Breastfeeding: Role Models, Tradition, Support

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 4th 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 Carmen Vergara

Carmen VergaraMy name is Carmen Vergara. I am a Mexican-American woman born and raised on the Southwest Side of Chicago. I currently live, work and play in Little Village.

My commitment to advocate for breastfeeding began during my Maternal and Child Health graduate program at the UIC School of Public Health. I was fascinated by the Latina Paradox and I wanted to explore which other organic factors behaved as protectors.

(1) Why do think breastfeeding matters in our Latino community?

When considering the social determinants of health, the Latino community is faced with a number of disparities. Breastfeeding matters in our community because in general, it’s a relatively simple practice that can provide many short and long term protective effects. I hope not to get dinged for calling it relatively simple!

(2) Why is breastfeeding important to you?

Breastfeeding is important to me because it can provide a healthy start at the beginning of the lifecycle.

(3) Who is your breastfeeding role model? 

My breastfeeding role models are the women who advocate for their right to openly breastfeed in public. I also admire all the breastfeeding moms who are relentless and overcome the challenges that can come with breastfeeding.

(4) How can we continue to preserve our breastfeeding tradition?

We can continue to preserve our breastfeeding tradition by continuing to advocate for it and working toward making it a widely accepted social norm.

(5) What is an area of breastfeeding support you find encouraging or powerful?

Esperanza Peer Group in Action
Esperanza Peer Group in Action

I find peer support groups to be very powerful. Have you ever met someone from the same town in Mexico where your family is from? There is a strange automatic bond that occurs. I believe a strong bond develops when you’re surrounded by people with shared experiences, which is why peer groups are incredibly powerful!

(6) What is an area of breastfeeding support that is being overlooked in our Latino communities? What should or could be done about it?

I think an area that may be overlooked in our community is the concept of acculturation. Anecdotally, at our health center, we’ve seen a disparity of breastfeeding practices between foreign born Mexican women and US born women of Mexican descent. Step one is to assess if there in fact is a disparity.

(7) What words of wisdom and encouragement would you give another Latina sister and family about breastfeeding?

Words of wisdom and encouragement I would give are to share their stories and to become part of the movement. Their experiences are meaningful and can be powerful influences for other women.

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At Esperanza Health Centers, we serve a predominately low-income, Latino population on the Southwest Side of Chicago. We are proud to promote and support breastfeeding for our patients at the inception of prenatal care and throughout the first 12 months of life. This is a widely supported initiative by our senior leadership and dedicated clinicians and support staff.

In January 2015, we began a peer support group that has been well received and attended by patients. We look forward to continuing to advocate for breastfeeding at Esperanza and throughout the communities we serve.

Carmen Vergara, born and raised in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, graduated from the UIC College of Nursing in 2004. Shortly after, she began her nursing career providing inpatient care to newborns in the UIC Neonatal ICU. In 2005, Ms. Vergara began work at the UIC School of Public Health, where she combed research methods, nursing practices and community health strategies to help improve health outcomes for patients with asthma. In 2011, Carmen received her MPH and shortly after, she joined Esperanza Health Centers where she serves as the Director of Quality and Practice Transformation. In this role, Ms. Vergara has been successful in implementing strategies to improve quality of care at Esperanza, as highlighted by achieving Patient Centered Medical Home Recognition by the National Committee on Quality Assurance in March 2015. She is also an advocate and leader of Esperanza’s Healthy Tomorrow program, developed to promote and support breastfeeding. Currently, she is leading Esperanza’s model of care transformation — from traditional care to team-based care — by integrating care coordination into the delivery of healthcare.

You can reach Carmen directly by email at cvergara@esperanzachicago.org or by phone at 773.584.6136.


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!

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Who is your breastfeeding role model? Why?