Monday, November 16, 2020

Celebrate Breastfeeding and Giving Back

Little one made me a Lego trophy for "producing world's best milk."

The season of Thanksgiving is upon us. I am especially in the mood of gratitude these days because my youngest child turned three years old in late October and weaned himself in early November. With that being said, I have completed my breastfeeding mission—a mission that I once considered impossible!

I credit my success to the support from family, friends, and community organizations. Between my two children I have breastfed for more than five years, but I once decided to and almost did stop breastfeeding for non-supportive, hostile workplace policies. Luckily, my local breastfeeding coalition—I lived in Los Angeles at that time—put me in touch with a pro bono legal organization that settled my breastfeeding discrimination claim against my previous employer. That’s the major reason I could continue to breastfeed.

And I am not alone. While women may not breastfeed to or stop breastfeeding early for a variety of reasons, one thing is for sure—most of them know that breastfeeding is beneficial and a little support can change everything!

This is why I choose to write for the San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition as a volunteer blogger. After my case was settled, I separated from my employer in Los Angeles and moved down to San Diego. I immediately contacted the coalition and offered to write for them, because I want to give back to the local organizations that support breastfeeding moms!

People contribute to the community in different ways—I am a seasoned health reporter and I write. You don’t have to do what I do, but I invite you to join me today and invest in breastfeeding by supporting your local breastfeeding coalition.

Breastfeeding is not just about babies. It benefits everybody, including strengthening the economy—The findings from WHO and partners estimate that global economic losses from lower cognition associated with not breastfeeding reached more than US$ 300 billion in 2012, equivalent to 0.49% of the world’s gross national income.    

My local breastfeeding coalition--San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition--has been addressing breastfeeding barriers by producing and distributing breastfeeding resource guide and breastfeeding rights cards, providing personal protective equipment for child care providers during the COVID-19 crisis, and maintains a breastfeeding warm-line (response within 24 hours). I'm sure your local breastfeeding coalition is doing the same thing and your contribution will help them continue this very important work.  

Together, we can shape a future that breastfeeding support is accessible for all families in our community. Be part of that future by finding your local breastfeeding coalition here>>>US Breastfeeding Commission Coalitions Directory

**An original version of this post was published on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Newsletter on November 16, 2020. This is an updated version. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Case of Extended Breastfeeding

A while ago I had an interesting experience of being interviewed by a professor from University of Connecticut about my circumstances surrounding breastfeeding through COVID-19. When I told the interviewer that the quarantine postponed my plan to wane Jasper, she replied, "You know what? Almost everyone is telling me the same thing."  

Extended breastfeeding, which is considered breastfeeding beyond one year in the U.S., has been a popular topic among my mom friends and readers. It seems my mom friends never stopped debating and my mom readers never stopped asking "shall I stop breastfeeding when my child turns one?” “Does extended breastfeeding lead to tooth decay?" "Why breastfeeding babies just don’t sleep over night? I’m tired of nighttime nursing, especially now he's already one." 

Yet it seems a large number of the moms are extending the breastfeeding relationships--if already have one--with the babies during the pandemic. So I decided to write something about this, based on my best knowledge as a breastfeeding mom as well as a health reporter covering maternal and infant health.

First, you don’t have to continue or stop breastfeeding when your child turns one. The American Academy of Pediatric recommends breastfeeding for at least one year, while the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years. I’ve heard mom asks if breastfeeding beyond one harms the children in any way; the answer is no. In contrast, there are some benefits of extended breastfeeding, including enhancing a toddler’s immune system, lowering his risks of high blood pressure and cholesterol when growing up, supporting school success, and helping the child achieve independence.

Second, it’s not breastfeeding babies who don’t sleep over night. It’s the babies who can’t sleep overnight seek the comfort of breastfeeding. In fact, breast milk helps set a baby’s clock and makes them sleep overnight. It’s normal for little babies to wake up frequently and breastfed through the night. But if your toddler child still doesn’t sleep overnight, experts say you should consider two other things before blaming breastfeeding: sugary food and screen time. Research shows that sugar-laden or anything containing caffeine will do toddlers a disservice at bedtime. Stare at a glowing blue screen one hour before bedtime can also disrupt a toddler’s body clock.

Third, some study says that long-term nursing can lead to tooth cavities, but breast milk alone doesn’t appear to be the cause. Formula-fed children are under the same risk. And since breast milk is not a toddler’s major nutrition source, foods other than breastmilk tend to be the main problem. The best thing parents can do to help their children avoid tooth decay is not quit breastfeeding, but accustom the children to oral care, clean the children’s teeth twice a day as soon as teeth begin to appear, and reduce the amount of time that sugary substances contact the teeth.

A little background information: my youngest child turned three years old this week and we stopped breastfeeding just recently. He slept overnight at six months old and has no decayed tooth so far. His older brother was breastfed for two and a half years; slept overnight at four months old; now seven years old and never had decayed teeth either. I hope this post helps! Leave a comment and share your experience, San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition and I would love to hear from you.

**An original version of this post was published on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Newsletter on October 16, 2020. This is an updated version. Photo credit to Corinne Botz.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Goodbye, Pump—What to do with your breast pump when you’re done with pumping

Today I said goodbye to my breast pump. The pump that I had for seven years. The pump that I have wonderful experiences with. The pump that I share bitter-sweet memories with. The pump that helped me achieve my breastfeeding goals. The pump that provided the benefits of breast milk to my two babies. 

