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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 9th 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 Maria Briseño
My breastfeeding commitment started with my mother. Prenatally, she didn’t mention breastfeeding to me … until my first born was born.
Sweet memories. On September 17, 1995, he was born, he was jaundiced and the pediatrician on staff told me, “Breastfeed. It’s good for him.” I followed Dr.’s orders, but it was hard, and not natural. He resisted me, until my mother told me it’s good for him. Funny: She will get on her knees to pump my breast, and tell my husband to help with the other breast.
Breastfeeding matters in the Latino community. Why? It’s part of our culture, our religion. La Virgin Maria nursed Jesus. Our grandmothers, mothers, and aunts nursed in Mexico, but it’s lost as we adjust to America (El Norte). Let’s go back to our roots.
It’s important to me because I was able to breastfeed my sons with my mother’s support. Sadly, not all Latina mothers have that. It’s a loss. The confidence, the natural feeling and pride of being able to have breasts to nurse your baby isn’t the norm anymore.
Americans assume that Latinas’ breastfeeding rates are high, but sadly, it’s not the case. Latinas want to be Americans, live the American way, be free, leave baby and work. But breastfeeding doesn’t have to be hard. It’s a natural process. Trust your body. Let the baby nurse and let people talk. You will only get one chance to nurse that baby. The grieving process is hard. Why? I pumped my milk for my oldest for a year. It wasn’t easy. I did my best.
My mother is, and continues to be my role model. Even though I was upset. At the time, I didn’t understand motherhood; I just became one.
As a mother of three boys, they know what breasts are for. They have been exposed to nursing mothers and classes I teach, and listen in to the calls I receive. Hopefully, my future grandchildren will be breastfed. I’m praying one of my sons decides to go into the mother and child field.
Throughout my breastfeeding experience as a mother, peer counselor, doula and educator I have noticed the most encouraging support is mother-to-mother support. Our gatherings aren’t classes or support groups; they are Charlas. We meet. No agenda is created. Why? I decided not to follow the tradition of: Let’s plan a topic, I’m going to teach a specific topic, and end it for the day. That doesn’t work. Mothers have voiced a struggle that disables them to be fully attentive to a class we expect them to attend.
Most classes are in English, lacking understanding of our culture and tradition. Labeled as the “men control us,” our men protect us and their children. Our family is important. Don’t assume abuse because we aren’t liberal.
To my Latina sisters: Si se puede!
Maria Briseño, who breastfed her three sons, is a certified lactation counselor and doula. She is a La Leche League breastfeeding peer counselor trainer and has years of experience providing support, education, and advocacy in Healthy Start communities.
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!