Breastfeeding- Ensuring the “Best Start” for Latino Families

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continuation for at least the first year after birth. Latinas start breastfeeding at very high rates (over 80%) which demonstrates our understanding of the importance of breastfeeding and the desire to provide the best for our babies, but only 16% are able to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months. In other words, 4 out of 5 Latinas start breastfeeding BUT only about 16% of Latinas are able to meet the national recommendation of 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. A national survey of Latina mothers with a child age 5 or younger found that 61% believed that breastfeeding was the healthier choice, but named barriers like the lack of support from their health care provider and easy access to formula as reasons why they didn’t meet their breastfeeding goals.

Breastfeeding is not only one of the first health decisions a mother makes for her child but perhaps one of the most important decisions for her child’s long term health. Breastfeeding greatly benefits babies and their mothers.

Babies who are breastfed exclusively for at least six months have:

  • Lower risk of ear infections,
  • Lower risk of gastrointestinal infection,
  • Lower levels of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract diseases in the first year of life,
  • Decreased incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS),
  • Lower rates of Type 2 diabetes,
  • Lower levels of necrotizing enterocolitis for preterm infants, and
  • Improved cognitive development, which can improve future educational outcomes.

Mothers who breastfeed their babies exclusively for at least six months have lower levels of:

  • Breast cancer,
  • Ovarian cancer,
  • Type 2 diabetes, and
  • Hypertension.

Breastfeeding moms need the support of the whole family. Families should start talking about breastfeeding early in pregnancy and develop a plan to help support breastfeeding goals. Family and community support for a mother’s decision to breastfeed is essential to her success. By planning ahead, families may be able to

  • Discuss your intention to breastfeed with your doctor and family,
  • Acquire a breast pump (covered by most insurance plans and may be available through WIC),
  • Find a lactation consultant in the community,
  • Have discussions with employers about time off after giving birth,
  • Have discussions with employers about allowing time and a clean space to pump, and
  • Identify other breastfeeding support resources in your community.

Increasing the rates of breastfeeding in Latinas ensures their children have the best start in life and ensures the health and well-being of our whole community.

For more information and resources about breastfeeding, please visit the Latino Best Start web site.  Latino Best Start is a project of Urban Strategies.

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