Children's Hospital receives grant to promote benefits of breast milk

February 23, 2006

Babies fed breast milk require fewer immunizations and less hospitalization than those given formula. They develop better vision and tend to have higher IQ scores from optimal brain development and growth, yet many mothers aren't able to afford costly equipment to pump and store breast milk.

Matthew Winger, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) social worker, Penn State Children's Hospital, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, is eager to tell new mothers with babies in the NICU why they should consider breastfeeding and access the equipment free of charge. The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently awarded him a two-year grant to aid in the promotion of increased awareness of the nutritional value of breast milk for newborns.

The grant provides $3,000 in the first year to increase breastfeeding among new mothers through the provision of pumps for the underinsured and uninsured mothers in the NICU. The second year's funding of $3,000 will be used to maintain the program, allowing for continued breastfeeding of premature infants in the NICU.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Food and Drug Administration suggest babies nurse from 6 to 12 months of age. Common illnesses, such as flu, diarrhea or skin infection, cannot be passed through breast milk, but breastfeeding during illness actually gives babies antibodies that fight the same illnesses affecting the mother. Breast milk also fosters proper growth of a baby's digestive system for more frequent and fuller feedings.

Experts say feeding newborns breast milk also is beneficial to mothers. Women who breastfeed their infants are less likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer later in life and will bleed less after childbirth, allowing faster recovery of the uterus. Since breast milk is easy to digest with its abundance of nutrients, breastfed babies produce little waste with relatively no odor, which also is good news for mothers.

"Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is committed to enhancing the quality of life of our youngest patients and our community through improved health, which is reflected in the objective of this grant," said A. Craig Hillemeier, chair, Department of Pediatrics, and medical director, Penn State Children's Hospital.

The Children's Miracle Network and the Reineer Fund last year raised $7,140 to supply pumps for one month to mothers of 102 infants. Insurance typically does not cover rental costs for breast pumps, even if an infant is too premature or ill to initiate feeding.

Ephrata Medical Equipment is providing hospital-grade breast pumps for this program. Lactation consultants Barbara Shocker and Karen Campbell will oversee rentals of the pumps to families in need.

"I am excited to provide awareness and access to pumps for new mothers who are unable to afford them," Winger said. "The more mothers see the benefits of breastfeeding, the more the community will learn how to give their children the best start in life."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009