Latinas lead the pack when it comes to breastfeeding their babies at birth – more than 80 percent of Latina moms do. More Latinas nurse their children at 12 months than any other ethnic group in the country. But there are still a lot of misconceptions about breastfeeding, and a lot of pressure to get it “right” – whatever that means.
Yuliana Delgado really felt this pressure. She had read all of the parenting books, but one thing wasn’t according to plan. “I was pumping every 2 – 3 hours, I would get up through the night and pump,” says Delgado, “I was drinking maltas like you wouldn’t believe to try to increase the production and nothing was working.
After struggling for 2 months, she made a decision. “I realized I had to start supplementing not only for my baby’s sake, but I was wreck,” says Delgado.
“WAY TOO LONG”
Luisa Colón was dealing with a completely different breastfeeding problem. She lived in a large Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn. She says the Latinas around her were shocked that she was still nursing her 20 month old. “It was this moment of “you’re still breastfeeding?” says Colón, “I think the expectation was that that’s what you do early on, you supplement with formula, you move on to formula, the breastfeeding gets left behind.”
Colón felt like she had to defend her personal choice to strangers. “I was constantly being told that my baby wasn’t chubby enough, he’s so small, oh how old did you say he was and how much does he weigh?” says Colón, “I must have had to answer that a dozen times.”
MISCONCEPTIONS ALL AROUND
Sharen Medrano is a local lactation consultant, and she says she hears this a lot. “Some of this stems from the misconceptions,” says Medrano, “some of it stems from some in the Latino community thinking that babies have to be chunky and chubby to be healthy when in fact most breastfed babies tend to be on the leaner end.”
THE MOMMMY WARS
The argument about how much to breastfeed really takes off online. “There’s so much judgement out there,” says Delgado, “I felt like that’s great that moms are able to breastfeed and that the support is out there, but once I decided to do formula, I felt like there wasn’t that much support out there.”
And on the other side of the breastfeeding spectrum, Luia Colón also felt a lack of support. “I was used to being a Latina who got a lot of support from fellow Latinas just being out in public, and suddenly it wasn’t there,” says Colón.
A SAFETY NET
A strong support network at home is crucial, “I was really fortunate that we went home to a supportive environment, my partner and my family,” says Colón.
Yuliana Delgado eventually found a way to be at peace with her choice.
“My mom was the provider of the maltas, so I did get some pressure from her, but she understood after she saw what a wreck I was that it was just not going to be possible for me to do it,” says Delgado.
There’s so many factors to consider to deciding whether you want to breastfeed and for how long.
“In the end it’s your baby, and you know what’s right and you know what feels right and what you want to do,” says Medrano.
IGNORE THE HATERS
As in so many health decisions, when it comes to breastfeeding, ignore the haters. Feel free to make your own choices, but know what you’re getting into.
After all, breastfeeding is just the start of the mommy wars.
Before coming on board as an associate producer with Latino USA, Brenda Salinas was awarded the highly competitive Kroc Fellowship at NPR. She has reported pieces for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Weekends on All Things Considered and for KUHF Houston Public Radio. In college, she started her campus’ only student run foreign-language publication, Nuestras Voces. Brenda has a B.A. in Economics from Columbia University.