Monday, July 31, 2017

Why donate your breast milk?

Breastfeeding mothers, have you ever thought about becoming a human milk donor? Maybe you are producing more milk than your baby can eat and you feel responsible for what you have. Maybe you want to help vulnerable infants around the country. Either way, being a human milk donor is a deeply rewarding experience.

When thinking about milk donation, many mothers first consider finding someone in their area who need milk for their babies and casually sharing it with them. But there are safety issues. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement against informal milk sharing because of the risk of bacterial and viral contamination. A 2013 study found that 74 percent of breast milk bought on the Internet had high levels of bacterial growth, particularly strep and staph.

So instead of casual sharing, you should look into human milk banks. There are currently 18 human milk banks in the United States and Canada that are affiliated with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, which sets guidelines for ensuring donor breast milk safety. Milk banks pasteurize donor milk to kill bacteria, combine it with other donor’s milk to make sure the milk components are well balanced, and test the milk for contamination. They then provide the milk to premature babies and other infants whose mothers may not be able to breastfeed.

Last year, 9.6 percent of U.S. infants were born prematurely, which can cause a host of health issues, including necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a serious disease in which babies’ intestines are damaged or die, causing waste to leak into their bloodstream. In 2013, preterm-birth complications were responsible for one third of U.S. infants death, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The World Health Organization says preemies should drink their own mother’s milk when possible. While donor milk is good for babies, it’s not as powerful as their own mother’s milk, because a mother’s milk composition rapidly changes to meet her baby’s needs. However, WHO does recommend donor milk as the best backup.

As you prepare to donate, you have to pass a month-long screening process, which included a phone interview, blood test for infectious disease, and releasing your baby’s and your medical records so the milk bank staff could ensure donating wouldn’t be detrimental to either of you. Your milk can help prevent infections in premature babies and encourage there mothers’ own breastfeeding efforts. Upcoming milk drive in San Diego area:

Date: Saturday, August 5, 2017
Time: 3pm
Location: UC San Diego Health East Campus Office Building
For more information, please visit 

Date: Monday, August 7, 2017
Time: 7:30 am
Location: Sharp Mary Birch Hospital
For more information, please visit 

Read more:
When breast milk goes big business
The dangers of buying breast milk online 
Breast milk is love. Share love!

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Milk and Marijuana: “First Do No Harm”

Dr. Stellawagen speaks at San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition meeting.
When California voters approved Proposition 64 and legalize marijuana last year, the basic idea was simple: a majority of people in the state believe that adults should be able to consume marijuana if they feel like it, just like a glass of wine at 5 o’clock. But how about pregnant and/or breastfeeding women? Shall we tell mothers not to breastfeed if they use marijuana?

According to Dr. Lisa Stellawagen (MD, FAAP) of UCSD Medical Center, It’s complicated. Marijuana usage during pregnancy and breastfeeding is an emerging public health problem. At a recent San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition meeting, Dr. Stellawagen said that THC use is common in pregnancy. Survey shows that 10.9% of pregnant women used Cannabis in the past year. 

In fact, it’s hard for medical staff to know how many mothers actually used Cannabis because self report is not accurate. A 1993 study tested 7470 pregnant women in five centers from 1984 to 1989. All women were asked about drug use and tested by serum analysis. While 31% of the women were confirmed with serum testing, only 11% of them admitted to use marijuana.

Currently we do not have good quality evidence that THC use is bad for infant. Fetal effects of prenatal Marijuana exposure includes small decrease in growth, double increase in stillbirth, but there is no association with birth defects, and the risk of prematurity is unclear. As for neurodevelopment, study found inconsistent effect on newborn behavior.

We do not have good quality evidence that THC use in lactation causes poor outcomes, either. A 1990 study looked at maternal marijuana use during lactation and infant development in one year. Researchers compared one year developmental testing with days of postnatal exposure if breastfeeding, and found that infant’s daily exposure to marijuana in the first month was associated with a 14% decrease in Bayley motor scores, but metal scores were not affected.

We don’t even know how much THC gets into the milk when mother uses marijuana. A 1982 study found that after using THC for one day, there were 105 mcg of THC detected and after using seven days, there were 340 mcg of THC detected per liter of maternal milk. But there was no metabolite detected in infant urine.

That says, before we tell mothers not to breastfeed, we should be sure the risk outweighs the benefit. Benefits of breastmilk for the neonate is of specific significance to the illicit drug exposed infant. Breastfeeding reduces SIDS, decreases risk of neglect, has neurodevelopment effects. Breastfed preterm infant has less NEC, less infection, and better neurodevelopment outcomes.

