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      Hospitals drop free baby formula, encourage breast feeding

      Breastfeeding military moms. Photo: Brynja Sigurdardottir/Facebook

      Dozens of hospitals around the country are changing the policy of giving free baby formula to new mothers.

      It's an effort to get more mothers to breastfeed.

      Half of all American babies are given formula in the first week. Nine months later only one in every three babies is still breastfeeding.

      A new national effort seeks to change that by taking free formula out of hospitals.

      Women have strong feelings about breastfeeding--for and against.

      A group called the National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality is working with the government to increase breastfeeding in hospitals, saying it's healthier for baby and mother.

      The benefits for babies include reducing the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases, reducing infant mortality, lowering the risk of childhood obesity. And breast milk supports the baby's neuro-development

      Benefits for the mother are decreased risks of breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease and weight loss.

      A new study finds mothers have a 1% reduction in Body Mass Index for every six months breast feeding.

      Breastfeeding rates are lowest among low socio-economic populations.

      Ninety U.S. hospitals were picked to participate in the program called Best Fed Beginnings.

      Participating hospitals in the D.C. area include Inova Alexandria and Loudoun hospitals in Virginia. In the District, Howard University Hospital and Providence Hospital, and in Maryland, Howard County General Hospital.