Lesser number of hospitals are found to be giving new mothers industry-sponsored baby formula samples as per a new study.

According to the study published in the journal Pediatrics on an average the number of hospitals choosing to discontinue this practice has doubled from 2007.

The study has been based on the survey of more than 1,200 hospitals across 19 states and the District of Columbia with the highest and lowest rates.

The free samples typically come in diaper bags that maternity wards give out to moms when they leave the hospital. Sometimes those bags are funded by the hospital.

It's a change, but it's just a small change, says Anne Merewood, Ph.D., director of the Breastfeeding Center at Boston Medical Center and senior study author.

In 2007, Merewood and her colleagues surveyed hospitals in every state and found that more than 90 percent of them gave company-sponsored formula to mothers. Last year the researchers went back to all hospitals in the 10 states that were most likely to give out free formula and the 10 that were least likely to do so. This time 72 percent said they gave out company-sponsored samples to some or all mothers, compared to the 86 percent in 2007.

While formula might be helpful when new mothers can't breastfeed for one reason or another, free samples usually do little good, Merewood said.

This kind of hospital distribution of industry-sponsored formula packs have been criticized by the World Health Organization, CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Government Accountability Office.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical groups recommend that infants receive only breast milk for their first six months. Antibodies that strengthen babies' immune systems and help them fight infections are present in the breast milk. Breast-fed babies are found to have reduced chances of becoming obese or developing diabetes in childhood and in addition to this sudden infant death syndrome is less common in breast-fed infants.