Saturday, January 18, 2014

Breastfeeding mothers fight for their rights at work

By To-wen Tseng. Original posted on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's blog.

Breastfeeding mothers across the country are fighting for their rights at work. Recently American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) filed a civil suit on the behalf of a Pennsylvania mother against her employer for failing to follow the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA).
This is the first lawsuit brought by ACLU under the ACA’s breastfeeding provision, which is the first federal law that requires employers to accommodate nursing mothers on the job. This is also one of a growing number of lactation discrimination lawsuits highlighting the need for more accommodation and acceptance for nursing mothers in the workplace.
Despite overwhelming evidence supporting the health benefits of breastfeeding, mothers who choose to continue breastfeeding when they return to the paid workforce face insurmountable obstacles that can force them choose between their jobs and what is in the best interest of their babies. 
In this case, for example, PA mother Bobbi Bockoras said that her employer, Saint-Gobain Verallia North America, did not offer her a clean, private, non-bathroom space to pump. She said that her supervisor first told her to pump in a bathroom, and then offered a locker room covered in dirt and dead bugs after she protested. 
Prior to the ACA, the situation was even worse. Nursing mothers who wanted to pump at work had few rights. An employer could refuse to allow a mother to express milk at work or fire her for doing so. 
For example, when Ohio mother LaNisa Aleen claimed she was fired by her employer, Totes/Isotoner, for taking pump breaks in 2009, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the employer. 
And when Texas mother Donnicia Venters claimed that she was fired in 2009 for requesting to express breast milk on the job, the U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes decided that “lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, and thus not protected from sex discrimination.”
Now the tide may be turning in favor of nursing mothers. Last year an appeals court unanimously overturned Hughes’ ruling in the Venters case. Three judges affirmed that lactation is a result of pregnancy and therefore, nursing mothers are protected under sex discrimination laws at work.
In another case, Colorado mother Heather Burgbacher won damages in 2012 after her employer fired her for asking to express milk at work
Under the ACA provision, which amends the Fair Labor Standards Act, companies are now required to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth” and “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shield from view and free from intrusion.” The provision also prohibits retaliation by companies when employees file complaints.
Here in California, nursing mothers are even better protected. ACA provision only applies to companies who employ 50 workers or more, and only protects hourly workers, not salaried ones. However, California labor code actually requires “every employer” to provide break time to accommodate an employee desiring to express breast milk for her infant child, and make efforts to provide the employee with the use of a room to express milk in private. 
Further, ACA provision includes no penalty for businesses that don’t comply. But an employer who violates CA labor code are subject to a civil penalty.
As more women become aware of their rights under the law,  we hope more working mothers will exercise their rights and continue breastfeeding after returning to work. One mother’s fight will help make breastfeeding easier for other working mothers,  and help form a more baby friendly nation.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Breast milk on the go

By To-wen Tseng. Original posted on

My job requires frequent traveling. As a journalist, I've been reporting from places such as quake-stricken Haiti, war-torn Mexico, and typhoon-damaged Taiwan.

These are challenging works. The biggest challenge, though, is collecting and transporting breast milk while traveling. After all, I'm more a mother than a journalist.

Lucky enough, America is a very breastfeeding-friendly country, comparing with many of the countries and areas around the world. I never had a problem with carrying breast milk through airport security checkpoints, nor had a problem with asking hotel staff members to store my breast milk for me.

To collect and transport my breast milk and keep it fresh while traveling, all I need is a breast milk pump, some sealed containers such as bottles or storage bags, and an insulated cooler with some frozen ice packs.

Flying with these gears is not a problem. According to TSA, liquids in limited quantities (usually 3.4 ounces) are safe to bring aboard an aircraft. However, breast milk is allowed in excess of 3.4 ounces in reasonable quantities for the flight. Mothers flying with or without their child(ren) are permitted to bring breast milk in quantities greater than three ounces as long as it is presented for inspection at the security checkpoint. Additionally, breast milk pump and ice packs are permitted under these manner.
Personally I prefer to freeze my breast milk in storage bags, and then transport it in a cooler with ice packs as a check-in than carry-on luggage. It's easier for me because I often bring huge amount of breast milk home after each business trip. I can bring totally 5 pounds of frozen breast milk home after a 2-day trip!
To keep breast milk fresh while traveling, I always try to stay in a suite when it comes to choosing a hotel room. A suite comes with a full-size refrigerator and is easier for me to store my breast milk. 

Unfortunately a suite is not always an option. I never hesitate to ask for help when this is the case. 

Most of the times, the hotel staff would help me to store my breast milk in the hotel's kitchen refrigerator.
I once stayed at a hotel in Westlake, CA where a suite was not available. None of the hotel room came with a refrigerator, not even a small, compact one. After explaining my needs to the hotel staff, though, they actually brought a refrigerator into my room. I was really grateful--I actually tipped extra and wrote a thank note to the hotel manager afterwards.
Transporting breast milk and keeping it fresh is not as challenging as trying to pump on a regular basis while traveling. My number one rule is, never allow anything to interrupt my pumping schedule, especially during a business trip. I always plan ahead of time and communicate with everyone I work with in advance, making sure I'll have the pumping sessions I need between meetings.
In those rare cases when I get to travel with my little one, I always breastfeed him while taking off and landing. The sucking motion helps to protect the baby inner ear pain caused by air pressure change.
Breastfeeding while traveling on business is tough but surely can be done. My little one is precious to me. Making the extra effort to hang in there for the recommended 12 months of breastfeeding is definitely worth the trouble!
Me and my milk at Austin–Bergstrom International Airport.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Thanks to Media Watch!

As seen on Media Watch:

This post is from TO-WEN TSENG 曾多聞
We link a related post here on this topic of breastfeeding moms here.
Below is her letter to the Asian American Journalists Association:

Dear AAJA,

Spending my entire career life with ethnic media, I often feel that among those news organizations that misrepresent Asian Americans, ethnic media are the worst. It’s ironic, but it’s true. For example, just a while ago World Journal, one of the largest Chinese-language newspaper in North America, published an article titled “Breastfeeding photos embarrass Chinese-American to death,” claiming that most Chinese American consider that breastfeeding in public is “disturbing” and “disgusting.” Articles like this not only mis represent Asian Americans, but also deliver wrong idea to the community.

Towen Tseng

She is responding to this paper and translates below:

Hot mamas show off their R-rated breastfeeding photos, embarrassing Chinese-Americans to death

Moms think breastfeeding is a great thing, but the photos only make others feel uncomfortable

By Shuxian Lou, Staff Writer

It’s been a trend for young, hot mamas to show off their breastfeeding photos. Recently American mama Amy Woodruff showed off her breastfeeding photos online, and the whole world is talking about it. Many Chinese-Americans complain that seeing breastfeeding photos on social media is really “embarrassing to death.”

Chinese-American “Peter” was browsing Facebook when a female colleague came to his desk to talk to him. Peter just clicked on a Facebook page; he turned around to talk to the colleague while the page was loading. Soon he noticed that his colleague was staring at his computer screen with a weird look on her face. He turned around and saw there was a breastfeeding photo on the screen. The photo showed a huge boob with blue veins on it and was so “R-rated” that Peter was left speechless. “I was embarrassed to death,” said Peter. He recognized that photo was from another female colleague who he bumped into everyday, “that’s really embarrassing,” he said, “I wish I could tell her to save her breastfeeding photos for herself.”

“Huo,” an international student from China also complained that she has seen breastfeeding photos on social media more that once, “I just want to go blind.” She said that she once saw a series of breastfeeding photos showing some nipples on Weibo, the Chinese version Twitter. “Those moms think breastfeeding is a great thing, but the photos only make others feel uncomfortable.”

Chinese-American “Teresa” from Hawaii was browsing Facebook and saw some breastfeeding photos shown off by a girlfriend. Her 4-year-old son was by her side and saw those photos with her. Teresa felt very uncomfortable about her son seeing breastfeeding photos. She said that she thought breastfeeding is a good but personal thing, and those who showing breastfeeding photos online are just unthoughtful. Especially those breastfeeding photos were not beautiful but only disgusting. “Who do they think they are? Virgin Mary and baby Jesus?” She said. “I just don’t get it. Those photos are meaningless.”

Not only new moms seemed to addict to showing off their breastfeeding photos, some new dads even love to show the photos of their babies being breastfed more than the moms do. A Chinese-American graduate student complained that a friend from college was showing off photos of his child being breastfed on Weibo every several days, and the child not only being breastfed at home, but also in public space like shopping malls or parks. “Is he sick or what? How can he show off his wife breastfeeding like this?” The graduate student was so disturbed that he finally blocked the friend.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Six years after

The last Saturday in December is our anniversary. Time flies. It's been six years since we tied the knot.

We always take a big trip during this time of the year. It's our tradition to explore somewhere new on our anniversary. Last year we went to Pismo Beach; the year before last we went to Palm Springs. We've also been to Las Vegas and Vancouver.

This year is very different, because we got a companion: our little one.

My hubby said that we should go somewhere "fun for kids." Then I said, "why don't we go back to Raleigh?"

Raleigh, NC is where we met 10 years ago. Actually I wasn't sure if that was a good idea--we now reside in San Diego and it's kind of scary to fly for 5 hours with a 7-month-old. Plus, going somewhere "old" on our anniversary is anti-tradition.

But as soon as the word "Raleigh" slipped out of my month, I realized that I really miss that city! Apparently my hubby shared the same feeling. Setting that "tradition" aside, we booked our air tickets to Raleigh.

Raleigh is not a big city. For most visitors, 4 days in town is more than enough to see the place. But for us, this is a city full of memory, and I doubt two weeks would be long enough. This turned out to be the "big trip"to meet old friends and visit old places.

Strolling on the NCSU campus with little Jade in my arms, those vivid memories from my college years all came back to me. Of course our financial situation in those days couldn't compete with what we have now; sometimes we had only rice and butter for dinner. But amazingly, we were incredibly happy. Nothing bothered us but final papers and occasional fights. In those days my biggest dreams were to become a news anchor and to write a book that sold at least 50,000 copies. All of the dreams have come true, but my life today is not necessarily happier.

All these years I've been on strict diet, hoping to look slimmer and nicer on-air. But looking at those photos from 6 years ago, I just miss my round cheeks! They make me look so much younger!

I did a lot of silly things in my college years--something I forgot right away; something I regret right away; something I thought super important but soon realized super stupid. But thank God, I also did something smart.

At least I married the right man and had a wonderful baby with him six year after. With our little one, we are creating beautiful new memories.

 I realized this is the big trip that we actually explored something "new."