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Challenges of breastfeeding amongst Latina immigrants

Challenges of breastfeeding amongst Latina immigrants

Picture of Erika Cebreros

Really painful but doable. Not as bad as I expected. Those are my first answers when someone asks me about the birth of my son. I always tell people that the most difficult part for me was after the birth, especially when it came to breastfeeding.

As a first-time mom, I read many books about motherhood but I never paid much attention to the section about breastfeeding. I signed up for the breastfeeding classes offered by my hospital, but I got sick that day and did not rescheduled.  How hard could it be I thought?

I had most of the imaginable problems that first moms encounter with breastfeeding. For a while I thought I was the only one having all those difficulties. However, in my journey through motherhood, I have met many women who have had terrible experiences with nursing.

I have many questions about this subject now and I am determined to find some answers. That is why one of the stories that I proposed for the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship will focus on this topic.  Essentially, I want to write the article that I have never read and hopefully help some women directly. 

Many people do not know that besides being the best food for babies, breast milk provides many other long-term health benefits to the mothers and ultimately to their communities. I will explore the case of Latina immigrants in this country and the challenges they face when it comes to nursing their children. There are studies that demonstrate that there are substantial disparities in both breastfeeding initiation and duration rates in the United States. These disparities are shaped by a number of sociodemographic factors, including race, ethnicity and income.

I will also research the breastfeeding policies at hospitals as well as in workplaces in California.

For my other two stories I will explore the mental health of Latino children and youth and the health and health care access problems for Latino construction workers.

My stories will be published in El Mensajero Newspaper (, the publication that I currently write for as a freelance reporter.




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Hi Erika,

I can't wait to see this article. I live in New York City, also home to a huge concentration of immigrants from Latin America.

I think it would be interesting to compare breastfeeding rates of Latina immigrants with those of first- and second-generation Latinas. I would wager that immigrants are much more likely to initiate and sustain breastfeeding-- we bring the expectation and know-how from our countries of origin. Anecdotally, I have noticed that immigrants in my neighborhood of Queens are quite likely to mention that they are breastfeeding ("dando pecho").

Also, I would recommend for your story that you check out your local chapter of La Leche League. For me (mom to a one year-old) LLL has been an amazing, free source of knowledge and support. I wish that more Latinas and other minorities knew about it.



(twitter: @lindenchariot)

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Hi Lindsey,

Thank you so much for message and I am sorry for not responding sooner. Congratulations for your baby! Mine is almost two years-old:) I learned so much about breastfeeding when doing the research for my stories. There is so much to write about the challenges that Latina women face when breastfeeding their babies and about this subject in general. If I only had more time.... La Leche League is great but unfortunately I found out that they do not have support groups in Spanish in the Bay Area. There are only one or two leaders who speak the language in the all Bay Area. There is also interesting data that compares the breastfeeding rates of recent Latina immigrants and those of first and second-generation. I did not include much of this information because I focused on immigrants but I can forward you some of the findings if you'd like.

I am happy to share my articles with you (they are in Spanish): 

Desafíos al amamantar

Amamantar es lo más natural

Saludos y ¡muchas gracias por escribir!



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Here in the Bay Area, my experience providing nursing care to Latina women is that many of them don't breastfeed-   they may be returning to work to a job where there aren't facilities to pump and store breastmilk, so their babies get formula.  There's also the susceptibility to marketing that formula is good for your babies and it's a status enhancer to bottle feed, breastfeeding is looked at as something poor women do.  Also WIC provides free formula.  


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I totally agree with you and that is exactly what I wrote in my article. I found out that breastfeeding for many Latina women, especially for immigrants, is very difficult because the majority of them do not have much (or any) support in their workplaces when it comes to breastfeeding. They usually have to return to work really soon after their babies are born cleaning houses, babysitting or in restaurants. They are afraid to even ask to have a few minutes extra to pump. My articles are in Spanish. The first one talks about the challenges that Latina women face in their workplace and the second one about policies on breastfeeding in hospitals. Here are the links just in case:

Desafíos al amamantar

Amamantar es lo más natural

Thanks so much for your comment! Erika

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Erika que interesante articulo, yo soy una madre de dos hijos que amamante desde el primer minuto, ahora son dos adolecentes de 17 y 14 años que estan llenos de seguridad, no tienen a su edad crisis emocionales de baja autoestima ni depresivos, se enferman realmente muy poco, sus dentaduras son muy buenas, aparte del resto de trabajo que implica crear a dos niños ,mi mayor merito es haber amamantado y vale la pena dejar aquella vanidad que puedes tener cuando eres joven, el limitarte ir a fiestas o disfrutar sola ahroa tengo el resultado disfruto con seguridad que mis hios estan sanos mentamente y fisicamente gracias  a la lactancia.

te doy las gracias por hacerme recordar mis años que añoro y que si tuviera la oportunidad de tener 10 bebes mas nuevamente los amamantaria yo..

Myriam Rosiles

Picture of Trangdai Glassey-Tranguyen

@ Lindsey: Yes, LLL is amazing. I called the volunteer re: inability to latch after two weeks post-partum, and she was so helpful. She took all the time to explain things to me, and to give me much-needed support. It was a true blessing to have this one-on-one conversation at the time you need it most. The website is rich with info, but I found that I was much more assured talking to a mother than reading the literature online. It's the human touch that makes all the difference. Thank you, LLL!

@ Erika: Thank you for bringing this up. I think many mothers will choose to breastfeed should they know the astounding benefits of breast milk (colostrum, growth hormone, etc) and breastfeeding (bonding et al). Jonh Medina in "Brain Rules for Baby" has this to say about breast feeding:

"If we as a country wanted a smarter population, we would insist on lactation rooms in every public establishment. A sign would hang from the odoor of these rooms, "Quiet, please. Brain development in progress.""

Still, the choice should rest with each mother, and as we celebrate the benefits of breast feeding, we also need to embrace mothers who opt for formula.

I remember how beautiful it was to see mothers nursing their children in public. When I was in Argentina, breastfeeding seems to be a natural part of life. Mothers publicly breastfeed their children at bus stations, for instance.


The Center for Health Journalism’s 2023 National Fellowship will provide $2,000 to $10,000 reporting grants, five months of mentoring from a veteran journalist, and a week of intensive training at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles from July 16-20. Click here for more information and the application form, due May 5.

The Center for Health Journalism’s 2023 Symposium on Domestic Violence provides reporters with a roadmap for covering this public health epidemic with nuance and sensitivity. The next session will be offered virtually on Friday, March 31. Journalists attending the symposium will be eligible to apply for a reporting grant of $2,000 to $10,000 from our Domestic Violence Impact Reporting Fund. Find more info here!


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