With the pump, I pumped in beautiful mother’s rooms in fancy shopping malls. I pumped in nasty storage closets at a baby unfriendly company. I pumped in toilet stalls, dirty or clean. I pumped on the road; in the car; at airports from California to Texas to Ohio. I got upset when not having basic workplace accommodations and adequate break time, but my pump stuck to her job no matter what. I complained; she responded with a steady pumping sound. That was so comforting. We were a great team.

All good things come to an end, including my pumping journey and my partnership with my dear pump. Jade is now 7 and Jasper is turning 3 in one month. My pump has successfully completed her important task and it’s time for her to rest.

The children helped me pack the pump. My pump’s manufacturer offers a recycling program which allows me to ship my electric pump back to the company, where they send all eligible breast pumps to a third-party processing center where they will be broken down and all recyclable parts will be recycled appropriately.

If you are, too, ready to say goodbye to your breast pump, there are three things you can do: Selling it, donating it, or recycling it.

Selling your used breast pump

Selling your used pump may be an option; however, used pumps should only be reused by another individual when they are a closed system pump. Make sure you have a closed system pump with a still strong motor before selling it.

Donating your used breast pump

When considering donating your used breast pump, the rules above apply. Many non-profit organizations don’t accept a used pump due to liability and health concerns, so your best bet is to connect with other moms in your community.

Recycling your used breast pump

Some pump manufacturers, like Medela and Hygeia, offer recycling. Some manufacturers, like Spectra, suggest consumers recycle the old pump by taking it to an appliance or PC recycling center. You can always contact your manufacturer directly to find out if they offer a way to recycle your pump.  

Farewell with a good partner is emotional. Luckily, with the many safe and eco-friendly options for saying goodbye to a breast pump, we don’t have to throw it away. What have you done with your old breast pump? Leave a comment and share your experiences!

**This post originally published on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's newsletter on September 15, 2020. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response

The infant formula advertisements have increased since the outbreak of COVID-19. The World Health Organization(WHO) warned that countries failed to stop harmful marketing of breast-milk substitute. Market Watch predicted that the global infant formula market is going to grow due to the COVID-19 impact. Investigative journalists reported on the evidence of this harmful practice of formula marketing.

Pandemic or not, the manufacturers have long been making false claims about the nutrition value of baby formula, and exaggerating the difficulties of breastfeeding. Now with COVID-19, the industry is further using the pandemic to push their products, targeting parents’ fears of infection.

But the truth is: Breastfeeding saves lives! Research shows that infants and children are the most vulnerable during emergencies, including a pandemic. Human milk is always clean and available even in the direst circumstances. It requires no fuel, water, or electricity. There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through breastfeeding, and WHO recommends that all women, including those infected with COVID-19, continue to breastfeed their babies.  

We have to take action to protect infant and young child feeding in the pandemic. Human milk is not only the perfect nutrition for infants, it also contains antibodies that fight infection and disease. Contaminated water, poor sanitation, and the spread of germs and bacteria are common in a pandemic, and infants and young children are at special risk. The safest, most sanitary food is always the mother’s own milk. Breastfeeding also helps keep infants warm, and lowers stress levels to calm traumatized infants and mothers.

Mothers should be encouraged to continue breastfeeding, or to restart breastfeeding if they have stopped (see below.) Certified lactation consultants should always be included in an emergency relief team to provide the special assistance and support to help mothers continue breastfeeding.

Keep it in mind that mothers can make plenty of milk, even if we are stressed. We can, of course, help ourselves relax in stressful situations. Holding a baby skin-to-skin helps lower stress cortisol levels in both the mother and the baby, and helps a mother’s milk easily flow.

Please review the recent SDCBC relactation webinar here for more information! All webinars are free for members and minimal fee for non-members. 

**This post originally published on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Newsletter on September 1, 2020. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

I saved 51,690 gallons of water just by breastfeeding!

The theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2020 is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet.” Breastfeeding forms a sustainable food system. I, for one, saved 51,690 gallons of water by exclusively breastfeeding my two children for totally one year!

This is how I got the number. First, I used a chart provided by BreastfeedLA and Chichihaulli (see below) to determine how many containers of formula my babies would have needed according to their weight. I got 43.3.


Then I multiplied my number by 1200—experts say that every 35-oz canned of powdered infant milk requires roughly 1200 gallons of water—and got the number 51,690!

How much is 51,690 gallons of water? It can fill almost three swimming pool (an average family swimming pool takes 18,000 gallons of water to fill, while an Olympic sized swimming pool holds 660,430 gallons of water), is enough for a family of four for 100 days (the average amount of water used per person, per day in America is 120 gallons), and is more than enough to fill a fire suppression tank (which is usually 50,000 gallons).

Breastfeeding is remarkably green. In fact, breast milk has been called the most environmentally-friendly food available. It produces zero waste, zero greenhouse gases and has a zero water footprint. 

On the other hand, the environmental impacts of the baby formula industry is rarely talked about but surely devastating. Formula milk requires farming, storage, pasteurization, drying, cooling, packaging and shipping. Not only does it require a great amount of water to produce, powdered milk comes from cows, and the cattle industry is the second largest contributor to methane emissions - a heat trapping gas around 30 times more potent than CO2.

If you breastfed or are breastfeeding, I invite you to calculate how much water you saved for planet Earth and recognize your contribution. I did the math and made a poster with my children and it made a greatly fun and meaningful weekend project for our 7-year-old!

The wise Chief Seattle has told us that we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. We have a responsibility to the Earth and the generations to come. It is time to tackle the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. Let’s support breastfeeding and reduce the costs of formula milk feeding to help sustain Mother Earth. 

**This post originally published on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Newsletter on Aug 15, 2020. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang.