Highlights of California Breastfeeding Summit 2017: Culture, Trauma, and Marijuana, by To-Wen Tseng

Highlights of California Breastfeeding Summit 2017: Culture, Trauma, and Marijuana, by To-Wen Tseng


Themed “California Dreamin,” this year’s California Breastfeeding Summit took place at Anaheim, CA in January. At a recent San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition’s general meeting, the coalition’s Kim Speckhahn (BS, IBCLC), Kimberly Elkins (EdM, IBCLC) and Dr. James Murphy (MD, IBCLC, FABM, FAAP) shared what they took home from the Summit.

Camie Jae Goldhammer (MSW, LICSW, IBCLC): Culture,Trauma and Breastfeeding

Goldhammer explained how culture, trauma and breastfeeding all connected. She worked 11 years as MSW with intergenerational trauma in National American population. In mainstream culture, breastfeeding is seen primarily as a health choice. But in Native American culture, it’s been lost. Galdhammer’s family is an example. Her family’s history of five generations of women endured the shared trauma experienced by Native American population, by the time she was born, her ancestral parenting models had all but disappeared. Breastfeeding didn’t happen. She learned to breastfeed after her birth and that was the beginning of the healing and reclaiming of breastfeeding in her family. She has been serving families families with complex trauma histories since then. She believes that trauma may have been a weapon of mass destruction, but breastfeeding is a weapon of mass construction.

Collen Weeks (LCCE, FACCE, CLE, CSE, RTS): Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their impact on Breastfeeding and Breastfeeding’s Impact on ACEs

ACEs impact more than 1 in 3 of the breastfeeding families that Weeks takes care of at Kaiser Permanente Hospital. These are serious traumas that result in toxic stress and can harm children’s brain and prevent learning. ACEs can include emotional, physical or sexual abuse, emotional or physical neglect, mother treated violently, household substance abuse and more. Exposure to childhood ACEs can increase the risk of adolescent pregnancy, alcoholism, depression, drug abuse and heart disease. It reduces one’s ability to respond, learn or figure things out, increase stress hormones which affect body’s ability of fighting infection, lower intolerance for stress. The good news is, resilience can trump ACEs and bring back health and home. ACEs is a really sensitive issue. When teaching resilience, Weeks recommended:

  • Gently address parents and how they may impact breastfeeding or how breastfeeding may impact them.
  • Initially discuss the issue with the mom when alone with her; follow her lead as the topic comes up.
  • Be positive and encouraging.

Tista Ghosh (MD, MPH): Marijuana and Breastfeeding

Ghosh is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer atColorado Department of Public Health & Environment. The State of Colorado legalized Marijuana in November 2012. In 2014, 11.2% Colorado women were reported using marijuana prior to pregnancy with a high using percentage among childbearing aged women, 5.7% women reported using marijuana during pregnancy, and 4.5% reported using marijuana lactation. It does  create more headaches for the medical community. There is no known safe amount of marijuana use during pregnancy, but THC (the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects) can pass from mother to the unborn child through the placenta. Also, maternal use of marijuana during pregnancy is associated with negative effects on exposed offspring, including decreased academic ability, cognitive function and attention. Effects may not appear until adolescence. THC can also be passed from the mother’s breast milk, potentially affecting the baby. There are moderate evidence showing that maternal marijuana use during pregnancy an breastfeeding can decrease growth in offsprings.

For more information on the 2017 California Breastfeeding Summit, please visit http://californiabreastfeeding.org/annual-summit/2017-summit-program-presentations/

This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition by To-wen Tseng. Photo: Citing Goldhammer, Speckhahn using a gorilla family as an example of how culture effects breastfeeding. 

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