Minority Moms & Breastfeeding : Maya's Interview

by - 2/01/2010 07:35:00 AM

Continuing my Minority Moms & Breastfeeding Interviews, this weeks interview is with Maya who is biracial but identifies with being Latina, since she was raised by her mother's family. Her mother is a Brazilian immigrant and her father was White. Maya also blogs at Marf Mom.

  1. If your breastfeeding, how is the support from family/community? Does your mother/mother in law support you? Does your husband/partner?
  2. Maya: I got most of my support from my graduate school classmates, only one of whom has a baby (my graduate degree is in public health) and my husband. My mother was somewhat supportive. She breastfed my brother, sister, and myself, but only for about 3 months. She encouraged me to breastfeed but also always wanted me covered up. She couldn't understand why I wouldn't want to (I think breastfeeding is natural, not shameful, and the more confident I got breastfeeding, the less I wanted to deal with having a cover). My MIL was not supportive. I could tell that me breastfeeding made her very uncomfortable. She called it gross at one point, when her SIL wanted to peek under my cover to watch my son nurse, b/c the SIL thought breastfeeding is beautiful. My MIL is White (Italian). My husband thought that me breastfeeding was excellent and did everything he could to support me. He sat up with me at night while our son nursed, would bring me my nursing pillow, water, change the baby's diapers, etc. Nursing without a cover made him a little uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as it made my mother.
  3. If your working how does your company feel about you breastfeeding? Do they give you time to pump? Is there a policy in place for nursing mothers? Is your supervisor/boss/coworkers understanding?
  4. Maya: I work from home, so that's not an issue. I work at a conference one long weekend a year, and the organization was very amenable to me bringing my son along. My mother traveled with us and she just brought my son to me whenever he needed to nurse and I'd step into the hall to nurse on a couch.
  5. Do you feel there's enough information available to support you as a minority mom who wants to breastfeed?
  6. Maya: No way! I'd have to go back through the research papers I read for a grad school project on this subject, but Latina breastfeeding rates are low. Latina women tend to think their milk supply is very low (if you want the paper on this let me know; I have it somewhere on my computer, I'm pretty sure). They don't think they make enough milk, so they quit. For instance, nursing my son one day I came across another Latina who was formula feeding her daughter. She told me how much she'd wanted to nurse her daughter, but when she didn't make enough milk in the first few days after her daughter's birth, she decided she'd better use formula. Besides, with formula she could be sure her daughter was getting enough, b/c how did I know my son wasn't starving at the breast? No one had ever taught her about colostrum. Really, we could use better education from the hospitals where women are delivering. Not every Latina can afford good prenatal care (I'm thinking particularly of my city's large immigrant population, many who are not legal and therefore don't have health insurance), so the OBs aren't necessarily the groups to target. After the birth, nurses or the delivering doctor should be offering LC assistance right away. I got all kinds of bad information, including a pediatrician insisting I formula feed my son because he'd lost 6% of his body weight (I informed her I would NOT give my son formula because anything 10% and under was perfectly normal post-birth weight loss, but I would bet most women don't know that). Also, I feel like we could do a better job showing Latina women who breastfeed. Many advertisements show White women. Salma Hayek is the only Latina celeb that I could think of who promotes breastfeeding.
  7. How did you/do you plan on breastfeeding?
  8. Maya: I breastfed my son exclusively for 8 months. I planned to go longer, but I have Marfan syndrome (hence Marfgirl) and I had to change my heart medication to one that was not safe for breastfeeding at that time. There was also a 36 hour period in the hospital where my son was formula fed b/c I was switching heart meds from a non-breastfeeding one to one I could breastfeed with. Anyway, we breastfed on a very loose schedule, mostly on demand, occasionally pumped milk for bottles, and gradually introduced solids starting at 6 months.
  9. What advice do you have for a new mom with questions about breastfeeding?
  10. Maya: I think women should seek out lactation consultants. They are the experts on breastfeeding, not the doctors (don't even get me started on all the things I've heard doctors say!). Also, look for a La Leche League near you or search "breastfeeding support groups + your city". Breastfeeding might hurt at first, or it might take some time for you and your baby to figure out a latch that works, but in the end it's worth it and there is a world of breastfeeding moms out there to support you!

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