New Jersey's Health Department wants hospitals to encourage new mothers to breastfeed as part of an effort to focus more on the health of newborns.
The department last week proposed regulations that would require hospitals to ask new mothers how they want to feed their babies.
Those who choose breastfeeding would be given education and support, and extra help for those who have trouble with breastfeeding. Those who choose to use bottles would be allowed to use them.
Hospitals would have to agree to the policies, which are already similar to the practices of many, as part of their licensing.
The rules will be open for public comment until April 5. Unless there are changes, the proposals would become regulations at that point.
The state says New Jersey would become just the fourth state with such a policy, following California, Massachusetts and New York.
Studies have shown that children who are breastfed are less likely to become obese, have respiratory infections or develop diabetes.
About 80 percent of New Jersey newborns now are breastfed, a rate slightly above the national average. New Jersey babies at 6 and 12 months old are about as likely to be breastfed as other babies across the country at those ages, the Health Department said.
In the past year, four New Jersey hospitals have been certified by the World Health Organization as
"baby-friendly." There are 154 such hospitals across the country.