Thursday, February 15, 2018

Helping Mothers of Color Reach Their Breastfeeding Goals


Last year I joined a group of healthcare providers and concerned individuals in Southern California to form the Asian Breastfeeding Task Force. We feel it’s clear that there are special and unique cultural and education issues when working with this population and breastfeeding practices.

I used to be a staff writer at a self-describe largest Chinese language newspaper in North America. Four years ago when I returned to work after giving birth to my first child, my employer refused to provide a reasonable area for nursing moms to pump. When I talked to my supervisor and our HR about the lactation accommodation rights, they responded me with that they were not aware of the law. One of my colleagues told me to formula feed, adding that “my son was formula feed and he goes to Harvard. Formula-feeding babies are smarter.” I tried to invite some medical or lactation professionals to the company and talked about the benefits of breastfeeding, but I couldn’t find even one Chinese-speaking professional who would talk about breastfeeding. And that was in Los Angeles, home to the largest Asian American population in the US.

Speaking of breastfeeding, a persistent racial disparity exists: Colored mothers have lower breastfeeding rates than white mothers. African American women have the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation: 62 percent of American black babies were breastfed at birth, compared to 79 percent of white babies.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that certain hospitals that serve black communities are failing to support breastfeeding. In a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC reported that hospitals may play a role in the racial discrepancies. The CDC found that facilities in zip codes with more than 12.2 percent black residents were less likely than hospitals in zip codes with fewer black residents to meet five of 10 indicators that show hospitals are supporting breastfeeding.

The CDC looked at the 10 indicators it identified in its 2011 Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) survey. They included: educating mothers and health care staff properly, helping mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth and making sure not to give pacifiers or artificial nipples to infants. The researchers coupled these mPINC indicators with U.S. Census data to analyze 2,643 hospitals across the country.

Culture, education and family support are also huge equalizers. Of infants born in 2013 in China, 20.8% were breastfed at 6 months, comparing with 49% were breastfed in the US. High percentage of foreign born Asian mothers brought their formula culture to the US. It is also reported that black mothers often believe that “breastfeeding is for poor people.

Before these factors—preconceptions about breastfeeding, family influence, professional support—come into play, there is something that hospitals can do. A 2016 research published by Chapman University found that in-hospital formula introduction is something that hospital policy makers and breastfeeding advocates can seek to change.

Given that most babies in the United States are born in a hospital, the short time that a mother and a newborn spend there can have a long-lasting effect on breastfeeding. After that, professional support is much needed. And this is when breastfeeding organizations kick in!

This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition by To-wen Tseng. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Paid Family Leave is Good Business


With jobless rates at multi-year lows in the United States and many other countries, finding talent is becoming a bigger task. Overall employment is expected to grow year on year at 0.7% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the prior decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For the country to prosper it must make competitive bids for the talent it needs. To do that, lawmakers must improve our paid leave policy and go beyond the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA is good, but not paid. Millennials value paid parental leave more than earlier generations, so much so that 83% of American millennials said in Ernst & Young’s global generational survey of 9,700 people that they would be more likely to join a company offering paid leave benefits. What’s more, 38% even said they would move from the U.S. to another country with better leave policies.

A strong paid leave policy must be accessible, be inclusive of all family structures, have job protection, be affordable, have a meaningful length, and be funded.

Some states, including California and New York, already have established paid medical leave policies. I am lucky enough to live in California and have first hand experience how a strong paid leave policy empowers working families.

I took advantage of California Paid Family Leave after my first child was born. During the 12 weeks, I bonded with my baby by breastfeeding him as often and as long as possible; I also built a very good milk supply. By the time I went back to work when my little one turned 3 months old, I had two gallons of breast milk stored in my freezer.

The working environment I returned to was, unfortunately, very unfriendly to breastfeeding mothers. I went through a long, exhausting process of fighting just for a reasonable pumping space and a harassment-free office, which caused me to be stressed out with my milk drying up.

Luckily, I was able to continue exclusively breastfeeding my little one with my stored milk supply. He was exclusively breastfed till the end of six months. Experts agree that breastfeeding is baby’s best start. I wouldn’t be able to give my child that best start without Paid Family Leave.

I eventually separate from that company after a law suit due to the hostile environment toward nursing moms, but I didn’t separate from the news industry. I’m now the research editor at Commonwealth Parenting Magazine, the undoubted leading parenting and education publication in Chinese speaking world. It is said that people don’t quit their job; they quit their boss. It is very true. People don’t leave the business; they leave the boss, the company, and even the country.

That’s exactly why we need a strong paid leave policy that goes beyond the FMLA now. If not, the U.S. will be a risk of being outbid in the global market of labor. California has more than a decade of experience with paid family leave. It’s time to expand the key protection to all the American working families.

Read more:
Thins I wish my employer knew about maternity leave
Anything we can do, we can literally do it while growing a human inside of us?
What if you were born tomorrow--with no paid family leave?

Monday, February 5, 2018

The #FMLA was enacted 25 years ago today!


For 25 years, the Family and Medical Leave Act has provided key protections for workers.

Paid leave is a necessity for working families. I took advantage of California Paid Family Leave after my baby was born. During that 12 weeks, I bonded with my baby by breastfeeding him as often and as long as possible; I also built a very good milk supply.

By the time I went back to work when my little one turned 3 months old, I had two gallons of breast milk stored in my freezer. The working environment I returned to was, unfortunately, very unfriendly to breastfeeding mothers. I went through a long, exhausting process of fighting just for a reasonable pumping space and a harassment-free office, which caused me to be stressed out with my milk drying up. Luckily, I was able to continue exclusively breastfeeding my little one with my stored milk supply. When I was about to use up that storage, I left my job and became a freelancer. I was relieved and my milk supply came back. My little one was exclusively breastfed till the end of six months.

