Tailoring infant feeding support to better serve Chinese American families

On Friday evening, many Chinese American families’ tables were filled with Kao Nian Gao, Tang Yuan, Jiaozi, Jujube, fish, noodles, oranges and other traditional dishes in celebration of the Lunar New Year. 

Asian culture is incredibly diverse, encompassing approximately 52 different countries with about 800 different languages and dialects. The Asian and Pacific Islander (API) population is also the fastest growing group of people, yet they are often overgeneralized or overlooked in health messaging and support.

Jeanne Kettles, MA, IBCLC, Tonya Lang, MPH, Grace Yee IBCLC, presenters of Effective Collaborations and Breastfeeding Promotion Strategies for Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander Communities, part of the USBC Racial Equity webinar series, point out that on an aggregate level, the API community looks like they’re doing very well in terms of breastfeeding initiation and duration rates.

But the statistics don’t cover the full story, they add, stating that “there are stark disparities within these population groups.”   

Photo by Taiying Lu on Unsplash

Heading into the Year of the Ox, let’s celebrate Chinese American culture– the largest Asian American group– by looking at some of the ways maternal child health advocates can better serve new families by building on cultural practices and by uplifting the organizations that are designed to serve these families. 

Discovered in part through their work with the Asian Southeast Asian Pacific Islander (ASAP!) Taskforce,  Alameda County Breastfeeding Coalition and other community engagement,  Kettles, Lang and Yee outline some strategies for tailoring infant feeding support in the Chinese American population. 

  • Include grandmothers in breastfeeding education and infant feeding plans. Grandmothers are influential elders that often assume responsibility of care for the new mother and infant during the postpartum period.  
  • Incorporate peer counseling into the traditional postpartum confinement period. Whether  mothers stay in the home or in a confinement center during this period, they should have access to proper lactation care. This study shows the importance of targeted training to support better breastfeeding outcomes. 
  • Establish a referral system for appropriate lactation care. 
  • Educate employers on lactation space provisions. 
  • Increase representation of Asian mothers in breastfeeding promotion. 
  • Increase representation of Asian lactation care providers. 
  • Ensure counseling strategies align with cultural practices. 

A major barrier to Chinese American families’ healthy infant feeding practices is linguistic isolation. ASAP! collaborated with Global Health Media to translate some of their videos into Chinese.  La Leche League Canada provides some of their information sheets in simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese. To-wen Tseng’s blog And I’d rather be breastfeeding is available in English and Chinese.  

Photo by Reynardo Etenia Wongso on Unsplash

Moving into a new year, the Asian & Pacific Islander Breastfeeding Task Force celebrates some of their accomplishments as shared on their Facebook page

Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

“The ox, in Chinese culture, is a hardworking zodiac sign. It usually signifies movements so, hopefully, the world will be less static than last year and get moving again in the second half of the year,” Thierry Chow, a Hong Kong-based feng shui master is quoted in this article offering predictions on the year ahead.

For more on API culture, resources and materials, visit USBC’s page here

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