Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Lesson from California Breastfeeding Summit: The Childcare-Conference Conundrum

I have a vision.
A while ago I attended the 2020 California Breastfeeding Summit as a poster presenter and an awardee. I was thrilled to be there. Conferences like these are vital forums for academic researchers and activists. At these meetings, scientists communicate new discoveries, activists form advocacy collaborations, make contacts with funding agencies, and attract new members to our programs.

But I was unable to participate fully in this summit. The reason was childcare. Struggling to find care for my 2-year-old, I took him to the summit. During the seminar sessions I had to leave my chair from time to time to breastfeed, to change diapers, to calm the fuzzy child, and my looking for new spots while trying my best not to disturb other attendees. A hard position indeed.

And I am sure I am not alone. Primary caretakers of dependent children face inequitable hurdles to fully attending and participating in conference activities because of responsibilities related to pregnancy, breastfeeding, and care-taking. A breastfeeding summit is one of the most family-friendly conferences that I can imagine and the organizers kindly showed us empathy, yet I face hurdles. At the summit Sen. Scott Wiener talked about making a difference for working parents in the new decade. I honestly think the childcare—conference conundrum shouldn’t be overlooked.

How might this conundrum be addressed? I think supporting child care would overcome a major hurdle to conference attendance. There are a number of ways to do this. I attended the California Breastfeeding Summit as a volunteer but if I were to go to a conference for work, my current employer would provide parents with children under 2-year-old financial support for individually arranged childcare. I attended National Breastfeeding Conference and Convening last summer where onsite childcare was provided and I absolutely appreciate it.

There are clear social-justice concerns when certain groups are excluded from participating fully in the academic field. When conference organizers consider parental needs, everybody wins. I look forward to seeing a parent-friendly environment and culture being promoted by professional societies.

This post originally published on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Newsletter on Feb 18, 2020.

Monday, February 3, 2020


The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PMUP) for Nursing Mothers Act (S. 3170) has been introduced with bipartisan support in the Senate!

The current law, Break Time for Nursing Mothers which passed in 2010, requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom space for breastfeeding employees to pump during the work day. This was an important step. However, the placement of the law within the part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that sets minimum wages and overtime resulted in 9 million women—which is nearly one in four women of childbearing age—not covered by this legislation. As a result, these women have no clear right to break time and space to pump breast milk.
The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act would strengthen the existing Break Time for Nursing Mothers law by:

  • Closing the coverage gap. The bill would protect 9 million employees unintentionally excluded from the 2010 Break Time law by extending the law’s protections to cover salaried employees as well as other categories of employees currently exempted from protections, such as teachers, nurses, among others. 
  • Providing employers clarity on when pumping time must be paid. The bill leaves in place existing law protecting many salaried workers from having their pay docked, and clarifies that employers must pay an hourly employee for any time spent pumping if the employee is also working. 
  • Providing remedies for nursing mothers. The bill would ensure that nursing mothers have access to remedies that are available for other violations for the FLSA. 
Here in California, we are lucky—our moms already got stronger support for workplace lactation when a law signed last October by Gov. Newsom that requires a more dignified space to pump and proper equipment for storing the milk. Now we stand with our sisters across the nation and encourage Members of Congress to cosponsor this important legislation.

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

Monday, December 23, 2019

A Look Back at My Breastfeeding Activism in 2019

This has been a tremendous year of support, dedication and growth for breastfeeding activists! My heart, for one, is filled with love and gratitude for my colleagues and everyone in the breastfeeding community. This year, I have:

  • Went through a breastfeeding biopsy and than surgery (which explains why there was no posts added to the blog in the entire April) and continue to breast my now 2-year-old! At one time my baby weaned himself but eventually relactated. I realized breastfeeding is such a gift—both for mom and for the baby.  

  • Participated in the filming of a series of breastfeeding-friendly childcare training videos produced by UC San Diego. The videos were up on UCSD’s website as a training tool for childcare providers!

  • Been recognized as an Emerging Leader of The Year by US Breastfeeding Committee. Part of the USBC Legacy Award, this award is to honor “exceptional and dedicated individuals” who are new or aspiring breastfeeding coalition leaders.  

Please stay tuned for more great ideas the my colleague and I has to implement to help our breastfeeding community in 2020! Before that, much peace and love for the new year to you and yours!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Case of Relactation

Baby Jasper weaned himself at 18 months old, weeks after I had a surgery to remove a benign tumor in my left breast. That was unexpected. I planned to breast him for at least two years, like I did for his big brother. But it hurt badly to breastfeed in the first days after the surgery and my milk supply went down dramatically. He probably sensed how uncomfortable I was and discouraged by my empty breasts, thus ended the breastfeeding relationship early. That saddened me.

Just like he weaned without warning, he relactated himself unexpectedly. It all happened in the past one month.

Jasper is now two years old and haven’t been breastfeeding for almost half a year. Last month he went on a 3-week-long business trip to Asia with me. For some reason—maybe the 14-hour-long flight, or the time difference, or the culture shock—he seemed to some comfort in addition to the e-devices and new toys I packed him. He wouldn’t sit by himself on the airplane. He asked for milk the first night when we were in Taipei. I gave him a straw cup with cow milk inside. He refused; cuddled up to me and tried to suck my breast. He finally latched on, for the first time in six months.

After that, he often sought breast for comfort when he was going to sleep and just waking up. That happened often because he woke up often due to jet lag. I let him suck, even though I didn’t have milk. But, I thought, breastfeeding is not just about the milk. My baby needed the comfort and bonding when we were away from home.

And then, to my surprise, my body started to make milk again in the second week! I can feel my breast tissue fills with milk around bedtime. By the third week, my boob would leak when Jasper was sucking the other boob. That was fabulous. I never thought my body can make milk again, after the breast surgery and half a year after stop breastfeeding.

I’ve heard about relactation, but this was the first time I actually experienced it. It’s too wonderful an experience not to share. I have to say that a woman’s body is just amazing and relactation really happens! It’s definitely doable! Here is what I learned about relactation from KellyMom:

  1. Relactation is essentially a two-fold process: One, you will be teaching (or re-teaching) baby to nurse at the breast, and to equate nursing with comfort. Two, at the same time you will be developing (or re-developing) a milk supply. Developing a milk supply requires nipple stimulation (via baby nursing, hand expression, pumping or a combination) and milk removal (once there is milk to remove). If your baby will nurse, regular and frequent nursing sessions (even if baby is just learning in the beginning) will be very helpful.
  2. If the baby is 4 months old or younger it will generally be easier to relactate. It will also be easier if your milk supply was well established (frequent and effective nursing and/or pumping) during the first 4-6 weeks postpartum. However, moms with older babies, moms who did not establish a good milk supply in the beginning, and adoptive moms who have never breastfed can also get good results. Your child will get numerous benefits from breastfeeding even if you do not have a full milk supply.
  3. If baby is willing to latch on, then nurse often (at least every 2-3 hours). What if baby will not latch? Keep working at it – some babies have gone back to the breast after many months of bottle feeding.

**This post was originally published on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Newsletter. Photo credit to Jade Chiang.

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.