Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Dangers of Buying Breast Milk Online

Breast milk is liquid gold. When having trouble breastfeeding, our great-great-grandmother might have called for a wet nurse. Now the 21st century technology has opened the door for this ancient practice. In today’s e-commerce world, a young mother can easily buy breast milk online and feed her baby.

Over the past couple of years, ordering breast milk online has become more popular. While online sales of human milk is rising in popularity, it’s buyer beware.

Though breast milk is not regulated by the FDA, a 2010 warning clearly states that government’s stance, “FDA recommends against feeding your baby breast milk acquired directly from individuals or through the Internet.”

A recent study published in Pediatrics revealed that some breast milk ordered online contains cow’s milk. The study, led by Dr. Sarah A. Keim of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, tested 102 samples of breast milk ordered from popular milk-sharing websites to see what it contained.

Researchers isolated mitochondrial DNA from the samples by polymerase chain reaction, the same technique used for forensic and medical purposes. After two rounds of testing, 11 samples came back containing cow DNA. Ten of the samples actually had been mixed with at least 10% of cow’s milk, a significant quantity.

Further tests ruled out the possibility the cow’ milk was the result of minor or incidental contamination and suggested the tainted breast milk had probably been intentionally mixed with cow’s milk or cow-based baby formula.

“We confirmed that all the samples did have human DNA in them, but they were not 100% human breast milk,” said Dr. Sarah Keim. “This is deliberate adulteration no matter how you look at it.”

She added, “I was surprised that it was that many samples. Even a small amount of cow’s milk could be harmful to a baby with cow’s milk allergies.”

This is not only problematic for infants who are allergic to or have trouble digesting cow’s milk. Children under one-year-old should not be fed cow’s milk according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP.) In addition, previous studies found that some of the human milk sold on the Internet had high amounts of bacteria.

A 2009 study done by Stanford University found that among 1091 women who want to donate breast milk, 39 of them have HIV, hepatitis, or syphilis. In a 2013 study, Dr. Keim and her colleagues also found that 75% of the breast milk purchased through the site contained staph, strep, or other bacterial species. If the breast milk donor takes medication, harmful drug can also be transmitted to the baby.

“It’s quite clear that the risks to your infant’s health and safety are significant and appear to outweigh any benefits they might get from breast milk,” said Dr. Keim. “There are multiple dangers, one is the risk of infectious disease.” She said HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, and other infectious diseases can be transmitted through breast milk.

When a mother cannot nurse her own baby, the next best thing is breast milk from another healthy mother. However ordering breast milk online did raise safety concerns. Online sources for breast milk are far different from the network or organized milk banks. A licensed human milk bank has to go through a rigorous process to make sure the breast milk is safe for consumption according to the Human Milk Bank of North America.

To guarantee the baby glean the benefits found in human milk, including all the nutrition, antibodies, and other disease-fighting properties, it is encouraged that mothers turn to a licensed human milk bank.

This is an original post to San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to To-wen Tseng. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Why I Love Tax Season (and why Congress should keep making it lovable)

For most people, tax season has passed. For me, it’s not.

As a freelance journalist based between CA, USA and Taipei, Taiwan, each year I have to file taxes in two countries. The tax day in the States is April 15, but in Taiwan it’s May 31.

So the tax season is not yet over for me.

This is the season that I love the U.S. government the most. This is the season I feel that as a U.S. taxpayer, my family and I are really being taken good care of. This is the season I feel that I’m really lucky to raise my child in this country.

This year, thank to the Child and Dependent Care Credit, I saved $400. How far can $400 go? For my family, it equals to one week of mortgage, or two weeks of groceries, or five weeks of gasoline. It may not sound much, but is indeed very helpful.

Coincidentally (and unfortunately), I had an accident just a couple of weeks ago. I was hit from behind by an unlicensed driver. My 22-month-old was in the car when the accident happened. Since the other party was not licensed nor insured, I had to pay for the damage with my own insurance. I have a $500 collision deductible and the $400 child care credit kicked in just in time to help me fix my car and replace my baby’s infant car seat.

Tax breaks like this, as well Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, boost working families. The money received through tax credits helps the families afford rent, gas for cars, day care for children, and other necessities. With these purchases, the money flows back into the local economy, which sorely needs it. So the tax breaks also boost our economy.

It worried me when I heard that the key provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit will expire in two years.

I don’t receive the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Child Tax Credit, but I know it is one of the most successful anti-poverty programs the States has right now. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 9.4 million people, including 5 million children, were lifted out of poverty by the programs in 2013. In 2013 alone, 28 million people in the States benefited from the Earned Income Tax Credit, earning an average $2,407 in tax breaks. Also 20.4 million households received the refundable part of the Child Tax Credit. Totally 20.9 million working moms received the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, or both tax credits.

Once the policies expire, nearly 16 million, including 8 million children, will be fall into poverty. It will be very unfortunate. Thousands of hard-working families will be left behind and our economy will be hurt.

The members of Congress should not let this happen. This week after filing my tax, I wrote a letter to Mr. Scott Peters, my Representative at State House, and tell him why I think the Congress need to support, protect, and strengthen the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, and keep making the tax season lovable.

If you share my belief and want tell the Congress to support the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, please visit the MomsRising action page.