Experts agree that breastfeeding is baby’s best start. I wouldn’t be able to give my little one that best start without Paid Family Leave. It's time to build on that progress and fight for a comprehensive paid leave program for all working families.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Moms Beware! Scammers on FB Page Requesting Donated Breastmilk Are Selling It on Other Pages

Rhodes has screen shots captured to back up her claim about a scammer selling donated breastmilk.

Facebook groups for breastfeeding mothers are sending out a warning to its users.

Human Milk 4 Human Babies Ohio said it received a large number of complaints from multiple people about a couple from Cleveland, OH requesting breastmilk and then selling it in other places. The page was not set up for selling breastmilk for money. It has banned the couple.

Human Milk 4 Human Babies Kentucky also received similar complaints. Ronna Mariah Rhodes, a mother from Lexington, KY and a member of the group, posted on the page and warned other mothers.

“I am making this post as a public announcement to this community about a local mom getting donated milk from many of you and turning around to sell it…” wrote Rhodes. “Lexie Whittaker has been asking for donations since December because she was ‘returning to college and needed help.’ Now she has 1,500 ounces in her possession that she was caught trying to sell.”

Rhodes had screen shots captured to back up her claim. “As a fellow donor, this is frustrating,” she wrote. “Milk sharing is an amazing thing that helps babies in need. It is disgusting that someone turn it into something so ugly. Please get to know your donor or donee!” ​

This post upset many other mothers.

“As a donor, this is heart breaking,” responded Jenna Michele, a member of the group who donated milk. “I never considered selling my milk. There are so many people who need to supplement their supply or don’t produce at all. It is an incredible gift to be able to help nourish another human being. I echo others—to reach out to the person who is in need of milk. There are a lot of people who are genuinely in need of milk and are very grateful and appreciative of donors’ gifts.”

“This makes me so mad!” responded Lizz Swift, another member of the group who rely on donor’s milk. “My son can’t gain weight because I don’t produce enough…then there are women like this getting the milk then selling it? This is ridiculous!”

It is understandable that moms rely on online forums to get donated milk, but some dangers need to be considered. The main risk is disease from bacterial infections to HIV. Another risk is the medication that the donating mother may be on.

Here at San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition, we encourage lactating mothers to become breastmilk donors, but only through Mothers' Milk Bank. Currently Mothers’ Milk Bank of San Jose is in need of donated breast milk. Moms interested in donating can fill out the form here to be screened and registered with Mothers’ Milk Bank. Once screening is completed, it’s pretty simple: Milk can be dropped-off at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Newborns or the Milk Bank will arrange for pick-up and shipping.

It’s a beautiful to share and donate your breast milk. And beware, don’t let anyone to take advantage of your generosity and sell your liquid gold!

This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Breastfeeding in Public--Why and Why Not?


This is a selfie I recently snapped of myself breastfeeding my 2-month-old in our local YMCA’s “mother’s privacy room”— a great nursing room with beautiful furniture, soft carpet, comfortable couch, dim light, and everything that a great nursing room should have.

But what I really wanted was to breastfeed by the pool, so that I can feed my baby and watch my 4-year-old swimming at the same time.

My baby finished the nursing session just when my preschooler finished his swimming lesson for that day. When I stepped out of the mother’s privacy room, my older child grumbled, “I did very well today, Mom. But you were not there to watch me!”

“I’m sorry,” I said. And I meant it. “I wanted to watch you but Jasper was hungry. I had to feed him.” 

“Why don’t you just feed him by the pool? I saw other kids eating on the pool chaise lounge. That should be okay.”

For one moment, I wasn’t sure how to answer his question. Apparently breastfeeding is a totally nature thing to hime. He sees babies eating mother’s milk just like toddlers eating gold fish.

But to many adults, that’s not the case. We’ve seen mothers shamed for breastfeeding at Walmart, Disney Land, and yes, YMCA.

The hostility makes many moms, including me, hesitate to nurse in public. In theory, I am all for breastfeeding in public. But in reality, I don’t always feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. I would only nurse in public when my baby is absolutely hungry, I absolutely cannot find a nursing room, and I am absolutely sure that no one would notice me.

That’s unfortunate. Breastfeeding in public is a civil right. And it should be not just a civil right, but also a social norm for two reasons.

One, mothers need to have their normal life keep going while breastfeeding. No mother could breastfeed for one year (which is really just the minimum recommendation) if she could not continue her life while doing so. If a nursing mom has to stay at home, unable to dine out, to go shopping, or to watch her older children swimming in the pool, how can it be possible for her to breastfeed for one whole year?

Two, children need to see breastfeeding in public. Some argue that breastfeeding in public would offend other parents with kids. This is insane. Nursing mothers are not something that recently invented. Merely two generations ago, it was not unusual to see a woman nurse her baby in public. All the trouble started with the using of female bodies to sell cars. There is nothing inappropriate about breastfeeding in public, except the people who are sexualizing it. And if our children grow up surrounded by sexualized images of breasts from Hollywood but never, or only rarely, see the normal, natural act of breastfeeding a baby, how can they have healthy ideas about women’s bodies? 

Breastfeeding will not be seen to be natural until we see more women breastfeed in public. If you're a nursing mom, please breastfeed on​. If you're not nursing, please show some support.

This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition by To-wen Tseng.