Thursday, August 16, 2018

What Happens in Baby’s First Hour, According to the Neuroscience of Birth

ZERO SEPARATION on screen and a packed room.

Birth, defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is the emergence of a new individual from the body of its parent. It is a magical moment, when a mother and a baby first meet. After nine months of waiting, a new mother gets her first chance to hold her baby in her arms, to kiss the tiny forehead and nowadays, to snap a shot of the the newborn and post it on social media.

While everyone knows infants need to bond with their mothers early on, Dr. Nils Bergman told us that what happens during the first hour of a baby’s life can maximize that bonding experience between a mother and a child.

Calling himself a Public Health Physician, Dr. Bergman launched a mother-baby skin-to-skin revolution. He said at a recent SDCBC seminar, “Skin to skin unlocks the neuroscience.”

Raised in Zimbabwe, Dr. Bergman enjoys the wildlife in Africa, the layered, interconnecting jungle where everything functions in relation to everything else. Dr. Bergman told us, “The brain is a jungle, not a computer. There are more synapses at birth than stars in the universe.”

What happens in the first hour after birth matters to what goes on in the baby’s brain. Early experiences fire and wire the brain, activate the genetic inheritance, lay the foundation on which higher circuits will be built later on.

Early experience depends on the baby’s environment. The environment can tell a baby’s DNA,
“The world is safe. Eat, rest, grow, connect. Oxytocin flows through the circuitry.” 
“The world is not safe. Be on guard, vigilance is needed. Cortisol courses through circuits.” 
So what is the environment a human baby expects at birth?

Seminar attendees practice "skin-to-skin" with one another.

At the time when I was born, mother-child bonding took a back seat to medical procedures immediately following a baby’s birth. My mom watched me be handed to a nurse who examined and weighed me, cleaned me up, put on a diaper and swaddled me in a blanket. After all of that, my mom finally got to hold me. But she didn’t hold me for long before I was moved to the nursery. (Not I remember all of these, but according to my mom.)

When my son was born, health care providers already knew that skin-to-skin contact within the first hour is the best way for a newborn and mother to bond. My baby was placed in skin-to-skin contact with me after weighing and measuring. The medical caregiver and the nurses conducted the first physical assessment of him while he was on my chest. Bathing, injections and blood test waited until the first round of breastfeeding was established. We remained together throughout the recovery period.

Now, Dr. Bergman recommends “ZERO SEPARATION.”

Yes, zero separation! Weighing and measuring should also wait after the first feeding. Dr. Bergman told us, “In the nursery the baby is helpless. But when we leave the baby where nature intended, the baby is totally competent.”

Where the nature intended for the baby is the mother’s body. The case of zero separation simply reduces the toxic stress that disrupts brain architecture and leads to life-long consequence. “When a baby is on the mother’s body, everything makes sense.” Dr. Bergman said, “And raising a healthy baby is much easier than fixing a broken man.”

The youngest attendee of the seminar.

*This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's newsletter.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Recognizing "the Foundation of Life" in Early Education

It is World Breastfeeding Week! The slogan of WBWeek 2018 is "Foundation of Life". And just recently, my 7-month-old and I had an exciting opportunity that reflects the #WBW2018 slogan: to participate in the production of a series of Breastfeeding-Friendly Child Care Training videos. The series of videos is to help train child care facilities on how to be breastfeeding friendly.

I was so grateful for this opportunity. As a nursing mother, I am not only open and willing to, but do consider it’s absolutely important to support this kind of projects. Because they recognize the value of normalizing breastfeeding for families who choose this first food for their babies and help removing barriers in different workplace arenas.

The project we participated in was part of the Breastfeeding-Friendly San Diego (BFSD) program. UC San Diego Center for Community Health, a partner of San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition (SDCBC), produced four professionally filmed training videos on how childcare providers can support breastfeeding families.

So why should home care or day care center support breastfeeding?

  • Because breastfeeding helps kids by providing protection from infection, obesity and SIDS. 
  • Because breastfed babies are easier to care for. They are less prone to spitting up, are sick less often, and are less likely to have constipation or diarrhea. In addition, their diapers have less odor. 
  • Because breastfeeding helps the day care financially. Meals containing breastmilk are reimbursed by Child and Adult Care Food Program(CACFP)
  • Because Breastfeeding helps marketing the day care. The Breastfeeding Friendly recognition can be used in advertisements of the program. 
And what investments that childcare providers can make to become breastfeeding-friendly?

  • Created a breastfeeding-friendly environment where mothers are encouraged to breastfeed onsite, and where families and employees are provided a non-restroom space to breastfeed or pump. 
  • Provided individual or employee training to support breastfeeding such that all providers and employees are trained on breastfeeding-friendly practices that include: benefits of breastfeeding, handling/storing/feeding breast milk, creating a breastfeeding supportive environment, policy/procedure development and implementation, and parent engagement and support. 
  • Implemented proper storage, handling and feeding of breast milk by providing refrigerator and freezer space for storage of breast milk, instructing breastfeeding families on how to properly label and store breast milk, and creating individualized feeding plans for every infant under 18 months. 
  • Adopted written policies supporting breastfeeding families and employees by explicitly communicating support in written form for breastfeeding families and employees, and by giving breastfeeding employees the appropriate break time to breastfeed or pump. 
  • Offered breastfeeding resources for families and employees by sharing breastfeeding information from local and online resources. 
One thing I love about breastfeeding friendly day care is that they normalize breastfeeding in front of our youngest learners. It makes perfect sense that California Infant Feeding Guide encourages promotion of breastfeeding in the child care setting. This week, please join me and thank your child care center or family day care home if they've been supporting breastfeeding families.

Read more: Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards; Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs; 3rd Edition (2011) 

*This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition by To-wen Tseng. A slightly edited version was published on Photo credit to Melissa Cabral.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

US Opposition to UN Breastfeeding Resolution Puts Profits Before Babies

My husband gives our 2-month-old a bottle of breastmilk when I'm at work.
 Our 4-year-old also gets a share of mama's milk.
Every time a baby goes to breast, the $70 billion baby food industry loses a sale.
The U.S. Delegation to the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly (WHA) undermined a global resolution aimed at supporting breastfeeding, threatening trade sanctions against Ecuador before yielding to a proposal put forth by Russia, reported by the New York Times.

The draft resolution was to reaffirm that breastfeeding is critical for child development and maternal health, to express concern over low rates of breastfeeding worldwide, and to call on WHO Member States to increase investment and implementation in breastfeeding policies, systems, and environmental supports.

According to the New York Times, the Resolution was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the WHA. But the U.S. delegation specifically called for the removal of passages that called on Member States to restrict the promotion of artificial infant milk. The strong opposition to the Resolution by the U.S. stunned world health officials.

My colleagues at San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition (SDCBC) has joined breastfeeding organizations and advocates across the country and raised concerns about the role of industry in international policies and the aggressive tactics used by the U.S. delegation. We stand strongly for all families and fights for their well-being and believes that policies should always put babies before profits.

“SDCBC would be in agreement that the latest efforts to undermine the global resolution to promote, protect and support breastfeeding by U.S. Delegates at the World Health Alliance are unacceptable,” said Kim Speckhahn, the president of SDCBC. “The corporate interests should never supersede the protective benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and infants.”

Breastfeeding is the nutritional standard for infant and young child feeding as recognized by scientific evidence and health organizations worldwide. Decades of research on infant feeding has consistently proved critical short- and long-term health risks of not breastfeeding, as well as significant costs of artificial milk feeding. Breastfeeding builds a foundation for life-long health and wellness for mothers, babies, and all of society. It is considered a global maternal and child health imperative. 

Countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breastmilk substitutes. It is critical that international, national, and state policies work to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding so that every family who chooses to breastfeed has the opportunity to succeed. It is unfortunate that in the U.S. and World wide, barriers to breastfeeding success are widespread.

The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) is calling organizations to sign a letter and ask Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Commerce to support WHA Resolution on Infant and Child Feeding. Meanwhile, MomsRising is calling individuals to sign a petition and ask the formula companies to put the health and well-being of moms and babies above corporate profits.

It's always the right time to put babies before profits. Please join the movement and call upon our government to ensure that policy decisions and actions are based on current scientific evidence, free from industry influence, and carried out in accordance to global trade agreements and international law.

Read more: USBC Statement on WHA Resolution on Infant and and Young Child Feeding

*This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition by To-wen Tseng. A slightly edited version originally appeared on

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Separating Breastfeeding Babies from Moms Could Affect Health for a Whole-of-Society

My 8-month-old was sick with a cold. We would have been to a local Families Belong Together Nurse-In event if he had been healthy. He demanded to be nursed even more frequently in the days when he had the cold. Maybe he needed something that’s easier to digest; maybe he needed to be comfort. I don’t know.

When nursing him, I thought of those children in the “tender-age” facilities. Who’s going to offer them something easy to digest, or to comfort them? The thoughts hunted me.

The Trump administration has established at least three “tender-age” facilities where the youngest detainees are being kept. Some are babies, many are younger than 5, reported AP. Considering that poorer countries have higher breastfeeding rates than countries with high incomes, and mothers tend to breastfeed for longer periods, it’s very possible that many toddlers still rely on breastmilk. In Honduras, for example, 43 percent of 2 year olds are still being breastfed.

Earlier this month, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras told CNN that her 4-month-old daughter was taken from her while she was breastfeeding and awaiting prosecution for entering the country illegally. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman disputed the claim.

While all children who are abruptly separated from their parents face serious long-lasting consequences, breastfed babies, and their mothers, face imminent risks that can only be ameliorated once they are reunited.

Here at San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition (SDCBC), we consider breastfeeding a public health priority. The abrupt removal of breastfeeding infants, toddlers, and children from their mothers has serious health and emotional consequences for all—for the children, the families, and for us as a whole-of-society.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, an international group of physicians, condemned the Trump administration last week for separating breastfeeding mothers from their babies and urged the government to immediately reunite infants with their mothers to end what could cause particular emotional and physical trauma to this demographic.

“Separating children from their parents results in toxic stress that impacts breastfeeding and health for a lifetime,” Dr. Timothy Tobolic, president of the academy, said in a statement. “Furthermore, separating a mother from her breastfeeding child violates the human rights of both mother and child.”
Trump signed Executive Order to end Family Immigration Separation on June 20, but haven’t figure out how it’s going to reunite the more than 2,300 children who were separated from their parents at the U.S-Mexico border under the president’s zero tolerance policy on immigration. It’s a situation that’s developed into “total chaos,” said Carlos Garcia, an immigration attorney working on the issue, to Huffington Post.

The U.N. Human Rights Council says that infants in emergency settings, such as refugee camps, have the protected right to be breastfed. SDCBC passionately calls on lawmakers to immediately pass legislation to begin rapid reunification of families.

Read more: Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies

*This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Best Investment You Will Ever Make Are Your Employees. Support SB 937 Today!

Peter Drucker, the management consultant who contributed to the practical foundations of the model business corporation, once said, “The best investment you will ever make are your employees.”

So true. Loyal employees are the most important asset of any company. Good employees turn bad ideas into good ones.

Good employees follow the process. Great employees fix the broken processes. Exceptional employees create new processes. They re-engineer broken systems, and repair relationships with clients.

To unlock the full value of such employees, there is one thing you can do today: support SB 937.

SB 937 addresses the barriers working parents face to continue breastfeeding. Under SB 937, employers would be required to have a written lactation policy and to provide employees with a safe and comfortable lactation space that meets minimum requirements. SB 937 also requires newly constructed or renovated buildings of a certain size to include lactation spaces, and requires that the State develop a model policy. These supports will ensure that working parents never have to choose between continuing to breastfeed and returning to work.

Because of your past support, SB 937 successfully passed through the California State Senate and has moved to the Assembly side of our state legislature.

Now SB 937 will be heard on Wednesday the 20th in the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. It is critical that we all send a new letter of support to this committee today!

What you need to do today:

  1. Download the sample template letter of support from California Breastfeeding Coalition.
  2. Send the letter of support to Assembly Member Tony Thurmond, chair of the committee, by email today to: 
  3. CC a copy of the letter of support to: and

In a recent interview with Today Show, actress and nursing mom Ann Hathaway said the Ocean’s 8 co-stars stopped filming so she could pump breast milk. Unfortunately, not all mothers get that kind of support.

Many mothers have difficulty pumping breast milk while at work. Without a designated mom’s room, lucky mothers have to book conference rooms or borrow offices to in order to pump, though the conference rooms don’t always have locks and usually have windows. Not-so-lucky mothers have to pump in the bathroom.

I have first-hand experience. When I returned to work from my maternity leave, I had to pump in the bathroom stall. I had to use the communal kitchen to clean my pump and to store breast milk. And since breastfeeding wasn’t well understood or supported in the company culture, I was harassed for washing pump parts in the kitchen.

Every nursing mother, not just Hollywood stars, should get support at work, no matter where they work or who their coworkers are.

Good employers listen. Good employers make employees feel appreciated. Good employers invest in people, first. Making all Californian companies better employers, SB 937 is a good start.

And your voice can make a difference! Please be part of the change we want to see for a healthier California.

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