Seacoast firm fills niche for hospitals that want to support breasfeeding

PORTSMOUTH — Medical experts are heralding the move. A New Hampshire company is filling the need by creating the only “Healthy Baby Bag” filled with nursing support product samples, resources, and more to encourage breastfeeding.

Among the hospitals across the country taking advantage of the first-ever breastfeeding-friendly hospital gift bag available from Cottonwood Kids are three Seacoast hospitals: Portsmouth, Exeter, and Wentworth Douglas in Dover.

Medical experts agree that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life provides significant health benefits for both mothers and babies. Yet many hospitals provide free formula-sponsored gift bags to new mothers upon discharge, sending a confusing message about the importance of breastfeeding.

A recent study in the journal “Pediatrics” found that hospitals are beginning to “walk the talk” about the benefits of breastfeeding. Four years ago, only 14% of hospitals had decided to stop sending home free formula with new mothers. That number doubled to 28% in 2011.

Cottonwood Kids is providing an alternative for hospitals. The Portsmouth NH company has distributed more than 600,000 “Healthy Baby Bags” which are full of information and products to help new mothers choose breastfeeding for their infants.

“We’re proud to be offering the first and only hospital discharge gift bag that encourages and supports breastfeeding,” says Erik Maurer, president and founder of Cottonwood Kids. “Our Healthy Baby Bag contains breastfeeding support samples, coupons, resources, and more, from top brands including Lansinoh, Leading Lady, March of Dimes, Milkies, Pumpin Pal, My Brest Friend, Aquaphor, Ergo Baby, and Mother’s Milk Tea, among others.

We’re working with leading hospitals and birth centers to send a clear message about the benefits of breastfeeding, embracing the medical community’s endorsement of breastfeeding for healthier babies.”

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report saying hospitals need to do more to encourage moms to breastfeed their newborns. More than 500 hospitals and clinics have made the switch to Cottonwood Kids Healthy Baby Bags including the 3 on the Seacoast.

Exeter Hospital Manager Michelle Savoie says, “We appreciate having the Healthy Baby Bag to distribute inside of our customized diaper bags that are now given to our patients at discharge. The breastfeeding-focused samples and information sends the message that Exeter Hospital wants to support mothers who make this healthy decision and we want them to be successful!”

Gina Ciagne, CLC, Director of Breastfeeding and Consumer Relations at Lansinoh Laboratories says, “It sends a confusing message to parents who hear the benefits but then get something that appears to be an endorsement of artificial feeding from their healthcare providers or hospital. It’s our hope that in the coming years, we’ll be able to help expand this program so that every new mother can leave the hospital with all the information, knowledge, and support she needs to feed her child naturally.”

Cottonwood Kids has also created a website for parents (www.healthybabybag.com) that can be used as a “portal” for breastfeeding support where mothers can search for lactation consultants in their zip code, view nursing videos, blog with other moms, and connect with many of the agencies that support breastfeeding including the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The medical community’s breastfeeding recommendations:

The World Health Organization (WHO), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the U.S. Surgeon General recommend that babies be fed with breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life, breastfed for twelve months and thereafter as long as mutually desired.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of ear infections, stomach viruses, severe lower respiratory infections, atopic dermatitis, asthma, obesity, types 1 and 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and necrotizing enterocolitis in infants. Breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and breast and ovarian cancer.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states breastfeeding is the preferred method of feeding for newborns and infants, and they urge health professionals to support women in choosing to breastfeed their infants.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is committed to increasing breastfeeding rates throughout the United States and promoting and supporting optimal breastfeeding practices toward the ultimate goal of improving public health.

About Cottonwood Kids

Cottonwood Kids is owned and operated by Erik Maurer, the father of three young daughters. The company produces an innovative line of custom products that cater to the needs of new families and meet the objectives of hospitals and birthing centers.

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