Friday, November 8, 2019

Eco-conscious Beyond the Climate Strike

Save a polar bear!

It was almost the end of October but high temperatures heated up across Southern California. It made me think about global warming.

Last month young people across this country organized strikes and marches in many cities, suggesting that adults have not done a great job with looking after the planet and that needed to be changed. The series of inspiring events gave me—and many others—a speck of hope for the future. A great number of my mom friends enthusiastically took their teenagers and even younger children to participate.

Days before the strike in our city I asked my first grader if he was interested in being part of the movement. I told him that I would be happy to sign him a permission slip that was required by our school district. He said no, adding that the strike was “silly.”

I was surprised. Yes, he was only six years old but he knew exactly what the strike was all about. He also cared about climate change; he liked polar bears a lot and understood what the rising of global temperatures would affect his polar bear friends.

Yet he said no to climate strike. I wondered why.

“I don’t think the kids in our school really know what we need to do to stop global warming!” He said. “They don’t sort their plastics in school. They throw the crust away when eating pizza. They ask their parents to keep engine running and air conditioner on when waiting for them outside of school at pick-up time. And they are doing a climate walkout! What’s the point? That’s just silly!”

As he talked, he got faster and faster, louder and louder. He told me that many of his friends complained when our city banned plastic straw earlier this year. “When the grown ups say, ‘okay, now let’s not use straws,’ they are not happy. But now they are going to have a walkout to ask grown ups to fix climate problem! That’s just super silly!”

My heart sank. I thought my son was trying to say “hypocritical” when he said “silly,” but he hasn’t learned the word “hypocritical” yet. It did sound very hypocritical to me, but I believed what he described would only apply to a small number of the children.

Recently, however, I witnessed something that made me come to a realization.

At a local mom group I belong to, a member proposed that instead of using bottle water and paper plates, we should all bring our own drink and reusable table ware to future meetings. I seconded the proposal and expected it to be approved by the group without much opposition. But I expected wrong. The group voted no. Most members still preferred the convenience of bottle water, plastic utensil and paper plates.

Now I was feeling the irony that my son was feeling. Half of the members in the group took their children to the climate march, yet most of them would choose convenience over sustainability in everyday life.

There are adults who didn’t make climate-conscious choice in daily life but wanted to march and asked those who are more powerful—for us it’s global leaders—to fix the problems for us. There are children who wouldn’t make climate-conscious choice in daily life but wanted to have a climate strike and asked those who are more powerful—for them it’s adults—to fix the problems for them.

So we saw the irony lingering from global climate strike: In Boston, cardboard and paper “climate change” sign were found everywhere in trash cans on Boston Common. In Toronto, an idling truck promoting climate strike angered people.

Greta Thunbreg inspired the world not because she organized the global strike, but because she lives according to her conviction. She is a vegan. She traveled by sailboat instead of flying. As for most of us, we travel and eat without thinking much about our carbon footprint and the actual consequences of our daily life in spite of the believe that climate change is an urgent threat.

Thinking of that, I was ashamed. My son was right. Awareness should be both knowing and doing. In addition to a strike, there were much more basic things that we could, and should be doing. Still, I think the climate strike was a good thing–better to have the right value, which might one day change what we chose to eat and eat with. We have to stay climate conscious after the strike.

Oh, and what we did on the day of our city’s climate strike? I walked my son to school instead of driving him. He made a “Save a polar bear! Do not keep your engine running when picking up/dropping off your children” poster, and posted in front of his little brother’s day care. No, we did not participate in the climate strike, but we tried to do our part.

*This post is originally published on World Moms Network. Photo credit to the author. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Return of "Breast-Sleeping"

Dr. McKenna speaks at San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition seminar.
In the industrialized Western world, we often expect babies to sleep over night as early as possible while “sleeping like a baby” in the first three months really means, according to Dr. James McKenna, sleeping near the mother, waking up frequently and being breastfed. He named the arrangement “breastsleeping.”

“Infants are contact seekers,” said Dr. McKenna at a recent San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition seminar. “This is what’s good for their physiology. This is what their survival depends on,” said the anthropology professor at the University of Notre Dame and world-recognized behavioral sleep expert.

