by Heidy Brito, Jasmin Coreño, Jacqueline Alva and Jazmin Lopez
Teen parents tend to face a lot of negative stigma when choosing to parent. They are often told that they are poor decision makers and are losing out in so much in their lives. So when it comes to breastfeeding, it often surprises adults when young people make the choice to breastfeed.
As young Latina mothers from the Southwest side of Chicago, we’ve dedicated ourselves to normalizing breastfeeding within our community. Trained as Breastfeeding Peer Counselors by HealthConnect One, we have been assisting young mothers with breastfeeding through the Opciones Saludables program of Heartland Alliance.
In April, we had the opportunity to present at the ICAH Youth Summit for Pregnant and Parenting Young People on this very topic. When reflecting on our experience as facilitators, we were grateful that it was us that Summit attendees got to ask questions to.
One thing we noticed was that participants’ knowledge around breastfeeding was pretty low and they were lost to what resources were available to them. This showed us that medical providers are still not encouraging young people to breastfeed like they do older moms, and that they leave the hospital not knowing where to get support. The one thing that was encouraging was that these young moms still chose to breastfeed, despite them not fully understanding the benefits and having challenges. They had so many questions and were excited that we didn’t dismiss their questions but answered them honestly and respectfully.
We remember when we were in their shoes. We all felt that medical providers didn’t care about our needs and wants. We’re glad that we were able to give them the support that we didn’t have as young mothers. We encourage medical providers and those who interface with young parents to provide their participants with resources that fit their needs, are culturally sensitive, and give power and confidence back to WOMEN!
Moms, remember that your body is amazing. It knows how to give birth. It knows how to produce milk to feed your baby. Trust your instincts and feed on!
Heidy Brito, Jasmin Coreño, Jacqueline Alva and Jazmin Lopez are Teen Mentors for Opciones Saludables/Healthy Options at Heartland Alliance. HealthConnect One consulted with them in 2016 to design and launch a program that supports young moms.