Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why we MUST see mothers breastfeeding in public

Breastfeeding may be the oldest and the most traditional way to nurture a child, yet breastfeeding in public continues to be hotly debated around the world.

This week is National Breastfeeding Awareness Week in UK, leading to even more voices joining the discussion.

UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, made his position very clear on a recent visit to Newark.

He told the media that he thinks women “should be able to breastfeed in public. It is obviously vitally important that moms are allowed to give their little ones what they need so I very much support that.”

“There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public. It is absolutely essential that we encourage women to breastfeed.”

Cameron is not the only public figure who provide leadership on breastfeeding promotion. Earlier this year during a special baptism, Pope Francis told the babies’ mothers, “if they are hungry, mothers, feed them. Because they are the most important people here.”

And the law is on their side. Today, women’s right to nurse in public is protected by law in many countries. In UK, for example, the Equality Act 2010 gave women the right to breastfeed in public. Here in America, mothers can legally breastfeed in public in every state.

But it doesn’t stop well-known companies shaming young mothers for breastfeeding in public. Similar stories are being reported everywhere around the world. 

These all happened this week. The reports related to nursing in public pop up in the news so often that they are not news anymore. The question is, why the debate revolving breastfeeding in public is still going on? 

Huffington Post contributor Tony Posnanski said well in his recent article, You Can Breastfeed in My Restaurant Anytime, “Do you think I would ask a mom to go to her car or somewhere away from her family because a man or woman is offended by a breast and nipple? A nipple and breast designed for feeding a child, not for pornography or the satisfaction of admiring them?” 

Well said. The problem is, while a breast is actually designed to feed a child, many consider it as a sexual object. This is the concept that leads to endless debate on breastfeeding in public. 

If you ask me, I'd say that mothers not only need breastfeed in public, but SHOULD breastfeed in public for two reasons.

One, mothers need to have their normal life keep going while breastfeeding. No mother could breastfeed for one year (which is really just the minimum recommendation) if she could not continue with her life while doing so. If mothers have to stay home, unable to dine out, go shopping, or play with the older children in the park, it would simply be impossible to breastfeed for a year. 

Two, our children need to see breastfeeding in public. When young girls and boys grow up surrounded by sexualized images of breasts but never, or only rarely, see the normal, natural act of breastfeeding a baby, how can they have healthy ideas about breasts? 

Breastfeeding will not be seen to be normal until we see more women breastfeed in public. Mothers, please join me to breastfeed in public. When more mothers breastfeed in public, we will help to provide new mothers a path away from embarrassment.

At Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Breastfeeding matters in emergencies

By To-wen Tseng. Original posted on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Blog. 
Photo courtesy Time.
This week, some of the worst early-season wildfires in California’s history continued to crave a swathe of destruction along San Diego’s drought-wasted outskirts, threatening to engulf up to 30,000 acres of land.

While Gov. Jerry Brown declared state of emergency in San Diego County due to fires, it is a good idea to keep in mind key facts about breastfeeding in emergencies.

Emergencies often occur when least expected, and sometimes when people are least prepared. They can include a wide range of unsettling events, including personal or family crises, public health emergencies such as a flu pandemic, acts of terror and violence, and natural disasters or weather-related events such as floods and the wildfire the county’s current wildfire destruction.

In an emergency, there may be no clean drinking water. There may be no sterile environment. It may be impossible to ensure cleaning and sterilization of utensils.

Research shows that infants and children are the most vulnerable during emergencies. Nearly 95% of infant and child deaths in emergencies result from diarrhea due to contaminated environment.

Infant formula has been linked to an increase in infant disease and death: it can also be contaminated and requires clean water and fuel to sterilize formula, bottles, and nipples. Lack of electricity also can make it difficult to preserve formula.

On the other hand, breastfeeding saves lives! Human milk is always clean, requires no fuel, water, or electricity, and is available even in the difficult circumstances.

Human milk contains antibodies that fight infection, including diarrhea and respiratory infections common among infants in emergency situations. It also provides infants with perfect nutrition, including the proper amount of vitamins and minerals required for normal growth.

Breastfeeding releases hormones that lower stress and anxiety in both babies and mothers. Mothers who breastfeed are able to keep their babies warm to prevent hypothermia.

Mothers can, and should, breastfeed in an emergency. The safest food in an emergency is the mother’s own milk. Donor human milk is the next best option. Mothers who cannot directly feed their babies can also be supported to express their milk.