We do know that THC does get into the baby and mother’s milk, though. So instead of "do not breastfeed if you're using THC," we should tell mothers “do not use THC when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.” What if mothers are using THC? Dr. Stellawagen suggested, “Others should be available to care for your baby if you use THC. And if you use THC, smoke outside and use a ‘smoking jacket’ to minimize baby exposure.”​

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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Quick Guide to Successful Breastfeeding

There’s a big global push in from experts to have mothers of newborns breastfeed exclusively for at least six months. And many new moms want to. But only about 60 percent who start off breastfeeding keep it up for six moths or more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s a quick guide to advice from lactation consultants, pediatricians and researchers who had tips for women on how to reach their breastfeeding goals.

Expect problems at first
Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it is automatic and easy, as many people think of. 

People often think moms and babies will know exactly what to do, and they won’t even have to think about it. Some times that happens, but it’s not the most common outcome.

Even in traditional societies that don’t use formula or bottles, women often struggle to breastfeed, it turns out.

Take Himba mothers in the desert of northern Namibia for example. As NPR reported, essentially all Himba moms breastfeed their babies. But about two-thirds of these women have problems at the beginning, researchers found.

Line up a lactation coach before the baby comes
Since problems are likely, moms need to be ready.

Arrange to have somebody who’s experienced with breastfeeding present at baby’s birth or right after the birth to coach the new mom is suggested.

The coach can be a friend, a relative or a professional lactation consultant.

Many moms are looking on the Internet and on the YouTube about how babies should latch and what to do. That can be helpful, too, but moms still need hands-on guidance.

Many health insurers cover consultations from lactation consultants. Moms can check International Lactation Consultant Association’s website to find a nearby lactation consultant.

Create a support network for breastfeeding
Mothers still feel really isolated and confused about what they’re supposed to do after birth, reported BBC.

But being isolated with a newborn is the opposite of how humans evolved. Throughout evolutionary history, humans have relied so much on others to share the load of caring for babies. It’s one of things that make us human.

Traditionally, new moms all over the world have been taught how to breastfeed. They had their moms or aunts or close friends there to help.

Every new mother needs a support network for breastfeeding. It takes a whole village.

Don’t sweat a little supplementation with formula
New mothers often hear a lot from family, friends and experts about the importance about exclusively breastfeeding. That’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for the first six months. 

Decades of scientific research proves the formula is nutritionally inferior to breastmilk. But, when a mother’s own breastmilk or human donor milk is not available, infant formula is an important third option that can, at times, save lives. Also, supplement option can be a tool that helps moms work to establish their breastmilk supply.

The bottom line is, supplementing with formula is no way means mom’s failed.

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

Anything we can do, we can literally do it while growing a human inside of us?

Me, into 29 weeks pregnant. 
There has been a video circulating on the Internet. It shows Serena Williams playing in the Australian Open, Gal Gadot doing Wonder Woman reshoots, Alysia Montano racing at U.S. Championships, Beyoncé dancing on the stage, Nur Syryani Mohd Taibi shooting at Olympics, all during their pregnancy. The video concluded with “Anything you can do, we can literally do it while growing a human inside of us.”

Merely 26 weeks ago, I’d totally agree with the statement. I was a tough cookie during my first pregnancy. I stood under scorching sun for 11 hours to shoot the final landing of Space Shuttle Endeavour when I was two months pregnant. I covered smuggling stories from Mexico when I was eight months pregnant. I worked till the last day of my delivery, I even finished a short article while dilating in the delivery room. I traveled abroad several times through the entire pregnancy. Yes, everything I could do, I could literally do it while growing my first one inside of me.

Now that first one is four years old and I’m 26 weeks pregnant today. I thought I was going to be the tough cookie again. But this time I had pregnancy complications since the very beginning. I suffered from bad nausea, so bad that I have to move my computer to the restroom and do my works between vomiting sessions. I’ve been bleeding and had to cancel two business trips per doctor’s recommendation. I want to do everything I can do while growing my second one inside of me, but I’m trapped in this heavy, pregnant body.

I never realized how hard a pregnancy could be, and how essential supporting like paid family and medical leave could be. I’ve always been a supporter of paid family leave bills but I once thought I could live without them. Now I realized I can’t. Nobody can.

That’s why SB 5975, the paid family and medical leave bill the Washington State legislature passed last night was such a monumental victory, not only for working families and small business in Washington, but for the entire nation. I’m not saying this because I'm having a rough pregnancy myself. I’m saying this because maternity complications could happen to any woman, any family. Our country needs parents to work, also needs parents to have babies. For this very reason, all parents deserve supports.

Once it becomes law, SB 5975 will allow workers in Washington to take 12 weeks of family leave and 12 weeks of medical leave, with a maximum cap of 16 weeks of paid leave per year. In addition, the legislation provides for two more weeks of paid leave for women who experience maternity complications, offering much-needed relief to new moms who suffer difficult pregnancies. The legislation covers all workers in the state, even self-employed individuals who can opt in the program. It’s a great start and can be a model for the nation.

*This is an original post for by To-wen Tseng.