Latino-Hispanic Heritage Month 2016 is here, and HealthConnect One is honored to amplify the voices of our Hispanic and Latinx allies, as they share about changes they are making in their lives and communities.
¡Mes de la herencia Hispano / Latino ya está aquí! Nos encantaría que te unas a nosotros para celebrar del 15 de Septiembre al 15 de Octubre de 2016. Nuestro tema este año es el Cultivando Cambio: los Latinos y los Hispanos hablan acerca de un cambio personal y de su comunidad.
I am a Mexican-American born in Chicago. My initial connection to HealthConnect One was my mother, Helen. She came on as admin personnel in the early 90’s when it was just the Executive Director, Rachel, and Program Director, Jere, in an office not much bigger than a small bedroom. Having a connection and growing up with the work of the Chicago Breastfeeding Taskforce – which is now HealthConnect One – has deeply impacted how I perceive breastfeeding and how I am an advocate.
Before I became a mom, my mother took me to her friend’s house while I was on leave, during my time in the Navy. Her son was close to 4 years of age and wanted to nurse. She nursed him. I remember feeling a sense of repulsion thinking this kid is WAY too old for that! Yes, I knew breastfeeding was all fine and dandy, but seriously – too much! Some of you out there reading this may be thinking something similar. I was the type of person whose face showed every expression and emotion. (My apologies, Rose, if that ever came across. You are a shining example!) I know I said something to my mother and I’m sure I blew off whatever she said. I was young and naïve.
Fast-forward a couple of years and I’m a mom. I had a goal of breastfeeding for 6 months and I was very fortunate to work for a company that was supportive of my pumping needs. I didn’t really have any negative thoughts or perceptions of formula. I knew breast was best, so I nursed pretty well for 6 months, supplementing with formula when we were out and about. For the next 3 months, I pretty much nursed at night only, feeding my baby formula and food the rest of the time. Yay! I was a great breastfeeding mom.
I ended up going through a divorce. I traveled back to Chicago with my breastfeeding success and did some work with HealthConnect One. I received my doula certification and gained so much knowledge! I still remember the trainer, Beth Isaacs, talking about how our bodies work and though we don’t always make the healthiest food choices, the baby will always get the best from us. That has always stayed with me. I went back to school for 2 semesters and breastfeeding seemed all around me. I wrote papers on it in my Anthropology class and my child development classes and my English class. I think it was after that doula class and training that I became a gung-ho advocate!
So, then on to child #2 (and second husband). I was having a lot of issues with latching. I wept. I was so excited for this breastfeeding opportunity after all I had learned. I dealt with a few different lactation consultants, but they all had me using a nipple shield and pumping – basically feeding my daughter through that and a tube. It took a while before I could get her to latch without the use of that shield. I did A LOT of supplementing, but she loved to nurse and we would nurse everywhere. At a very young age, she stopped taking my pumped milk; she only liked it straight from the source. I always kept a cover with me.
Two years later and I’m pregnant and nursing. I tried tirelessly to wean her. She would put her two little hands on my face and plead with me, “PLEEEEASE, mommy!” I gave in. Sometimes the sensitivity from being pregnant and her wanting to nurse would bring me to tears. It was tough! Because of my history, I was having a c-section and I hoped that with me in the hospital a few days, she would forget all about chi-chi (Spanish slang for breast).
I was blessed with a third daughter. My mother – who was no longer admin personnel, but was now a trainer and so much more – was here for this birth. Though I had some complications and didn’t get to see my daughter right away, my mom was there supporting and helping me. When I came home from the hospital, my second daughter did not forget about chi-chi. How unfair it would have been with those little eyes and hands on my face again. So I ended up tandem nursing for a few months.
Something I didn’t mention were the comments I heard… from family, including my husband. “She’s too big.” “She really needs to stop.” “She doesn’t need that anymore.” It was disheartening sometimes, but I never succumbed to the comments of others. I fed my babies. With my youngest, I nursed her anywhere and everywhere and I never carried a cover. I can feed my baby with the most minimal amount of skin showing. Every bra is a nursing bra and every shirt can be a nursing shirt. I got smart. Even after a big blow up with my mother-in-law about nursing in public, I was never deterred. My husband stood up for us gallantly. My youngest is now 4 and will still nurse. I’ve actually made two friends over the years, one who nursed her son until 3 and the other who nursed her daughter until 4.
Unfortunately, there will always be people out there who judge and might try to shame you. Just know that you are giving your child the very best! My children are some of the tallest in their classes. They rarely get sick and when they do, it’s for shorter periods of time than their peers. Moms of multiple children know that every child is different, just as every birth experience is different. If I see a mom nursing, I find it easy to make conversation because we have that in common. If I see a fussy baby, the first thing I think is: Give that baby some chi chi! I let moms know they don’t need to be shy to nurse!
I am a breastfeeding advocate.
While this story is for Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month, I know there are a multitude of other mothers who share in this experience, in this bond that we have as nursing moms. It’s easy to judge – but until you are there, you really don’t understand. I have no word except love to explain or comprehend why I have nursed this long – and especially if you have a child, that, I’m sure, you understand.