State health officials hailed the decision Monday, noting that breastfeeding has been proved healthier than formula for both infants and mothers. Stephanie Chafee, a nurse and the wife of Gov. Lincoln Chafee, called the decision a critical step toward increasing breastfeeding rates.
"As the first `bag-free' state in the nation, Rhode Island will have healthier children, healthier mothers, and a healthier population as a whole," Chafee said. "This is a tremendous accomplishment."
Formula will still be available to new mothers who experience difficulties with breastfeeding.
The new policy isn't intended to force women into nursing their children, according to Denise Laprade, a labor and delivery nurse and lactation consultant at Woonsocket's Landmark Medical Center, which eliminated free formula distribution last month. She said the focus is instead on parental education and helping mothers decide what's best for their child.
"We never make any woman feel guilty about her decision," Laprade said. She said she has received few complaints from parents about the new policy, though she said the older nurses needed a little time to adjust.
Image: Baby formula, via Shutterstock.