Mamita (Grandma)

–> En Español <–
Associate Program Director Wandy Hernandez asked her grandmother to share her story as part of our 2017 Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month Series, “Reclaiming our Traditions on Breastfeeding and Birth / Reclamando Nuestras Tradiciones Sobre La Lactancia y El Parto.”

My name is Diomedes Rivera Santiago Mamita (granny). I am 84 years old. Ramon Quinones Rivera Papito (grandpa), my husband, passed away on February 27, 2007 at the age of 73.

I had 11 pregnancies: 7 live births and 4 losses. I have 22 grandkids and 28 great-grand kids — twenty-eight.

I am from Peñuelas Puerto Rico.

At 16, I had my first baby. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I went to the village doctor feeling nauseous.

I did what every Puerto Rican woman does in our village, which was use village doctors that were there. We breastfed until our baby was ready to stop. I breastfed my youngest until she was 5 years old.

Respecting our traditions for breastfeeding and birth is important to me because everything was natural. That was the norm in our traditions. To breastfeed our babies is healthy. They get sick less. Natural births are better for mom and baby.

I was my own role model. It was a norm. Everyone was equal.

In order to preserve our traditions around breastfeeding and birth, we need to continue modeling and educating our children of our authentic traditions. For example, the village was the birthing mother’s support. They assist in taking care of their other children, cooking, cleaning, taking care of their livestock and agricultural.

Nowadays, women don’t care about breastfeeding because they don’t want their breasts to hang, but breast milk is the healthiest for our babies because they don’t get sick as much.

The words of wisdom that I would give another Latina sister and family about our traditions for childbirth and breastfeeding are that we should always breastfeed, be healthy for our babies, and it is best to have our babies at home with midwives.

I would like to share that in my village, I became a midwife, healer, and mortician and I lead the rosary for the days of mourning. I came to the U.S. to live a better life with my husband and my children without knowing the language. I continue to model and stay true to my culture and — most importantly — my traditions.

I think they should offer women a choice; a hospital should have a room to do things naturally, give birth and breastfeed . . . and that’s the way to do it.

Thank you, Ms Rivera-Santiago, for sharing your story as part of our 2017 Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month Series, “Reclaiming our Traditions on Breastfeeding and Birth.”