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.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Making The Most Out Of #NBM19

It’s National Breastfeeding Month and I’m celebrating with activists throughout the first food field. So many of my fellow believers have been working so hard on protecting babies’ rights to get best nutrition and I’m honored in collaboration with many dedicated advocates from around the country. I have so many to write about today, just because it’s my favorite month of the year! With this post, let me just share some top actions that you can take to support breastfeeding.

1. Send a Letter: Take notice on childcare!
Most new parents need to navigate their return to work or school after the birth of a baby. That’s why affordable, high-quality childcare is an important part when creating a landscape of breastfeeding support. According to Parents Magazine, more than half of all Americans currently live in childcare deserts and, for those who can access care, the cost exceeds that of most major household expenses including housing. The recent increase in the Child Care and Development Block Grant has helped, but it’s just not enough. Elected leaders need to hear from you with a letter to the editor in your local paper. Members of Congress and their staff pay close attention to letters to the editor in local newspapers as a way to gauge the opinions of constituents. Your voice is needed to let your elected leaders know that families back in their home state are expecting them to support an increase of $2.4 billion of the Child Care Development Block Grant in the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bill. This would mean childcare for up to 300,000 more children! Contact Union Tribune here if you live in San Diego.

2. Tell Congress: Pass the WIC act!
Half of all infants born in the U.S. are boosted by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) each month. Millions of moms received breastfeeding support from WIC. Yet there has been a steady decline in WIC participation over the years that could lead to negative health impacts for both moms and kids. That is why it is so exciting that a bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators have introduced the WIC Act to make improvements to this important nutrition and health program so more moms, infants, and toddlers can access the program. Add your signature to MomsRising’s letter to the U.S. Congress, telling them to co-sponsor and pass the WIC Act this year!

3. Raise Your Voice: Support Nursing Families!
The U.S. Department of Labor is hosting an online dialogue on Supporting Nursing Mothers in the Workplace. Ideas and comments gathered from this online dialogue will be used to guide DOL’s work to expand and enhance compliance assistance resources and materials on the Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision. Join the conversation here.

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

Thursday, August 1, 2019

This #WBW, Empower Parents and Enable Breastfeeding

World Breastfeeding Week is just around the corner! Annually, WBW is celebrated from August 1 to 7 to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration signed in August 1990 by government policymakers, WHO, UNICEF and other organizations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

It also reminds us the benefits of breastfeeding, which we can never over emphasis: Breastfeeding promotes better health for both mothers and children. According to UNICEF, breastfeeding could save more than 800,000 lives each year, mostly children under 6 months old. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of mothers developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. According to WHO, breastfeeding could prevent 20,000 maternal deaths each year due to breast cancer.

The #WBW2019 slogan is “empower parents, enable breastfeeding.” Empowerment is a process that requires evidence-based, unbiased information and support to create the enabling environment where mothers can breastfeed optimally. Breastfeeding is in the mother’s domain and when fathers, partners, families, workplaces, and communities support her, breastfeeding improves.

This year, activists around the world are working to promote the importance of family-friendly policies to enable breastfeeding and help parents nurture and bond with their children in early life, when it matters most. This includes parent friendly workplace that protect and support mothers’ ability to continue breastfeeding upon their return to work. Mothers need access to breastfeeding breaks, a private and hygienic space for expressing breastmilk, and a place to store expressed milk. Affordable childcare is equally important. (Read more: Breastfeeding discrimination at workplace is real)

This also includes enacting paid maternity leave for a minimum of 18 weeks—recommended by WHO—, and paid paternity leave to encourage shared responsibility of caring for their children on an equal basis. (Read more: Governor Newsom proposed giving parents six months paid leave)

Last month, organized by US Breastfeeding Committee, a group of breastfeeding advocates traveled together to the U.S. Capitol to discuss issues impacting breastfeeding families with their Members of Congress.

In the few short weeks since Advocacy Day, we've already seen progress on several pieces of breastfeeding-friendly legislation:
  • The House of Representatives has passed a spending package with historic funding levels for the WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program.
  • The Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act has passed the Senate and is now awaiting signature into law (the bill passed the house in February).
  • The Small Airports Mothers' Room Act has been introduced and had its first Congressional hearing. USBC disseminated a letter which garnered signatures of support from 60 organizations.
These are real examples how empowering parents can enable breastfeeding, and how support changes everything. The impact of the conversation will continue to emerge.

WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding starting within one hour after birth and until the age of 6 months old. This goal is hard to achieve without supports. Luckily, everyone can support this process, as breastfeeding is a team effort.

*This post originally published on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Newsletter on July 25, 2019.  

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Photo exhibit launched to combat breastfeeding stigma in Asian-American communities

Asian Breastfeeding Task Force of Los Angeles launched
its first photo project for National Breastfeeding Month.

August is National Breastfeeding Month. My colleagues at the Asian Breastfeeding Task Force of Los Angeles are hosting photo exhibits in the San Gabriel Valley and downtown Los Angeles, in which 17 local moms joined this movement.

Los Angeles is home to the largest Asian American population in the U.S. with over half a million Asian Americans and 7,000 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders reside in the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. Almost half of Asian Americans in the San Gabriel Valley are limited English proficient, yet less than 6% of lactation professionals in Los Angeles County speaks an Asian language and prenatal medical visits offer little breastfeeding education using language-appropriate materials. These barriers greatly hindered Asian mother’s chance to successfully breastfeed.

I have personally witnessed the breastfeeding barriers in Asian-American communities: When I returned to my previous newsroom three month after giving birth to my first child, my previous employer--a self-described "largest Chinese-language newspaper in North America" published an article claiming breastfeeding imges disturbing and disgusting. I realized that somewhere between my mom being born, and me being born, the culture shifted from one where breastfeeding was viewed as social norm to stigma. I feel that we need to restore the social norm and send out a clear message that breastfeeding is not disturbing; It’s beautiful. I started to volunteer with my local breastfeeding coalitions and I'm very happy that we are launching our first photo project.

Funded by HealthConnect One Foundation’s Birth Equity Leadership Academy and the Office of Councilwoman Nury Martinez, the project showcases 17 mothers breastfeed their babies and aims to normalize breastfeeding among Asian families. I was also posted in one of the photos with my 19-month-old.

“For women who are able, breastfeeding is one of the easiest, simplest ways to give their baby a healthy start in life,” said Councilwoman Martinez. “I am proud to partner with BreastfeedLA and the Asian Breastfeeding Task Force to erase the stigma for new mothers and help ensure a healthy future for our children.”

The exhibit is open to the public daily in August at Live Oak Park Community Center in Temple City, and all weekdays LA City Hall Bridge Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. An opening event is scheduled on Saturday, August 3 at 3pm at Live Oak Park Community Center.

Watch a video in which my colleagues talk about Asian Breastfeeding Task Force of Los Angeles County: who we are, our mission, and our new Asian Breastfeeding Photo Project!

Read More: Normalizing Breastfeeding in Our Community

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Creating a Breastfeeding-Friendly Childcare

Early last summer, my then 8-month-old baby and I had a chance to participate in the filming of a series of breastfeeding-friendly childcare training videos produced by UC San Diego. I’m glad the videos are now up on UCSD’s website as a training tool for childcare providers!

It says it takes a whole village to raise a child. Today’s childcare center is more than a place for children to play; it can serve as a modern day’s village. It cares and nourishes young children as well as their families. Providing resources for mothers who continue to breastfeeding their infants once they return to work is one of the best supports that a childcare center can provide its families.

Breastfeeding provides both important nutrients for a baby to thrive and precious bonding time for a young child to develop healthy emotion. New mothers who receive support in breastfeeding have less stress as they navigate balancing the commitments of work and family.

To support mothers and lactation, a childcare center can provide a calm place for mothers to pump breastmilk and a refrigerated space for storing pumped milk. It can encourage breastfeeding onsite by offering private spaces for mothers to nurse. It can have breastfeeding-friendly information available for parents in its classroom packets. It can have written feeding plans for staff members’ reference.

The training video my baby and I participated in was filmed at UCSD’s Early Care, which is a demonstration site for Breastfeeding-Friendly San Diego and already has it all. I was thrilled to learn that the early education program has partnered with the UC San Diego Center for Community Health to development train modules to promote the benefits of creating lactation areas in the childcare setting. The childcare center my now 20-month-old baby currently attend only support breastfeeding up to baby turns 1 year old. I hope collaborations of expertise at UC San Diego and Breastfeeding-Friendly San Diego can pave the way for the best practices at childcare centers statewide, if not nationwide!

Find contact information and location of breastfeeding-friendly childcare in your area on the SDCBC website at:

*This post originally published on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Newsletter on July 11, 2019. Photo credit to UC San Diego.