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NYC Hospitals Ban Baby Bottles, Formula to Boost Breast Feeding

First came smoking. Then there were trans fats. Now the nanny-like city's public-health crusade is taking on the baby bottle.

Free formula samples and formula promotional materials are now banned from gift bags given to new mothers at the 11 hospitals run by the city's Health and Hospitals Corp.

Instead, new mothers will get a tote bag stuffed with disposable nursing pads, a mini-cooler for breast-milk bottles, and pint-sized T-shirts for the babies that proudly declare "I eat at mom's."

The move comes as World Breast Feeding Week is set to begin tomorrow.

And today, city health officials will announce a campaign to promote breast-feeding instead of using formula.

"Nationally, there has been a push to return to breast-feeding," said Dr. David Garry, direc tor of obstetrics at Jacobi Hospital in The Bronx. "Human milk is still the best for newborn babies."

Jacobi made the push for 100 percent breast milk in 2005 and now says 25 percent of 2,200 babies born at the hospital each year are breast-fed.

"We are pushing to make sure all women know all the benefits of breast-feeding," Garry said.

Mothers who request formula will still receive it.

Each year, about 21,000 babies are born at the city-run hospitals.

Health experts say that breast milk reduces the risk of common childhood infections, asthma, diabetes and obesity. Breast-feeding also lowers the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, anemia and osteoporosis in mothers.

Studies have further shown that breast-feeding burns up to 500 calories a day, which helps women recover from pregnancy faster and counters symptoms of postpartum depression.

For new mothers, however, breast-feeding can mean so much more.

"You are bonding for the first time," said Claudia Davis-LeBron, who is nursing her newborn, Nikolas.

Health professionals say it is especially important to introduce the baby to mother's milk within an hour of birth to teach both the mother and newborn.

The infant-formula industry said it supports encouraging more breast-feeding, but is opposed to banning distribution of product samples.