Thursday, August 18, 2016

Breastfeeding and co-sleeping: A biologic Imperative

Dr. McKenna speaking at UCSD 2016 Breastfeeding Week mini-seminar.
“Sleep like a baby” is a common expression, but what does it really mean?

According to Dr. James McKenna, an anthropology professor at University of Notre Dame and a world-recognized behavioral sleep expert, it means baby sleeps near the mother with frequent breastmilk delivery.

Then why parents in today’s industrialized world often believe that that solitary infant sleep is the norm?

At a recent World Breastfeeding Week MIni-Seminar sponsored by UCSD Medicine School and SDCBC, Dr. MeKenna discussed the historical and cultural circumstances that led to the assumption.

Until recent historic periods in the western world, no human ancestral or modern infant was ever separated from its caregiver. In the 1700s, Catholic Church in Europe banned bedspring to help prevent infanticide among poor, starving mothers who confessed to “overlaying their babies” due to lack of birth control and the means to support a family.

Then In 1901, Marianna Wheeler, a superintendent of the Babies’ Hospital in New York, published a book “The Baby” and wrote, “The constant handling of an infant is not good for him. The less he is lifted, held and passed from one pair of hands to another, the better… The newborn infant should spend the greater portion of his life on the bed.”

American psychologist John Watson believed that no child could get too little affection, his psychological school of behaviorism had a huge influence on models of child development in the 1920s. He once said, “never hug or kiss your children…Never let them sit on your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say goodnight. Shake hands with them in the morning.”

“The Motherhood Book” published in 1935 claimed “babies should be trained from their earliest days to sleep regularly and should never be woken in the night for feeding,” “baby should be given his own bedroom from the very beginning. He should never be brought into the living room at night.” 

And year later, Dr. Spock, the American pediatrician authority of the 1940s, promoted the same view. 
In the 1980s, America sleep research began when only 9% of American were being breastfed and formula feeding was the craze. AAP guidelines stated “never let a baby fall asleep at the breast.”

More recently, Dr. Richard Ferber, the inventor of famous Ferber Method, published “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” and wrote “sleeping in your bed can make an infant confused and anxious rather than relaxed and reassured. Even a toddler may find this repeated experience overly stimulating…if you find that you actually prefer to sleep with your baby, you should consider your own feelings very carefully.” 

Dr. McKenna called this a “damaging statement.” In a matter of fact, Dr. Ferber changed his mind later and rewrote his famous “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” in 2006. This time, he wrote, “Whatever yo want to do, whatever you feel comfortable doing, is the right thing to do, as long as it works…most problem can be solved regardless of the philosophical approach chosen.”

But even after that, the American authorities still warned mothers about co-sleeping. Just in 2008, Deanne Tilton Durfee, director of the LA County Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect, issued a warning, “We know that value of holding your child, cuddling your child, loving your child But if you take the baby to bed with you and fall asleep, you are committing a potentially lethal act.”

The truth is, co-sleeping doesn’t increase the chance of SUDI, sudden unexpected death in infancy. In most of the SUDI cases, babies were already in an unsafe sleeping environment,  they could die by sleeping all alone, it doesn’t matter if she’s sleeping with the parents. In many cases, the parent roll over the baby when high on drug. On the other hand, co-sleeping promote exclusive breastfeeding, which reduces SUDI rates by 80%.

Fortunately, the erroneous assumption is changing. “The whole fuzz is caused by 10 people,” said Dr. McKenna, “and I’, sure they can be easily replaced by another 10 people. Two decades from now, co-sleeping will be the norm.”

