by Maria Briseño, Breastfeeding Peer Counselor and Candidate for Midwest Regional Representative to the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC)
My name is Maria Briseño. I’m from Mexico and was raised in the United States. Culturally, I identify myself as a woman, wife and mother — then lastly, as a Mexican.
In my community, I have served as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for 17 years and as an advocate for mothers and babies. I have been involved with the local breastfeeding task force for 12 years and now participate in the State Breastfeeding calls for Illinois. I’m keeping up with what is happening at the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) by reading any new updates on the website.
I’m interested in running as a candidate for USBC Midwest Regional Representative because I started noticing that my community in Southeast Chicago is forgotten when it comes to breastfeeding support.
Mothers believe that our community does not care about them and their babies so they travel to hospitals outside their community to seek what is often perceived as better healthcare for themselves and children. They travel to communities where hospitals offer prenatal classes and breastfeeding support groups and where families can afford to pay for lactation services.
Sadly, once they go home, they do not have access to support or resources in our community. Why? It’s a different culture. Due to acculturation in our community, we have lost our rich tradition and we are not often exposed to nursing babies, mothers walking around wearing their babies, and attachment parenting. Our breastfeeding rates are low. Our local delivering hospital is in the process of becoming Baby-Friendly, but that is not enough.
I felt as a native of Southeast Chicago, being an advocate for those mothers and babies I serve, it was time to stand up and wave to get attention on my community — and let my community know that I care, and other people care about our community.
As a woman of color, I feel that my community needs to see more people that represent them by not just a feeding method, but they need to see someone they can identify with, who supports their culture.
Some mothers stay home to successfully breastfeed and to raise a family. I understand them, support them with the barriers they face, and empower them to set up small goals and reach them.
Breastfeeding equity does not exist in minority mothers due to their daily struggles.
Minds can change if you listen, affirm and support moms on the first reason they share for choosing not to breastfeed. Why? It’s not always understanding how breastfeeding works. It can be the stories people told them on the reason you should not breastfeed. The media portrays minority mothers in so many bad ways that they associate it by saying nursing is for the poor.
We need to see minority mothers nurse their babies, by providing available support in their language and sharing how it can be a true breastfeeding success for mom and baby. They learn to understand themselves and make that connection. It empowers a mom to give her baby the best start by breastfeeding.