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Penn State Health St. Joseph working to advance the cause for breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is good for mothers and babies.

With that in mind, Penn State Health St. Joseph is participating in several initiatives to advance the cause for breastfeeding among patients and employees, with one woman leading the charge.

Cindy Griffis, a lactation specialist at St. Joseph’s and an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant, said the hospital is working to become a Baby-Friendly facility, as specified by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
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St. Joseph’s also is participating in the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Keystone 10 Initiative, aimed at increasing the rate of breastfeeding and ultimately improving the health of mothers and babies.

The hospital is working toward these goals, Griffis said, because it’s the right thing. “This is my mission,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

St. Joe’s already has in place a corporate lactation program for employees, which includes a free class and consultation, and other services for employees who are pregnant or breast feeding.

In March the hospital, which offers employees a designated Lactation Room, was named a 2015 Berks County Breastfeeding-Friendly Employer by the Berks County Breastfeeding Coalition.

Offering opportunities for women to breastfeed their babies at work or express milk for them during the work day is good for both employers and employees, Griffis said.

“It’s all about return on investment,” she said. “Family-friendly workplaces have lower levels of absenteeism and greater employee satisfaction. Most companies do understand this.”

The federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, enacted in 2010, requires some employers to provide basic breastfeeding accommodations for some nursing mothers at work.

“Basically, the new laws say that any place with more than 50 employees must provide break time and a private place for moms that is not a bathroom,” Griffis explained.

While the topic of breastfeeding can be controversial, the benefits to both mothers and babies are clear. “The whole thing with breastfeeding is that the health benefits are so significant,” Griffis said.

Studies show that babies who are breast fed have lower incidence of:

  • Asthma
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Ear infections
  • Dermatitis
  • Childhood leukemia
  • Childhood obesity
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Type I and Type II diabetes

Mothers who breastfeed their babies have lower incidences of breast and ovarian cancer and diabetes. And, studies suggest that breastfeeding reduces the risk of osteoporosis later in life and may help to avoid post-partum depression. Breastfeeding also contains economic benefits. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that infant formula on average costs a family in the United States between $1,200 and $1,500 a year. And, statistics show that, if 50 percent of babies were breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, a minimum of $3.6 billion could be saved in medical expenses.

Expressing milk and continuing to breastfeed upon returning to work can seem daunting, Griffis acknowledged. However, she said, mothers who plan ahead, become well informed and make arrangements with their employers before returning to work can fare well.

Employees of St. Joseph can get a free consultation before returning to work on how to successfully transition while breastfeeding.
Some tips include:

  • Practice pumping your milk and freezing 1-2 ounces at a time before returning to work.
  • Talk to your supervisor about your intention to pump breast milk during the workday.

By Susan Shelly

Cindy Griffis, RN, BSN, IBCLC is a Lactation Consultant at Penn State Health St. Joseph Hospital. For more information call 610-378-2068

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