Breastfeeding Is Best For Baby

September 09, 2015


Bonding. Saving Money. Health benefits. 

There are many reasons why new moms may chose to breastfeed their babies, and Penn Highlands Healthcare is supportive of each one.

Along with many other organizations in the United States, the Maternal and Child Center with Maternity Units in both Penn Highlands Elk and Penn Highlands DuBois is encouraging new moms to breastfeed.

“Breastfeeding is just better for baby,” Mary Shaffer, RN and a breastfeeding educator at PH DuBois.

“Babies who are fed nothing but breast milk from birth throughout their first 6 months get the best start,” Sara Myers, RN and director of the PH Elk Maternal and Child Center Maternity Unit.

“Exclusive breastfeeding provides babies with perfect nutrition and everything they need for healthy growth and brain development,” she 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,” Myers added.

Statistics show that breastfed babies are healthier from the start, Shaffer said. 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.

For mom, breastfeeding is a healthy choice for her, too, Shaffer said. Moms who breast feed have less post-partum bleeding, an earlier return to prepregnancy weight, and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and premenopausal breast cancer. It can also increase confidence as a mom and provide a bonding opportunity.

And of course, it is cheaper. 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.

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. 

So why aren’t all moms breastfeeding? Some people may have an illness or take a medication that prevents them from doing so. For others, it may be a social issue.

As our country became more modern, bottle-feeding was touted as the “way to go.” This eventually lead to a lack of experience or understanding among family members about breast feeding and took away opportunities for moms to communicate with other breastfeeding moms.

Some may say that mom’s breastfeeding leaves nothing for dad to do. That isn’t so, according to Schaffer. 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. And changing diapers is always a must!

Working moms also worry about having a place to express milk when they go back to work. However, more and more, employers are creating lactation rooms for employees and visitors.

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

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

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

Both hospitals offer support afterwards, too. 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.

At PH Elk, Lactation Support Classes are held on the the fourth Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Maternal and Child Center. Those interested can call 834-BABY to RSVP. 

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 375-2229 for more information. 

“Our goal, which agrees with the national and international guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization (among others), is to protect, promote and support women in their desire to breast feed. We will work to educate and assist new mothers both before and after birth,” Shaffer said. “We’re here to help.”