Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Doula supporting breastfeeding

No, this is not a doula. This is my mom with my 1-month-old son.
But when a new mom doesn't have her mom nearby to help, a postpartum doula can be as helpful :)

A doula is a new mom’s BFF—breastfeeding friend. Why and how? Breastfeeding consultant and doula Leilani Wilde shared her insights at a recent San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition general meeting.

A doula is a woman experienced in birth and/or postpartum care who provides emotional, physical, and informational support to the mother before, during, and after the birth. A birth doula can play an important role in supporting mothers during labor, delivery, and initial breastfeeding at hospital, birth centers, or at home births.

When a brand-new baby is placed on a new mom’s breast shortly after the birth, it’s often hard for the mom to believe that she really has anything to feed the baby. The baby often doesn’t latch on right away, either. Having a doula there can be a wonderful reassurance that there was nothing strange about mom and baby both being unsure how to get started.

“As a birth doula, my job is to reduce moms’ pain and offer comforting measures and support to them,” said Wilde. A doula has a lot to do at birth: eliminating stress and keeping moms relaxed; reducing the likelihood of interventions; supporting dads; helping new parents understand what the postpartum journey is like.

Wilde shard one technique that she often uses when providing one-on-one support throughout labor: acupressure points. “When assisting moms through labor, acupressure points can be used to help facilitate labor and help avoid interventions.”

Once the baby arrives, a doula promotes on demand breastfeeding by assisting and observing mom and baby. First help mom recognize baby’s feeding cues, and then encourage frequent skin-to-skin that regulate body temperature and help baby seek out the nipple. “Doulas never leave their side until the baby gets feed,” said Wilde. When a breastfeeding attempt failed, doula assures mom, supports her, and comforts her.

When breastfeeding finally happens—“The first latch is always magical!” said Wilde. Now the doula’s job is to teach mom how to recognize a good latch. Wilde pointed out that while doulas are not educated to the level as lactation consultants, they are trained and know the breastfeeding basics. They should also be able to recognize red flags indicating further evaluation, intervention, and possible referral.

Families may benefit from referral to a postpartum doula, this is especially true for new parents. Day one after giving birth is often a chaos—nurses are telling the mom things, doctors are telling the mom things, family members are telling the mom things—the mother may heard a lot information about breastfeeding but not absorbing them. In this case a postpartum doula can answer all the questions that families may have.

Imagine a young couple looking down on their precious newborn. Baby is here! Now what?

Now the doula steps in, teaches parents the opportunities to feed, the needs of the baby, and supports the family with encouragements, gives them the current information.

New moms don’t always have their moms or their in-laws nearby to help them. Doulas can “mother” the new mother by helping with the chores so the new moms can rest, or by empowering them so they can succeed and lean to trust their own natural instincts.

Even when new moms do have their moms or in-laws nearby, there is still a role for the doula. The grandmas may aren’t as current as the new parents would like them to be when it comes to taking care of the new baby. The new mother may getting a lot of education but not enough support from her in-laws. “Just listen,” said Wilde. “Moms always need someone to that is non-judgmental talk to.”

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Where California ranks in Breastfeeding rates


When my son was born, I knew I wanted to at least try to nurse him. Although my mom had never breastfeed me—I was born in the era of “formula is best”—, it had been drilled into my head repeatedly throughout my pregnancy that “breast is best.”

That is the message apparently being resonating with many new mothers across the nation, as indicated in the latest edition of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control(CDC)’s annual Breastfeeding Report Card.

More than four out of five American mothers tried to nurse their babies at least once in 2013, the latest year of which data is available. But too many gave up breastfeeding too soon, according to the study recently released by the CDC. A number of factors drive the decision including a lack of resources and support, according to the study.

“High breastfeeding initiation rates show that most mothers in the U.S. want to breastfeed and are trying to do so. These rates suggest that mothers, in part, may not be getting the support they need, such as from healthcare providers, family members, and employers,” stated the CDC study. “The early postpartum period is a critical time for establishing and supporting breastfeeding.” 

Breastfeeding supports a child’s growth and development, according to the guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). And the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office notes the practice can prevent illness and reduce future health issues, including asthma and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

The CDC’s 2016 survey of breastfeeding rates in each state was released during National Breastfeeding Month in August.

