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During Latino-Hispanic Heritage Month, HealthConnect One is excited to celebrate our breastfeeding traditions through online and real-life conversation and support. This is the 3rd guest post in our blog series, “Celebrating our Breastfeeding Traditions,” featuring individuals who identify as Latino/Hispanic who are breastfeeding leaders, advocates of breastfeeding support, and members of breastfeeding families.
by Diana Limongi
I was able to breastfeed my son exclusively for six months. I was also able to continue until a year, and it took me three months to wean him — so in total, I breastfed for 15 months. I didn’t start off thinking I would do it like that. It just worked for me.
The reason it worked was because I had support all around. My job was very supportive. I had a clean, private space where I could pump and I had access to a refrigerator where I could store my breastmilk. I think support plays a HUGE part in whether women can continue breastfeeding. I’ve heard friends say that they hear snide remarks from colleagues when moms take breastfeeding breaks… those are definitely not helpful. This can cause stress, and stress can hinder a mom’s ability to produce milk.
Overall as a society, we can do more to support breastfeeding moms. While the act of breastfeeding may be natural, breastfeeding can be difficult and not everyone can do it. Whether you breastfeed or not will depend on a lot of different factors.
As a society, we can help by providing support to breastfeeding moms to encourage and cheer them on so that women can be more successful at attaining their breastfeeding goals — whatever those goals may be.
I’ve already seen a lot of progress from the time that I was breastfeeding until now, and I hope the situation will continue to improve. It is necessary to support working mothers and breastfeeding mothers so that they can feed their babies.
Here are 7 ways we can support breastfeeding moms:
- Normalize breastfeeding. This, of course, is going to take a societal change. Breasts are made for breastfeeding, not for Victoria’s Secret catalogues. Society needs to understand that.
- Provide clean spaces to nurse and pump in public. And no – the bathroom does not count. Cities and public spaces like parks and museums need to step it up and offer more spaces for moms to pump or nurse if they need to. Offices need to comply with the Affordable Care Act, which states: “The space provided by the employer cannot be a bathroom, and it must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.”
- Make lactation consultants available at pediatric offices. This is a big one. As a new mom, taking my son to a checkup was a big deal — getting out of the house, getting to the doctor’s office, etc. It can all be overwhelming. I wish I could have had my breastfeeding questions and concerns answered by my pediatrician or by someone at the office instead of having to look for another doctor or lactation consultant. It would have made life so much easier for me and could help a lot of moms: Imagine, just take baby to the doctor and discuss breastfeeding issues you have there, no need to visit another specialist. Luckily, this is an option now at my son’s doctor’s office!
- End week-to-week schedules for mothers. Many mothers who work in certain industries (like retail) work on week-to-week schedules. Mothers who do not know what their schedules are from week to week may have a harder time figuring out where to pump, how to transport milk, schedule breaks, etc.
- Allow breastfeeding moms to head back to work on a part-time basis in order to help continue breastfeeding for at least a year. This is actually done in other countries. In Ecuador, for example, mothers go back to work after three months (they get paid leave) and then they work part time (I believe it is until 3:00 p.m.) and then they can go home… That would be SO helpful for moms who are breastfeeding as it would mean being home with babies earlier and they would be able to breastfeed more often instead of having to pump and carry the milk.
- Hospitals should do more to help mothers. In addition to classes, they should provide information about where to turn if moms need help breastfeeding. When I left the hospital, I didn’t have any information. It would help to have this information handy (because who has time to search the internet when you are busy caring for your baby?): A bag with breastfeeding essentials such as gel pads, lanolin cream, fenugreek supplements and a list of phone numbers for the local La Leche League, lactation consultants, and breastfeeding support groups.
- Provide six months of paid leave. I know this one is going to be difficult to achieve. We can’t even agree on 12 weeks off with pay. The sad truth is that unless policies help breastfeeding moms reach their feeding goals, then it is very hard for mothers to do. Paid leave and breastfeeding go hand in hand. Lawmakers can’t support one without supporting the other.
What would you add?
How can we improve conditions for breastfeeding moms?
What resources and support did you receive?
Diana Limongi is a bilingual freelance writer and blogger. She writes about raising bilingual and multicultural children, women’s issues, identity and culture. Diana has an MA in Migration Studies and an MPA in Nonprofit Management. She lives in NYC with her multicultural family. She loves connecting with her readers via her blog, LadydeeLG. You can also follow her on Twitter or Instagram.
TWEET WITH US on October 7th at 2:00 p.m. ET, for a #WellnessWed Twitter Chat about Breastfeeding in Latino/Hispanic Communities. Share your voice with hashtag #DandoPecho!