to families, and joining the Ban the Bag project is a step that sends a strong message to everyone. We hope more hospitals will join this effort until Oklahoma is a 'bag-free' state,” said Becky Mannel, project leader for the Oklahoma Hospital Breastfeeding Education Project. This project is sponsored by the OSDH under the “Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility” initiative to reduce infant deaths in Oklahoma.

For more information about the Oklahoma Hospital Breastfeeding Education or Becoming Baby-Friendly in Oklahoma projects, call Becky Mannel, department of OB/GYN, University of Oklahoma College of Medicine at (405) 271-4350 office or email  To learn about the “Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility” initiative to reduce infant deaths in Oklahoma, visit

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