The U.S. average is 81.1 percent of mothers breastfeeding at least once. The states with the highest breastfeeding initiation rates are Utah at 94.4 percent, Idaho at 92.9 percent and Oregan at 92.5 percent. California average is 90.2 percent.

The survey shows progress across the country. But, at six months, nearly half of all mothers surveyed had stopped breastfeeding altogether. And only 22.3 percent were exclusively breastfeeding at six months, as recommended by AAP.

In California, though, women tend to breastfeed longer than the average American mom.

Of mothers surveyed in California:

  • 90.2 percent are breastfeeding at least once. 
  • 51.1 percent are breastfeeding exclusively at three months. 
  • 58.5 percent are breastfeeding at six months. 
  • 24.8 percent are breastfeeding exclusively at six months. 
  • 34.3 percent are breastfeeding at 12 months. 

Those numbers are up compared to California’s results in the 2007 survey. At that time, 52.9 percent of mothers in the state were breastfeeding at six months and only 17.4 percent were breastfeeding exclusively. A total number of 83.8 percent of mothers had tried to nurse at least once, as compared to 2013’s 90.2 percent. Still, it didn’t meet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Healthy People 2020 goal of having 60.96 percent mothers continue breastfeeding at six months. Only 12 states in 2013 met the goal. The Healthy People 2020 plan is a 10-year national objective plan initiated in 2010 for improving the nation’s health.

The CDC hopes the state-by-state Breastfeeding Report Card will urge all involved in the child’s first year to encourage mothers to breastfeed. The report goes beyond breastfeeding rates and looked at barriers to continued nursing. Sometimes it’s a lack of information and support provided to the moms at the hospital, sometimes it’s a lack of accommodations for moms to properly pump at work.

I overcame the odds and nursed past the 12-month benchmark. Breastfeeding was the right choice of nourishment for us, my child has only been sick for one time before turning two years old. Breastfeeding also brought us incredible bond of love, it always comforted my baby whenever he got hurt or scared. It’s the hope that moms can better achieve their breastfeeding goals with a more active support.

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"Trump will kick you out of here"


A while ago, when my toddler son was playing in our neighborhood playground, another child said to him, “Trump will kick you out of here when he becomes President.”

It happened in an afternoon of a hot summer’s day. My three-year-old bumped into an older child—probably five or six years old—when going down a slide. As much as I was tempted to defend my own child, I had to admit that it was his fault. I thought that I needed to remind him to apologize.

As I was walking up I heard, “Trump will kick you out of here when he becomes President.”

I froze in spite of the high temperature. It took me several seconds to realize that it was the other child who had spoken these words.

I wanted to ask, “I beg your pardon?”

I wanted to ask, “Why would you say that?”

I wanted to ask, “Do you believe that anyone should be kicked out of here?”

But before I could say anything, my son looked up at me and said, “Mama, I want to go home.”

So we left. I looked back a couple of times, trying to find the child’s parents. I didn’t, and I did not know what I would have done if I had found them.

My son was silent all the way home. Anyone who didn’t know him that well would have simply thought that he was tired. I drove, waiting for him to ask questions, but he didn’t.

So I broke the silence and said, “You know, you should say ‘sorry’ when bumping into other people.”
“Yes, mama.”
“And, you know, this is our home. No one is going to kick us out of here.” 
“Okay, mama.”

It was too hard to continue the conversation, so I stopped there. We went back to silence, and I hated myself for not being able to come up with anything better to say.

When it comes to unfriendly comments about immigrants and minority groups, many Asian American people, including me, often have an illusion of “safety”. Trump has accused Hispanic American of bringing crimes; he has called Muslims terrorists. But hey, we are Asian Americans. We are quiet and shy, we do our math and science, we don’t attract attention. Anyway, Trump said that he “had a very good relationship with China” right before having that crying baby ejected at one of his rallies!
But what happened in the playground in that afternoon taught me a lesson: when a hate movement and white nationalism becomes the mainstream, everyone can be a victim. Even a three-year-old boy can be threatened in his neighborhood playground. 
My son was quiet for the whole evening. At the dinner table his dad noticed that and asked, “Are you okay, buddy?”

“I want to go to bed now.”

He insisted that I sleep with him. I laid on his toddler bed with him. Just when I thought he was falling asleep, he asked, “Mama, who’s Drump?”

“Trump? He is a businessman. He is running for President.”

“Will he become the President?”

“Not necessarily.”

I got up and showed him the book “Hard Choices” with Hillary Clinton’s portrait on the cover. I was hired to translate the book into Mandarin Chinese when it published in 2014.

“This grandma is also running for president, and one of them will become President.”

“Will she let us stay here?”

“Oh baby! We are American, and we’ll stay here as long as we want, no matter who becomes the President.”

I was telling the truth. Both my husband and I came to the States as international students. He earned his PhD in computer engineering from NC State University and I earned my Master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Boston University. We eventually naturalized through H1B working visas and EB2 green cards, which requires an advanced degree and exceptional ability. We’ve been calling America home and contributing to this country for more than a decade, and I honestly don’t think anyone can legally “kick” us out of here, not even Trump.
What worries me is that this kind of hate speech will hurt our family and our children, turning our country into a place that is no longer suitable for living in. 
We’ve all heard Trump’s supporters shouting violent words and making provocative statements at the Presidential hopeful’s rallies, but it feels different when such words comes out of a young child’s mouth. I wonder if he really knew what he was talking about.

Either way, he certainly made it clear what Trump’s brand of hate is doing to this country. In spite of the frustration, I still hope for a hate free society to come. I'm not voting for hate. It’s not about political correctness. It’s about being a decent human being.

This is an original post to World Moms Network by To-Wen Tseng of the United States. Photo credit: Mu-huan Chiang.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Rise with Moms


MomsRising turns 10 years old this month! That’s a decade of gains of women, mothers and families. This makes me so excited that I have to write something about it.

I’ve been with MomsRising for three years. Three years ago this month, my son turned five month old and I’ve been back to work for two months after a three-month-long maternity leave. That two months were tough. I chose to breastfeed, which my company did not support. We didn’t have a nursing room, even though California law requires appropriate reasonable space for pumping. I had to pump in the restroom. When I tempted to wash my pump parts in the kitchen, some of my colleagues would say, “don’t wash your dirty panties in the office.” I reported that to Human Resources, but they never dealt with it. I spoke with my supervisor, but he insisted that I was overreacting, that I had a personal issue.

Stressed and helpless, I turned to Internet for some kind of support. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I find MomsRising.org when surfing the web. I saw a “share your story” button on the homepage, so I wrote about my unfortunate experience. That was a totally disorganized essay, filled with complaints and was actually very annoying, but I needed to get it out. Without thinking twice, I submitted it.

I immediately felt better. Later I decided to quit my job and sued my employer for sexual discrimination.

To my surprise, I got an email from Anayah of MomsRising a couple of days later. She comforted me with warm words and asked if I would like to blog with MomsRising.

I was cheered. Of course I’d love to blog with MomsRising. I was a working journalist but was about to lose my job. I would have plenty of time to write about what I really care about.

My first post “How to Pump at Work Like a Supermodel” was up in that December. My case was settled next August, and I donated part of the financial compensation to MomsRising.

Since then I’ve been getting inspiration and encouragement with like-minded moms at MomsRising. When FAMILY Act was introduced, I used the MomsRising template letter to write to my representative and ask them to support the bill. When children in my Sunday School were being fed candies, I organized a documentary screening to raise awareness on healthy eating with the help from MomsRising’s Good Food Force. When some kid told my child “Trump will kick you out of here” at our neighborhood playground, I turned to MomsRising Facebook page for support.

My son is now three years and three months old. The days of breastfeeding were long, but the years were short. He weaned himself last year; I still blog about breastfeeding rights at MomsRising. As he grow, I started to blog about healthcare, childcare, and early education.

One thing I really like about MomsRising is that the mothers here are not just rising for themselves, their own children and own families. They are rising for all the women, all the mothers and all the families in the country. I know some parents who mobilized to fight back on Epi-Pen price increasing are fully insured; the higher prices don't affect them. Some parents who support FAMILY Act live in California; they already have paid family leave.

MomsRising is now million-member-strong, with moms (and dads!) rise together to change the world. I may not be contributing much, but am certainly proud to be part of the movement. Happy birthday MomsRising :)