Centering AAPI Voices in Breastfeeding Advocacy
As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI), HealthConnect One is highlighting the impactful work of To-wen Tseng, who has dedicated her career to centering AAPI voices in her breastfeeding advocacy. To-wen is a mother, journalist, author, and activist. She has been a key voice for the AAPI community in the breast
–feeding world, serving as a long-time Volunteer Blogger at San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition, and more recently, an Elected Director on the United States Breastfeeding Committee. She co-founded the API Breastfeeding Task Force in 2017 and then Asian American Native Hawaiian and Asian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Breastfeeding Week in 2021.
In collaboration with HealthConnect One’s First Food Equity Project, To-wen and her team led a Baby Cafè at DeDe Diner. Their mission was to combat stigma, decrease inequities and normalize breast/chestfeeding in Los Angeles County’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities by improving education and support practices. To-wen shares that the “social stigma, coupled with lack of resources, have hindered Asian parent
’s’ ability to successfully breastfeed. Data shows nearly 50% of Asian Americans in San Gabriel Valley, the home to the largest Asian population in Los Angeles County, are limited English proficient, and less than 6% of lactation professionals in Los Angeles County speak an Asian language. Additionally, prenatal medical visits offer little breastfeeding education using language or culture-appropriate materials.” It is important to recognize the unique cultural and linguistic needs of AAPI families, which their Baby Cafè hoped to do. To-wen shares that they simply could not have an “API Baby Cafè,” because API is a very diverse population. They decided to center the most under-served group and with their community partner, BreastfeedLA , chose the Filipino population. Dede means breastfeeding in Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines.
To-wen wants to remind people that while we tend to group all the AANHPI people together, “it is actually a very diverse, or I might as well say very divided, group. A record 22 million API Americans trace their roots to more than East and Southeast Asian countries and the Indian subcontinent, each with unique histories, cultures, languages and other characteristics. In many cases, they disagree with one another. In some extreme cases, they even hate one another. Please keep that in mind and don’t assume things when you work with API families.”