August is National Breastfeeding Month: Know the Benefits


Anticipating the birth of a baby is a wonderful time for families. In the months leading up to the birth, many parents-to-be prepare the nursery, purchase clothing and diapers and discuss their feeding options. Of course, it is fun to assemble the layette, but planning for the baby’s nourishment is very important.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four out of five mothers in the U.S. start out breastfeeding. There are many benefits from breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother.

Benefits for Babies

“Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most babies. Breast milk provides nutrition for healthy growth and brain development,” explained Suzanne McCullough BSN, RN-NIC, Director of the Penn Highlands Healthcare Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Apnea-Reflux/ Developmental Clinic in DuBois.

Becky Cella, RNC-OB, CLC, of Penn Highlands Maternity added, “Breastfeeding offers protection from respiratory infections, as well as obesity and non-communicable diseases such as asthma and diabetes. Breast milk shares antibodies from mother to baby helping to strengthen the baby’s immune system.”

Benefits for Mothers

Breastfeeding also is helpful for moms. Not only does it help the uterus return to its normal pre-pregnancy size, it helps the mother return to her pre-pregnancy weight earlier. In addition, breastfeeding can help reduce the mother’s risk of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and premenopausal breast cancer.

“Another benefit for the baby and mother is that it provides a great bonding opportunity,” explained Sharon Shattenberg, RN, Service Line Director for Maternal and Child Health at Penn Highlands DuBois and Penn Highlands Elk.

Benefits of Lactation Counselors and Lactation Consultants

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a healthcare professional specializing in the clinical management of breastfeeding and lactation. IBCLCs are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners® under the direction of the U.S. National Commission for Certifying Agencies. These professionals work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals and pediatric offices.

The Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) is a professional counselor who has the skills, knowledge and desire to provide counseling to breastfeeding mothers. The CLC provides support to families thinking about or who desire to breastfeed their babies.

Lactation counselors and IBCLCs are invaluable assets to breastfeeding families. They provide reassurance when breastfeeding and lactation are going well, and information and support to help prevent and manage common concerns. Lactation counselors and IBCLCs help with:

  • Prenatal counseling about the factors that may affect breastfeeding and lactation.
  • Basic position and latch of the infant.
  • Information about practices that promote successful breastfeeding and lactation.
  • Preventing and managing common concerns such as poor latch, inadequate milk transfer or supply, nipple or breast pain and calming a fussy baby.
  • Milk expression and storage for parents who must be separated from their babies.
  • Strategies for breastfeeding and lactation after returning to work.
  • Breastfeeding and lactation in challenging situations, such as feeding twins or triplets, a premature or sick infant or infants in special medical situations.


“It is important to note that breastfeeding is a skill and it may take a little time to develop. The moms and babies are learning together so we tell mothers to be persistent but patient,” Karen Hamilton, RN, CLC, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Penn Highlands DuBois.

Penn Highlands Healthcare provides inpatient and outpatient lactation specialists including: Melanie Snyder RN, IBCLC; Katie DeIullo, RN, IBCLC; Allison Quagliani, RN, IBCLC; Ashley Parsons, MSN, FNP, NP-C, IBCLC; Amanda Baker, MSN, CRNP, IBCLC; Jackie Westrick RN, IBCLC; Kristin Knapp RN, CLC; Karen Hamilton RN, CLC; and Becky Cella RNC-OB, CLC.

Breastfeeding education begins in Life’s Journey Offices throughout the prenatal visits and continues while the mom and baby are in the hospital. Outpatient visits with IBCLC can be made or mom and baby can attend a breastfeeding support group. The Maternal and Child Centers at Penn Highlands DuBois and Penn Highlands Elk offer many resources to mothers which even includes supplying donor breast milk to help babies receive a great start in life — while easing a mother’s anxiety and frustration if she is experiencing breastfeeding challenges. To learn more about all of the resources available, visit