According to United States Breastfeeding Committee, even mothers who are stressed and malnourished mothers can still make plenty of milk. Mothers who have already discontinued breastfeeding may be able to restart breastfeeding, known as “relactation”. If a baby or mother becomes ill, the best thing the mother can to is continue breastfeeding to provide her baby with human antibodies that fight the illness.

According to American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding is the best infant nutrition choice during a disaster.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thrive and alive: Breast milk

The benefits of breastfeeding have been widely recognized by modern day health professionals and parents. There are even more amazing factors about breast milk. It has been evolving since the beginning of history, and is alive and thriving. 
That is what Dr. Philip Goscienski, a seasoned pediatric infectious diseases specialist, told his audience at a recent San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition general meeting. “If I could pass a law that asks every mother to breastfeed, I would do that,” said Dr. Goscienski at the the beginning of the speech, stating how convinced he is to the great benefits of breastfeeding. 
He discussed the intricate nutritional, microbial and immunologic relationship within the mother-infant dyad that has evolved since the origin of humans, pointing out several unique features of breast milk: It is species-specific; it is unique to the mother-infant dyad, which means one mother would produce different milk specifically for each of her children; it is modified by the gender of infant; it increases for multiple births, it changes significantly in preterm delivery. 
All of the features simply cannot be copied by infant formula. Moreover, there are many components of breast milk that are not found in cow’s milk formulas, including endorphins, lysozyme, secretory IgA, protective oligosaccharides, antioxidants, lactoferrin, cytokines ( immune cell stimulants), protective bacteria, and much more. 
These are important and magical components. Endorphins, for example, are higher in the breast milk of mothers who had a vaginal delivery than in mothers who went through a C-section. Endorphins can alleviate birth stress and facilitate infant-mother bonding. 
Other components also give infants a boost after birth. While infants have limited transplacental protection against infection, lysozeme in breast milk dissolves bacteria for babies, oligosaccharides block attachment of bacteria to the wall to the intestine and the lining of the throat, and secretory IgA adds a class of antibody to protect the baby. 
Breastfeeding infants also produce greater amounts of interferon, a class of protein produced in cells in response to infectious agents or cancer cells, or during influenza infection of the mother. 
Breast milk protects premature infants. Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is mostly found in premature infants and has a high mortality rate. However, NEC can be largely prevented by breast milk. For infants too small to nurse, doctors often Use expressed breast milk via tube feeding. 
Because breast milk has been evolving, not only modern breastfeeding is different from stone age breasfeeding, but every breastfeeding day is different. “If you send your husband to the grocery store and buy a package of infant formula, the formula he buys on Monday, Wednesday, Friday are all the same,” said Dr. Goscienski, “but the milk that you, the mother, produce on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are all different!” 
After giving birth, the mother first produces colostrum, the earliest milk, which is very high in protective antibodies. Then she produces transitional milk, which is higher in calories and helps the baby to gain weight during the first months after birth. After that the mother produces mature milk, which is lower in fat calories but contains more than 1,000 nutrients. 
Dr. Goscienski believes that even more critical nutrients will be discovered in breastmilk. He used live cells in breast milk as an example. Breast milk cells was first observed in 1844, and shown to kill bacteria and fungi. Today, there are still so many facts scientists don’t know about the cells, including why there are stem cells in breast milk. He also pointed out there are very few studies done on interferon, and experts expect to learn more significance about this protein in human milk.
This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Blog. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Keep Calm and Breastfeed On

This is an original posted for MomsRising.org by To-wen Tseng.

This Mother’s Day marks a milestone for me and my baby—my first (and so far only) child just turned one year old, and I have continued exclusively breastfeeding him for one whole year, in spite of the two fibromas in my right breast.

For this I have to thank my own mother, the most optimistic breast cancer survivor I’ve ever known, for showing me how to face the disease that can fright many women.

I still remember that day when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, the following surgery, the chemotherapy, and all those sleepless nights. I especially remember what she told me about losing one breast, “it doesn’t interfere with my rule as a woman nor a mother.”

Thanks to her example, I know exactly what to do when my doctor found a suspected cancer in my right breast: Keep calm and breastfeed on.

It turned out to be a fibroma instead of cancer. I have to say that I was relieved. But, still, I know I can still be a great woman and a great mother (maybe not exactly like my mother but close) should that really happen!
Mommy and me, 2008.
On her left chest is a chemo port scar.​