Area breastfeeding coalition receives grant

The state Department of Health recently awarded $1,962 grant to the Lycoming Clinton Breastfeeding Coalition.

The grant, titled “Seeds of Change,” was written and coordinated by coalition members Betsy Huff, Lisa McCloskey, Pamela Klotz and Dawn Blanchard.

The grant will be used to accomplish several goals, including:

Educating the public on how breastfeeding is a health improvement and disease prevention strategy that benefits the entire community;

  • Encouraging diversity within the coalition membership;
  • Increasing awareness for the need for employee lactation support; and
  • Publicly recognizing businesses with existing support programs and those wishing to create or improve lactation programs.

The funds also will enable the coalition to increase business and community awareness of the need for employee lactation support. A team consisting of a lactation consultant and a Department of Health maternal child nurse will educate employers on the “business case for breastfeeding.”

McCloskey, Klotz and Blanchard are registered nurses and Huff is a nutritionist. They are breastfeeding experts with the International Board of Lactation Consultants.

The Lycoming Clinton Breastfeeding Coalition provides help and support to mothers wishing to provide their infants with human milk instead of formula. Once thought to be the accepted and safest way to feed infants, breastfeeding went “out of fashion” with the advent of manufactured formulas for use in bottle feeding for babies.

According to an article in the American Journal of Public Health, “with breastfeeding campaigns on the horizon after a century-long hiatus, the original crusades are worth examining.”

Those crusades include the consensus that a correlation exists between human milk and human health.

The article says “contemporary research demonstrates that exclusive breastfeeding for six months and prolonged breastfeeding thereafter is key to maintaining children’s and women’s health.”

The Journal article adds that “extended breastfeeding not only reduces the incidence in children of acute illnesses but lessens the occurrence of chronic diseases and conditions, and women who practice prolonged breastfeeding enjoy significantly reduced rates of breast cancer. “

The Journal quotes the studies as “having spurred renewed interest in publicizing the importance of breastfeeding.”

These concepts have been the focus of the coalition since it was organized in May 2011. The fledgling group is dedicated to accomplishing its mission of teaching women, employers and the general public about the benefits of mothers choosing to breastfeed.

Coalitions such as the Lycoming Clinton Breastfeeding Coalition have the backing of government mandates that support a woman’s right to breastfeed.

In Pennsylvania, the “Freedom to Breastfeed Act” was signed into law on July 8, 2007, and joined 38 other states that already had breastfeeding laws.

The law permits a mother to nurse her child in public.

It was strengthened when, in 2011, the surgeon general of the U.S., Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, issued a “Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding.”

“Many barriers exist for mothers who want to breastfeed. They shouldn’t have to go it alone,” Benjamin said.

She called on clinicians, family members, friends and employers to “play an important part in helping mothers who want to breastfeed.”

“Of course, the decision to breastfeed is a personal one,” she added. “No mother should be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed.”

While 75 percent of U.S. babies start out being breastfed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports only 13 percent are exclusively breastfed at the end of six months.

A study published in 2010 in the journal Pediatrics estimated that the nation would save $13 billion per year in health care and other costs if 90 percent of U.S. babies were exclusively breastfed for six months. This can be extremely difficult in a culture where a woman leaves her children in the care of another to go off to work.

One of the top reasons women wean their babies from the breast is that they have to go back to work. By providing accommodations for nursing mothers in the workplace, employers can reduce their companies’ health care costs and lower their absenteeism and turnover rates, Benjamin said, and the nation’s babies would have a better chance of continuing to be breastfed.

The Lycoming Clinton Breastfeeding Coalition meets monthly at the WIC offices, 612 W. Fourth St. The next meeting is at noon Thursday.

For more information on LCBC or any aspect of its program, contact treasurer Dawn Blanchard at or call Betsy Huff, WIC, 322-7656.