Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Zika and Breastfeeding

Last Thursday the Senate approved $1.1 billion in emergency funding to fight Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness. The virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of a mosquito. Infection with Zika virus usually results in mild illness and symptoms may include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. Although Zika virus disease is generally mild, it can cause birth defects.

Five hundred people in the continental United States already have been infected by the virus. Those cases involved travel to Latin America or the Caribbean—the areas hardest hit by the disease so far. But federal health officials are worried about a locally spreading outbreak in the United States unless mosquito-extermination efforts, testing and vaccine research are expanded. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an alert for travel to areas where Zika virus is spreading. Travelers who are pregnant or considering pregnancy should consult a doctor.

A pregnant woman can pass Zika virus to her fetus during pregnancy or the time of giving birth. Zika is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects and/or adverse neurological outcomes. CDC is studying the full range of other potential health problems that Zika virus infection pregnancy. 

Current widespread transmission of the virus and detection of the virus in breast milk from two mothers with Zika virus infection has also raised questions as to whether transmission can occur during breastfeeding, a practice essential to infant and young child survival and development. 

However, according to CDC, “to date, there are NO reports of infants getting Zika virus through breastfeeding.” Because of the benefits of breastfeeding, CDC encourages mothers to breastfeed even in areas where Zika virus is found. Also according to World Health Organization (WHO), “there are currently NO document reports of Zika virus being transmitted to infants through breastfeeding and in countries with ongoing transmission of Zika virus, no adverse neurological outcomes have been reported to date in infants with postnatally acquired Zika virus disease.

Based on the available evidence, which suggests that the benefits of breastfeeding for the infant and mother outweigh and potential risk of Zika virus transmission through breast milk, WHO has issued interim guidance, noting that the current WHO breastfeeding recommendations as below remain valid in the current context of Zika virus transmission.

  • Breastfeeding should be initiated within one hour of birth. 
  • Infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. 
  • Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods, while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or beyond.
WHO recommends mothers with suspected rubble of confirmed Zika virus infection during pregnancy of postnatally receive skilled support from health care workers to initiative and sustain breastfeeding, like all other mothers. Likewise, mothers and families of infants with suspected, probable or confirmed Zika virus infection should receive skilled support to adequately breastfeed their infants.

The best way to protect from Zika virus, according to WHO, is preventing mosquito bites. This can be done by using insect repellent; wearing light-colored clothes that cover as much of the body as possible; using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; sleeping under mosquito nets. CDC has confirmed that it is safe to use an insect repellent if a woman is pregnant or nursing. It is also important to empty, clean or cover containers that can hold even small amounts of water such as buckets, flower pots or tires, so that places where mosquitoes can breed are removed.

This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to JAMES GATHANY/CDC VIA AP.

Read more: Zika Daily News

Friday, May 6, 2016

Meditating with my Terrible Two

When meditation became the big thing last year, just like yoga in the 1970s, my editor at Taiwan’s Commonwealth Parenting Magazine wanted me to write a piece about meditating with children. So I interviewed Jeff Zlotnik of Meditation Initiative for this assignment. He told me that kids can begin to practice meditation at the age of five, starting with a two minute session.

 “Seriously? Does that really work?”

 “Yes.” He then explained to me, while scientific evidence shows that human brains benefit from meditation sessions longer than 40 minutes, it is almost impossible to ask a 5-year-old to sit and meditate for that long. A two minute session is appropriate for a 5-year-old, and “even a short session like that helps relief stress and calm kids down.”

Calm kids down! The three words jumped out at me. My son was two years old, and there is surely a reason people call kids at that age “terrible two”. 

“How about with a 2-year-old?” I asked, with hope.

 “You can try. I think it still helps. But the session probably wouldn’t last two minutes,” he said.

Good enough. I went home with a plan. And just as I expected, that evening when we started the bed time routine my 2-year-old tried to negotiate like always.

“I want to brush my teeth for one more time! I have itchy teeth!” Itchy teeth? Is that even possible?!

“I want another glass of water so that I can go pee-pee again!” I know he’d just sit on the toilet forever if that means you don’t have to go to bed.

“I want two stories.”

“I already read you three stories, now it’s time for bed. I’m going to turn off the light. ”

And then—there it was! The two-year-old threw himself on the floor and started to howl.

“Okay, okay!” I picked him up. “How about a game?”

“Yes!” The howling stopped.

“It’s called the breathing game. Let’s close our eyes and concentrate on our breath,” I told him.

“What is concentrate?”

“Just listen to your breath.”

 He did. I closed my eyes, too. I could hear him breathing heavily on purpose, which made me want to laugh. I held the laugh in. After a while I felt his touch. “Mommy?”

I opened my eyes. He was looking at me, perfectly calmed down. “Are we still playing?”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s the point of the game—see who can keep breathing for longer.”

“I’m tired with breathing,” he said.

“Do you want to lay in your bed? I can sing you the dragon song.”

“Okay.” So he laid down and listened to me singing “Puff the magic dragon.” He fell asleep before I finished.

Our first meditation session lasted for 20 seconds! I was so proud of myself.

That night I told my husband about my great achievement. He scoffed at me, “You used a trick! I bet he’ll never play the breathing game with you again.”

But guess what—he actually did! The second night I used the same trick to calm him down and put him to bed. And the third night. And the fourth night. My son is now three years old. He finally figured out it’s a trick. “That’s not a game, mom,” he said to me one night. “You just want me to sleep.”

“It can be a game.” I told him. “It’s a game that helps you calm down.”

“Calm down?” Apparently the words are too hard to him.

“Makes you feel better when you are angry or upset.”


We still meditate together at bed time. Now my 3-year-old can meditate for one minute. My next plan is to find time to practice a 40-minute-session meditation for myself. Maybe I’ll get my husband to join me!

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by To-Wen Tseng. Photo credit to Chin-ling Ho.