He called the belief of solitary infant sleep a “systematic error,” adding that in spite of the common practice of letting babies sleep alone, people were not completely convinced by this arrangement. In the bottom of their hearts, parents felt more comfortable about having the baby sleep near the mom, and that’s exactly why baby monitors are so popular.

Dr. McKenna believes that breastsleeping is humankind’s oldest and most successful sleep and feeding arrangement. Parents co-sleep with their babies to protect them, to monitor them, and to ease breastfeeding. It’s time to restore the norm.

Those who are against mom sleeping with baby argued that bed-sharing raised the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In Milwaukee, for example, parents saw an ad in which the headboard of the parental bed is portrayed as a tombstone and etched onto it were the words, “For too many babies last year, this was their final resting place.”

“The ad is saying, ‘Not only shouldn’t you sleep with your baby but it’s almost against the law, and parents should be arrested,’” Dr. McKenna said. “It’s unacceptable. And it’s not really the evidence.”

He took a look at how easy it is for an infant to be suffocated by an overlay and found that, first, while parents who drink or do drugs shouldn’t be sleeping with their babies because they could roll over onto their child, the chance of a normal sleeping adult roll over onto their child and cause death is only 1/16400. Second, when mom is breastfeeding, she essentially creates a little shell around the baby and the chance of her to roll over onto the baby is even thinner.

“Mothers don’t have to co-sleep with their babies,” said Dr. McKenna, “but they should be able to if they want to without being accused of killing their children.”

Here in the U.S., bed-sharing is a growing trend among families. More moms are choosing to share a bed with the infants. The practice in the U.S. has grown from about 6 percent of parents in 1993 to 24 percent in 2015.

Dr. McKenna acknowledged that it’s natural for parents want to bed-share. Pediatricians need to be less judgmental about the practice and more understanding of families’ choices, Dr. McKenna said.

“We don’t want mothers to lie to their health providers and receiving no safety information for their sleeping and breastfeeding choices. They need to learn how to do it safely,” he said. “And we’ll never discover how to arrange the safest bedspring environment unless we explore it and recognize that breastfeeding has changed things permanently.”

Jasper at the Seminar.
**This post was originally published on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Newsletter. Photo credit to To-wen Tseng.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Thank You for Breastfeeding in Public

Fall is in full swing. Some of my personal favorite memories of the season has breastfeeding involved.

When I had my first child and my parents flied half way around the planet to visit, I decided to take them to the safari park when it cooled down. Without any surprise, the baby got hungry when we were out there. To my surprise, there wasn’t a nursing room in the park. The park ranger told me, “you’re welcome to breastfeed anywhere you like.”

Hesitantly, we sat down in a cafeteria and I started to breastfeed. My mom opened an umbrella and tried to cover me. That was just embarrassing. Everyone walked by looked at us. I felt like one of those park animals.

Then I saw there was another family at the other side of the dining area. They were all eating: The father was eating, the mother was eating, the baby was eating, or, to be accurate, being breastfed.

“Mom, look!” I elbowed my mom, pointed the family to her with my chin. “Do you see that? And they are not using an umbrella!”

“Ah, American!” She murmured, but put the umbrella down.

Nobody looked at me anymore. I was relieved. Baby ate and was satisfied.

By the time my second child arrived, I got comfortable enough to breastfeed in public, but still feel obligated to breastfeed in a nursing room if there’s one.

One day I took my first child—now four years old—to his swimming lesson. He made me promise that I’d stay and watch the whole session. But, alas, the baby was hungry and I retreated to the nursing room.

The baby finished eating just when the 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 DiDi 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.”

I looked around and saw a couple of toddlers eating gold fish or other crackers. And then I saw a mom breastfeeding! Funny enough, she was wearing the same nursing dress that I have. I couldn’t help it but walked up and thank her for breastfeeding.

“Ah? Yeah…you’re welcome.” She didn’t know that she just granted me the right to breastfeed by the pool, to feed my baby and watch my 4-year-old swimming at the same time.

When my younger one turned 1 year old, we took him to pumpkin patch for the first time. (His birthday falls in October.) When he got hungry, I just sat on a big mac pumpkin and nursed him. Across the field I saw another mom sitting on the ground, lean on a big mac, also breastfeeding. She saw me, too. I smiled to her and she smiled back. Then she gave me a high-five from a distance and I high-fived back. I feel encouraged. I think she is encouraged, too.

My younger one turned two years old earlier this month and was officially not a baby anymore. Thank you to all the moms who have breastfed in public. You helped make this journey much more pleasant for all the other moms.

This article is republished from San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Blog by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Help pass House Resolution 545: Why and How

I’m thrilled that House Resolution 545 was recently introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA-28) and it now has 17 co-sponsors from across the country! The resolution recognizes the importance of breastfeeding and “urges the President to promote the health and welfare of children and their parents by supporting international efforts to improve breastfeeding practices globally.”

Why urging the President to support breastfeeding GLOBALLY?

I’ll explain it in a really simple way (as to my 6-year-old): Last year at the UN World Health Assembly there was a nice resolution, the resolution 1275B, that said breastfeeding is good, there should be more of it, and ask all countries work together and make it happen.

The resolution was necessary because predatory baby food companies keep trying to trick moms into using formula instead of breastfeeding. It’s always been like this forever even though there is a milk code of conduct. According to the conduct, infant formula sales representatives should be banned from all hospitals, yet in some countries they dress up like nurse and recommend formula to moms in hospitals.

A study in the Lancet says universal breastfeeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths and save $US 300 billion a year because a healthy baby is a cheaper run.

So everyone was surprised when the USA opposed the resolution, demanding that the words “protect, promote and support breastfeeding” be removed along with text that encouraged restrictions on food products that are literally bad for babies!

Not just that, the USA bullied Ecuador, threatening the little country with trade sanctions and worse if they voted for it. After that many developing nations walked away from the resolution because they saw what happened to Ecuador.

New York Times broke into that formula company Abbott Laboratories spent up big on Trump’s inauguration. Baby scientists say that without resolution 1275B, hundreds of thousands of babies will keep dying and infant food companies will continue to make billions of the dollars.

But we can change the end of the story! If you acknowledge that there are proven health benefits to infant and mother, that the leader of our country should support international efforts to improve breastfeeding practices, please use the action tool to help the passage of House Resolution 545.

This article is republished from San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Blog by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to the author.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Research: Breast milk helps set baby's clock

An evening feeding might send ‘time for bed’ signals from mom to baby.

I have two children. The first one was breastfed until two-and-a-half years old. The second one is now 22 months old, still being breastfed. The first one slept overnight at four months old. The second one at six months old.

When I share this experience with people, they often stare at me, “and they’re breastfeeding babies? Impossible!”

I never knew how to explain that. People seem to believe that formula fed babies sleep longer and better, as my mom, my in-laws and my postpartum doula insisted.

But recent study helped me answer that question: human breastmilk may help babies tell time via circadian signals from mom!

It turned out that breastmilk contents keep changing based on the time of the day. Just like adults often decide on the specific combination of ingredients they want for a cocktail depending on mood or occasion, a mother’s body manufactures cocktails for a breastfeeding baby—cocktail ingredients that change throughout the day.

New parents know that babies’ bodies do not necessarily follow a daily cycle or circadian rhythm, most obviously when a baby is awake at night and sleeping by day. Babies’ bodies may take several months to one year to develop circadian rhythms, depending on the environment they are in.

A mother’s milk follows a daily cycle or circadian rhythm; breast milk provides “chrononutrition” and may set baby’s clock.

The researcher found that breast milk changes dramatically over the course of the day. For example, levels of cortisol—a hormone that promotes alertness—are three times higher in the morning milk than in evening milk. Melatonin, which promotes sleep and digestion, can barely be detected in daytime milk, but rises in the evening and peaks around midnight.

Night milk also contains higher levels of certain DNA building blocks which help promote healthy sleep. Day milk, by contrast, has more activity-promoting amino acids than night milk. Iron in milk peaks at around noon; vitamin E peaks in the evening. Minerals like magnesium, zinc, potassium, and sodium are all highest in the morning.

Now I have the perfect answer for those who (including myself) wonder how my breastfeeding babies slept over night by six months old. Or, I’ll just share with them this cute video produced by USC that explains the research in one minute!


This article is republished from San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Blog by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to the author.