Breastfeeding Provides Baby and Mom Many Benefits

When a woman is expecting a baby, she and her partner usually have months to plan for the infant’s arrival. During that time, they may setup the nursery, purchase diapers and clothing and discuss how they will feed the child — breastfeeding v. formula.

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month — 31 days dedicated to advancing advocacy, protection and promotion of breastfeeding to ensure that all families have the opportunity to breastfeed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card, of the approximately 4 million babies born in the United States in 2015, 83.2% started out breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics Policy on Breastfeeding maintains that “good nutrition starts with breastfeeding exclusively (only breast milk) for the first six months of life.”

“Breastfeeding is a skill that new mothers and their babies learn together,” said Suzanne J. McCullough, BSN, RN-NIC, Director of the Penn Highlands Healthcare Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Apnea-Reflux/Developmental Clinic in DuBois. “I cannot emphasize enough that patience and persistence are required when mothers first start to breastfeed.”
Breastfeeding offers many benefits for the baby, mother and family. Statistics show that breastfed babies are healthier from the start; benefits include:

  • Breast milk provides perfect nutrition and everything the baby needs for healthy growth and brain development.
  • Breast milk offers protection against obesity, asthma and diabetes.
  • Breastfed babies are healthier from the start. They have fewer doctor visits, less severe diarrhea, fewer respiratory and ear infections and reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

Mothers also realize benefits from breastfeeding including:

  • Mothers who breastfeed experience less bleeding after the baby is born.
  • Breastfeeding helps the uterus to return to the size it was prior to pregnancy.
  • Moms return to pre-pregnancy weight earlier and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and premenopausal breast cancer.

“Another great advantage is that breastfeeding can help increase confidence in a new mom and it provides a wonderful bonding opportunity,” added McCullough.

Breastfeeding provides savings to families and the U.S. economy. Families with babies who are breastfed can save hundreds of dollars in the price of formula. In addition, the federal Office of Women’s Health reports that the United States would save more than $2.2 billion per year because medical care costs are lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants because they require fewer sick child visits, prescriptions and hospitalizations.

“Mothers who choose to breastfeed have services available to help and guide them on their journey,” explained McCullough. “For example, there are support groups where they can meet regularly with maternity nurses and learn from other mothers,” she added.

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers lactation support to mothers who wish to breastfeed. Pre-hospital breastfeeding instruction is offered along with the prenatal classes. Lactation counselors help new moms after deliveries. Upon discharge, the staff takes calls from new moms who may have breastfeeding questions or concerns. Penn Highlands’ Maternal and Child Centers serve the many communities within Northwestern/Central Pennsylvania. With a Maternity Unit at Penn Highlands Elk and both a maternity unit and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Penn Highlands DuBois, women in central Pennsylvania can rest assured that their newborns will have the healthiest possible start. For more information, visit