© 2019 by North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition

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Ban the Bags & the Golden Bow Award

For decades, infant formula companies have distributed bags containing formula samples, coupons, and other advertising to maternity patients. These “free gifts” are used to boost sales of formula at the expense of breastfeeding. The key to the success of this marketing strategy is the distribution by healthcare providers, which implicitly endorses the formula included in the bags.

Nearly three quarters (74.9%) of North Carolina mother-baby pairs initiate breastfeeding, but a mere 14.8% are exclusively breastfeeding at six months, according to 2013 data from the CDC. Research indicates that one reason for the low rate of exclusive breastfeeding is the marketing of formula in healthcare facilities.

Multiple studies show that when breastfeeding mothers are given commercial companies’ marketing bags, they are more likely to start using formula – even if the formula samples have been removed from the bags. The practice also encourages formula-feeding mothers to maintain loyalty to the brand that was “recommended” by the maternity facility, even if it results in financial hardship, as these brand cost 35% more than store brands (~ an extra $700 annually).

North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition has adapted a “Ban the Bags Toolkit” especially for use in our state. Elected volunteer leaders coordinate activists’ efforts in each region to ensure time-effective, impactful interactions with each facility. Download your toolkit, check in with your regional leader, and Ban the Bags at your local hospital today!

When hospitals prove that they have stopped distributing formula companies’ discharge bags, North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition is proud to present them with a Golden Bow Award. Golden Bow Award Winners hang attractive awards in their facilities, and are acknowledged on the NCBC website.

What qualifies hospitals for the Golden Bow Award?


In order to earn a Golden Bow Award, maternity facilities must demonstrate that:

  • No commercial infant formula gift bags are distributed. Note that removing formula from commercial bags before distribution does not suffice.

  • All gifts to maternity patients are free of infant formula advertising of all varieties (coupons, samples, infant feeding information published by a formula company, etc.)

  • A 24-hour supply of infant formula is given at discharge ONLY if it is left over formula from the baby’s cart and/or is medically indicated by the infant’s health care provider.