Many new researches show that co-sleeping benefits mother and infant in many ways. Dr. McKenna’s recent research stated that co-sleeping and breastfeeding is a mutual re-enforcing system; he called it “breastsleeping.” An 2007 research found that co-sleepers are more secure being left alone.
So what makes co-sleep safe? Dr. McKenna provided the following factors:
  • Supine sleep position.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding.
  • No maternal smoking.
  • No children co-sleeping with ​infant.
  • Adhere to routine practice. 
  • Avoid co-sleeping on couches, armchairs, reclines, or waterbeds. 
  • Avoid bed-sharing if the baby is bottle feeding or the parent is a smoker, place crib or bassinet next to bed instead.    
This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition by To-wen Tseng.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Celebrate breastfeeding: A sustainable solution and a human right


Every woman has a breastfeeding story.

If you ask me, I’d tell you how I became a mother at the center of a lawsuit about the rights of women breastfeeding in the workplace, and why I turned down the financial compensation in my lawsuit.

If you ask my mother, she’d tell you why she never breastfed her children. That was before the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative took place, and the hospital staff gave her baby a bottle right after she gave birth.

If you ask my grandmother, she’d tell you how she breastfed her two toddler sons on a refugee boat and saved their lives.

It is because of my grandma’s experience, my mom’s experience, and my own experience that I am now part of my local breastfeeding coalition that works everyday to support moms reaching their breastfeeding goals and walk moms through it when breastfeeding becomes difficult. We celebrate breastfeeding all year long, especially during the first week of August—it is World Breastfeeding Week!

A Sustainable Solution

In 2015, the world’s leaders commented to 17 goals aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity. Together, they formed the sustainable development goals. The theme of this year’s WBW is “a key to sustainable development.” It reminds people that breastfeeding is a key element in getting us to think about how to value our wellbeing from the start of life, how to respect each other and care for the world we share.

Breast milk is a secure source of nutrition, always ready and safe on a daily basis, and in any emergency or natural disaster. Breast milk is the ultimate sustainable resource. It requires no packaging or processing, is local and fresh, and costs the nursing mom only a few extra calories a day.

Multiple scientific studies reveal that breastfeeding has numerous lifelong health benefits for mom and baby. Breastfeeding lowers a mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Breastfed babies have lower risk of serious health conditions such as asthma, obesity, childhood leukemia and sudden infant death syndrome.

These benefits save health dollars, which shouldn’t be a surprise. That says breast is the best, not for the moms or the babies, but for the Earth and all mankind living on the planet.

Everyone has a part to play in achieving the sustainable development goals by 2030. Everyone should care about the breastfeeding movement, even if you are not part of it.

A Human Right

The mention of “breastfeeding movement” might conjure up such images as a activist sit-in or a protester holding a “free the nipple” sign. But there’s more to the breastfeeding movement than its squeakiest wheels, and even women who have no intention of ever breastfeeding, or men who have no intention of ever having kids still have a personal stake in this issue.

On its face, the issue of breastfeeding rights might seem like a fight about what’s the best way to feed a baby. It is not. Surely it’s long been established that breastfeeding is beneficial, but that's not the point here.

The fight for breastfeeding rights isn’t about the milk that’s in the breast; it’s about the woman who’s attached to them. Breastfeeding rights is something everyone should care about, even if you don’t breastfeed, and even if you are not a mom. Breastfeeding rights is a women’s rights issue, and women’s right is human right. It is something that concerns all women, and men with souls.

Breastfeeding is about choice. In the United States, more than 90 percent of women start breastfeeding their babies at birth. They know breastfeeding is best for their babies and themselves. Sadly, most women report not meeting their own breastfeeding goals and quit before they really wanted to. Many challenges, including not being supported to breastfeed after returning to work or being shamed for breastfeeding in public, make continuing to breastfeed harder.

What matters is that women have the right to choose to breastfeed, are legally allowed to do so in public and legally supported to do so at work. People who never intend to use their own breasts to feed a baby can and should still support the rights of women who do.

Support breastfeeding is support human rights and the global goals for sustainable development. So happy World Breastfeeding Week! Let’s work together to achieve the sustainable goals by making the annual WBW celebration more than a week-long effort.

This is an original post for World Moms Network by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to Ewa Samples Photographer .