Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Not just for babies: 9-year-old girl thrives on donated breast milk

Breast milk is not just for babies. In Beaumont, Texas, a 9-year-old girl with genetic disorder thrives on donated breast milk.

Her name is Annabel Shelander. She has a rare condition that keeps her from consuming and digesting food naturally. Every day, she sits on her older sister’s lap, watching “Barney” on an iPad while a nurse funneled breast milk into her stomach.

As unconventional as it might seen now, the feeding process used to be much more painful for the girl, who was fed nutrients through an intravenous line that ends just above her heart.

The solution pumped through the line, called total parenteral nutrition, made Annabel gag and wretch.

That all changed last month when her mom, Cathy Shelander, approached Beaumont Breastfeeding Coalition members about milk donations.

Cathy said she and a friend were talking about Annabel’s condition and they came up with the idea about breast milk.

It wasn’t a totally strange concept for them, because Annabel was prescribed breast milk when she was 3 years old. But it’s different now since she is older.

Cathy said Annabel’s doctors were shocked when she told them that she had decided o feed Annabel donated breast milk because it is not regulated by the FDA.

In the five weeks since Annabel has been taking the donated milk, Cathy said her daughter has seen marked improvement.

The Beaumont Breastfeeding Coalition does not fill requests for donor. The group is more of a network for nursing moms to give and receive support. Some of its members took it up themselves to independently help Annabel.

Cathy said she is cautious when taking the donated milk. She meets with the women ahead of time and make sure she is not taking from their baby.

The girl with genetic disorder may be an extreme case, but breast milk is for sure not only for babies. There is a lot of official support for extended breastfeeding, which means breastfeeding a toddler past age one. UNICEF and WHO have long encouraged breastfeeding for two years and longer, and American Academy of Pediatrics is now on record as encouraging mothers to breastfeed for at least one year and then for as long after as the mother and baby desire.

Breastfeeding to 3 and 4 years of age has been common in much of the world until recently in human history, and it is still common in many societies for toddlers to be breastfed.

When not being disturbed (by unfriendly working environment or incorrect concept, for example), mothers and babies often enjoy breastfeeding a lot, and that is why breastfeeding continue past one year. Why stop an enjoyable relationship? And continued breastfeeding is good for the health and welfare of both the mother and child.

Breast milk has as much value after one year. Breast milk is milk. Even after one year, it still contains protein, fat, and other nutritionally important and appropriate elements which children need. It still contains immunologic factors that help protect the child even if he is 2 or older. In fact, according to Dr. Jack Newman, the Canadian physician specializing in breastfeeding support, some immune factors in breast milk that protect the baby against infection are present in greater amounts in the second year of life than in the first. That is since children older than a year are generally exposed to more infections than young babies. Breast milk still contains special growth factors that help the immune system to mature, and the brain, gut, and other organs to develop.

It has also been shown that children in daycare who are still be breastfed have fewer and less severe infections than the children who are not being breastfed. Mothers, do you have a little one pass one year old but you want to continue breastfeeding? Go ahead. It will only do good to you and your child.

The big baby with "tattoo" and still being breastfed!
This is an Original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's blog by To-wen Tseng. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

After a Lactating Porn Actress's Infant Starved to Death

This is a news story that ruined my Friday morning: an infant starved to death while his mother used breast milk for online porn.

The sad incident happened in Glendale, Oregon. The parents of this 7-week-old boy have been arrested on charges of murder by abuse after a medical examiner determined the child died from starvation. Investigators said the mother used her breast milk for online pornography instead of feeding the child. The baby died on January 22. That night, an ambulance and sheriff’s deputy responded to a report of an infant in distress. Medics found the infant unresponsive to treatment. He died on the scene. Detectives arrested the baby’s 22-year-old mother and 27-year-old father last week.

The story really upsets me. It’s not “the mother is horrible” angry. It’s much more than that. In this case, I think the mother is as much a victim as her baby boy. Pornography is an industry that essentially exploits women. The mother is now 22 years old and has been doing online porn “for years,” according to the sheriff. Which means she has been a porn actress since she was a teenager, when she was only a child herself. A teenager who acts in pornography is no doubt a victim.

The story upsets me mainly because, what kind of images is modern media presenting to breastfeeding mothers? Why would people associate breastfeeding and breast milk with pornography? Why there's a market for lactating porn? Who actually killed the baby?

I’m saying this with no exaggeration. Japan is the country with world’s largest pornography industry. If you search for “breast milk” or “breastfeeding” in Twitter Japan, half of the results you’ll get are pornography sites. A while ago, one of the largest Chinese-language newspaper here in North America described breastfeeding photos as “R-rated image” in its reporting. In America, many Hollywood movies—from David Dobkin’s “The Change-Up” to Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups”—make nasty jokes about breastfeeding.

Breasts are designed for feeding a child. But too many people seem to consider that breasts are designed for pornography or the satisfaction of admiring them. They just can’t get over the idea that breastfeeding equals to exposing breasts equals acting sexually.

It’s time for us to normalize breastfeeding and disconnect breastfeeding from sexuality.

This is why I’ve always been against describing breastfeeding as “sexy.” Las year, a press release on behalf of the Alaska State House majority called breastfeeding “smart and sexy,” and I thought it was very inappropriate.

And this is why I’ve been calling mothers to breastfeed in the public. People, especially our children, need to see breastfeeding in public. When youngsters grow up surrounded by sexualized images of breasts but never, or only rarely, see the normal, natural act of breast-feeding a baby, it’s not possible of them to have healthy ideas about breasts.

This is also why I’ve been encouraging mothers to share their breastfeeding photos. I think we need to see more breastfeeding pictures. From cliched poses to Facebook bans, our society apparently has a problem with realistic images of breastfeeding and postpartum bodies. Breastfeeding is simply not represented properly in popular culture. It has yet to be normalized. When breasts appear online, on television, or in print media, it is often associate with the idea of sex. How ironic that women are shamed if they do not breastfeed, but also shamed if they breastfeed in public?

Breastfeeding will not be seen to be normal until we see more breastfeeding photos and more women breastfeed in public. Mothers, please join me and breastfeed in public. When you do so, you’re helping normalize breastfeeding.

Below: The first nursing photo I shard on twitter when my LO was 7 weeks old. I even blurred it. After posting the photo I received a harassing message, telling me to "post a photo of your milking tits." Shocked and offended, I reported the incident to Twitter. The harassing account was then disappeared. After that I never blurred my nursing photo when sharing it--why should I? Have you ever seen anyone blur the food photo they share on Facebook?

This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's blog by To-wen Tseng.