Breastfeeding Benefits

August 15, 2018

As August is National Breastfeeding Month, Penn Highlands Healthcare encourages all moms to breastfeed their newborns.
“Breastfeeding is best for baby. It’s as simple as that,” Sharon Shattenberg, director of the Maternity Unit of the Maternal and Child Center of Penn Highlands DuBois, said.

“There are so many benefits from breastfeeding,” Sue McCullough, director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Penn Highlands DuBois, said. “It benefits the baby, the mother and the family,” according to Shawn Welsh, director of the Maternity Unit of the Maternal and Child Center of Penn Highlands Elk.


“Babies who are breast fed are provided with perfect nutrition and everything they need for healthy growth and brain development,” Welsh said. “It offers protection from respiratory infections, certain diseases and other life-threatening ailments and protection against obesity and non-communicable diseases such as asthma and diabetes.”

Statistics show that breastfed babies are healthier from the start. They have fewer doctor visits, less severe diarrhea, fewer respiratory infections, fewer ear infections and reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

Breastfed infants are also leaner at one year of age and are less likely to become overweight or obese later. 

“Human milk is uniquely tailored to meet the nutrition needs of human infants,” according to the American Dietetic Association. It has the appropriate balance of nutrients provided and is easily digestible.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is recommended moms breastfeed for at least 12 months and that babies should only drink breast milk for the first six months.


Breastfeeding also helps moms.  “It can prevent too much bleeding after the baby is born, and it helps the uterus to return to the size it was prior to pregnancy,” Shattenberg said.
It helps moms return to prepregnancy weight earlier and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and premenopausal breast cancer. “It can also increase confidence as a mom and provide a bonding opportunity,” she said.

For the family

Families can save a lot of money if not buying formula.  The federal Office of Women’s Health says that the United States would also save $2.2 billion per year as medical care costs are lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants. “Breastfed infants usually need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions and hospitalizations,” McCullough said.

It is also the green thing to do. Breastfeeding means there are no containers going to landfills, no energy used to prepare a product and no transportation costs. 

Breastfed babies are easy to take on trips with you, and nighttime feedings are easier.

Some may say that mom’s breastfeeding leaves nothing for dad to do. That isn’t so, according to Welsh. “Anyone who has had a baby can tell you there is a lot to do. Dad can bring the baby to mom to nurse. He can burp baby during feedings and spend time holding, cuddling and bathing the baby,” she said. And changing diapers is always a must!


Breastfeeding is a skill and takes a little time to develop. New moms and their babies are learning together, so being patient and persistent is important. 

“The goal of Penn Highlands Healthcare is the promotion, protection and support of our patient's choice to breast feed,” Shattenberg said, “as well as creating a culture of education and understanding.” 

“We offer lactation support to all mothers wishing to breastfeed,” Welsh said. “We provide pre-hospital breastfeeding instruction along with the prenatal classes held at PH DuBois.”

Both hospitals offer support afterwards, too, McCullough noted. 

At PH Elk, The Breastfeeding Support Group is held on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Community Education Center, 4 Erie Ave., St. Marys, and the fourth Tuesday of the month from 5-6:30 p.m. at the PH Elk Education Center. Call 814-788-8558 for more information.

At PH DuBois, a Mom-to-Mom Breastfeeding Connection is held for moms who breast feed or those who have in the past who want to show support to new moms. The group meets at 11 a.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. Call 814-375-2229 for more information.