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Helping Mothers Give Their Babies the Best Start in Life

All of Society Needs to Support Breastfeeding for Everyone to Reap the Maximum Benefits

Medical journals, magazines, websites… they’re all touting the same message, something nature has 391px-Breastfeeding_WPA_posterknown all along: breastfeeding is beneficial for both babies and mothers. The message is getting through - but not always to everyone who needs to hear it. In addition to mothers-to-be, other factions of modern society must also get on board with breastfeeding for everyone to the receive maximum benefits, especially employers.

Of course, it’s only fair to mention here that some women cannot breastfeed, no matter how hard they try. Studies have shown that about two percent of all women can't produce enough milk, regardless of their physical or emotional condition while others may lactate poorly because of incorrect latch or breastfeeding issues for which they were unable to access the right help. Previous surgery, such as lumpectomy or breast-reduction can also inhibit lactation. However, for women who can breastfeed, it really does benefit all involved.

Work Projects Administration Poster Collection (Library of Congress)
WPA Federal Arts Project, 1938

First the basics:  Babies breastfed for at least their first six months have less gastric distress such as spitting up and diarrhea. More impressive is that they have fewer ear, respiratory tract and urinary tract infections, plus fewer allergies, a lower risk of diabetes and higher IQ scores. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding also offers some protection from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and obesity.

Breastfeeding moms see benefits too. They snap back in shape faster after giving birth. Their risk of breast and ovarian cancer is reduced along with their risk of osteoporosis, hip fractures, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

In addition to health benefits for mom and baby, breastfeeding is economical (regarding time and money), convenient and environmentally friendly. It’s employer friendly too. Bottom line: women who breastfeed and work for an accommodating employer are more productive. Because of the health benefits for both mother and child, breastfeeding women miss less work days as both are sick less often.


According to the CDC, mothers are the fastest-growing segment of the US labor force with approximately 70 percent of mothers with children younger than three years old working full time. And a third of these mothers will return to work within only three months of giving birth.

In the past, there have been national health breastfeeding campaigns. An early example would be the Work Projects Federal Arts campaign. But today women aren’t the only target audience. Today, employers are also being actively recruited to get on the breastfeeding bandwagon by federal health agencies and women’s advocacy groups. For the benefits to truly be universal, employers, direct supervisors and co-workers really do need to be supportive and accommodating of their working mothers by providing schedule flexibility for women to pump, along with convenient, clean and secure on-site places for them to pump. As any nursing mother will tell you bathrooms don’t count.

Long known for obstetrical, gynecological and maternity care, Pennsylvania Hospital – the nation’s first, where the most babies each year are delivered in the City of Philadelphia – is also being recognized as an exemplary “breastfeeding friendly employer.”

The Hospital has been selected to participate in Best Fed Beginnings a first-of-its-kind national effort to significantly improve breastfeeding rates in US where rates are currently the lowest. Best Fed Beginnings seeks to reverse these trends by dramatically increasing the number of US hospitals implementing a proven model for maternity services that better supports a new mother’s choice to breastfeed. The National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) is leading the effort through a cooperative funding agreement with the CDC and will be working closely with Baby-Friendly USA, Inc.

“Pennsylvania Hospital is delighted to have been chosen to participate in this initiative and to have this opportunity to better support breastfeeding families. This is an important public health initiative that will be a tremendous benefit to Philadelphia’s mother and babies,” said Debi Ferrarello, RN, MS, IBCLC, director of Family Education. “We recognize the hospital experience strongly influences a mother’s ability to start and continue breastfeeding. We are committed to implementing evidence-based care through the Baby-Friendly designation process. This will ensure that mothers delivering in our facility who intend to breastfeed are fully supported.”

Pennsylvania Hospital was one of 90 hospitals across the US selected from 235 applicants for the Best Fed project. The groups will work together over a 22-month learning collaborative period, using proven quality improvement methods to transform their maternity care services in pursuit of “Baby-Friendly” designation. This designation verifies that a hospital has comprehensively implemented the American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, as established in the WHO/UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Breastfeeding rates are higher and disparities in these rates are virtually eliminated in hospitals that achieve this status.

On a regional level, the Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) is also embarking on a promotional campaign in the near future to spotlight breastfeeding friendly employers. Pennsylvania Hospital is featured as an exemplary breastfeeding friendly employer and part of the campaign. Vist the MCC website to see all the 2012 Breastfeeding Friendly Employers.

Pennsylvania Hospital has five lactation lounges throughout the hospital’s campus to accommodate nursing mothers. It also has a unique boutique – Solutions for Women - dedicated to the needs of health needs of women, including maternity and breastfeeding products. On a more personal level, the Hospital also has a Lactation and Family Education Breastfeeding Resources page accessible through a specially designed button on its Intranet page which offers helpful information for breastfeeding employees and patients on non-maternity floors. For additional breastfeeding services at Pennsylvania Hospital, Penn Medicine and the community:

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Views expressed are those of the author or other attributed individual and do not necessarily represent the official opinion of the related Department(s), University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), or the University of Pennsylvania, unless explicitly stated with the authority to do so.

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