This is an original post for MomsRising by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Extended breastfeeding leads to higher income later in life

We’ve heard it many times already—“Breast is best.” The benefits of breastfeeding for a child, physically and intellectually, have been increasingly well-illustrated by a large body of research in recent years. Nowone more study adds to it.

Breastfeeding has many short-term benefits, including protection from infectious disease and reduction in infant death. Now a new study suggests that extended breastfeeding is linked to an increase in intelligence and income.

Prior studies have shown breastfeeding’s positive effects on brain development, and longer breastfeeding specifically has been linked with improved cognitive, motor, and language skills, as well as better memory in the first few years of life. A 2013 study published in JAMA Pediatrics found longer breastfeeding was associated with improved verbal and non-verbal intelligence in elementary age children; breastfed children have an increase of up to 7.5 IQ points.

But does the benefit last to adulthood? The answer is "yes!" The latest addition to this perspective is a long-term study of infants born in Brazil in 1982. Published in Lancet Global Health, the provocative longitudinal study interview 5,914 new mother about their plans for breastfeeding and then followed up to see how they did. Researchers recently followed up with the grown children, who were asked to complete IQ tests and answer questions about income and educational achievements. The researchers were able to collect data from 3,493 participants.

The study subjects were then divided into five groups based on how long they were breastfed. They took into account 10 “social and biological variables” that might affect IQ. These included family income at birth, parental schooling, maternal smoking during pregnancy, maternal age, birthweight, and how the baby was delivered.

Controlling for other facts such as parental income and birthweight, researchers found that the connection between breastfeeding and IQ may persist for many more years than previously had been shown—in fact, it may last right up through adulthood. The researchers from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil found that the longer a child is breasted, the higher his or her IQ through age 30, and the higher his or her earning power at that time. Babies who were nursed for 12 months or longer had higher IQ scores and earned more than those who had just been breastfed for a month.

The study provides the first evidence that prolonged breastfeeding not only increases intelligence, but last until at least the age of 30 years.

“The result of our mediation analysis suggested that IQ was responsible for 72% of the effect on income,” said Dr. Bernardo Lessa Horta who lead the probe.

In comparisons of participants who were breastfed for 12 months or more with those breastfed for less than one month, the increase in monthly income was roughly R$300 (US$95), or 20% of the average income level.

The study said that weather a mother was rich or poor, or had high or low social status, made little difference to the results. Longer breastfeeding led to increased adult intelligence, longer schooling and higher adult earnings, regardless of family background.

Horta said, “What unique about this study is the fact that, in the population we studied, breastfeeding was not more common among highly educated, high-income women, but was evenly distributed by social class.”

Breast milk may be the best a mother can give her child, even better than a rich family or a higher social class. One more reason to breastfeed, moms.

Wow! Diamond in mommy's milk! Drink up!!
This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Blog by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

New Writer Interview with World Moms Blog

Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?

I currently reside in San Diego, CA, USA. I am originally from Taipei, TAIWAN.

What language(s) do you speak?

Mandarin Chinese, English, and Japanese.

When did you first become a mother?

I first became a mother in 2013 at the age of 33.

Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?

I’m a work-from-home mom.

Why do you blog/write?

I am a writer and I write for a living. I started to blog back in 2009 when a publisher in Taiwan invited me to. My blog then titled “The World According to To-wen” was all about my experience as a criminal/disaster reporter. It made the final list of 2011 Global Chinese-language blog awards; later became a book which was sold more than 80,000 copies in China and Taiwan.

But things changed four years later when I became a mother. When returned to my previous newsroom after giving birth, I got a rude awakening which inspired me to advocate for women and children’s rights. I changed my blog title to “I’d rather be breastfeeding” and started to blog about my message to other mothers (or fathers) who share my values.

What makes you unique as a mother?

Every mother is unique, or no mother is unique. I am no exception. I have been fighting for breastfeeding rights at work which I consider a unique experience. But I am not a particularly unique mother. Mothers believe in different things and compete with one another in many different ways. But no matter what we believe, we love our children. I love my child just like other mothers do; not more, not less.

What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?

There are many and I consider temptation the biggest one. My son is barely two years old and I’m working hard to teach him to resist candy. Surely our culture is strutted with candy and other junk foods. Every so often, I feel that I’m fighting against the whole world just to protect my child from junk foods.

And I imagine as he grows up, there will be other temptations: TV, pornography, drugs, unsafe sex…the list goes on and on. Since I cannot be a food police or Internet police around him 24/7, I need to raise him as a person with integrity and strong will power to resist these temptations.

Not only children, but parents in today’s world need to learn to deal with temptation. It’s harder for today’s parents to resist the convenience that infant formula, or iPad, or smart phone has to offer. None of us want to be that mother who stares at her iPhone when “playing” with children in the park or the mother who simply gives a fuzzy child an iPad and say “here, just be quiet for a minute!” Unfortunately, sometimes an iPad seems to be the easiest solution.

The challenge of temptation. Definitely a big one.

How did you find World Moms Blog?

I don’t remember. I’ve known about World Moms Blog for a couple of years and was a reader even before I became a mother but never thought of writing for the blog. Maybe I just went across the blog somehow when surfing the internet. I really can’t remember. But I’m definitely thrilled to be part of the team!

This has been an exclusive World Moms Blog interview with our new writer To-wen Tseng. She can be found writing at her blog “I’d rather be breastfeeding” and on Facebook andTwitter.

It is an original post to World Moms Blog. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang.