August is National Breastfeeding Month, a campaign funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to bring awareness to the benefits of breastfeeding your baby. Are you doing the right thing by nursing your child — or not? Here’s everything Latinas need to know about the choice to breastfeed:
We Like to Breastfeed — But We Stop Short
Did you know that 80 percent of Hispanic moms breastfeed? We actually lead the way in terms of groups that breastfeed. The problem, however, is that many moms actually don’t continue to breastfeed after their baby is a few months old, which is still an important and beneficial time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mother and baby desire. The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
If anything, the consensus is that six months breastfeeding will help your child get the nutrients and antibodies she or he needs to fight infections and illnesses. In fact, babies who are exclusively breastfed for six months are less likely to develop ear infections, diarrhea and respiratory illnesses, and may be less likely to develop childhood obesity.
U.S.-Born Latinas and Foreign-Born Latinas Think About Breastfeeding Differently
According to a study, Latinas who migrated to the U.S. initiate and continue to breastfeed longer than Latinas who were born in the United States. This can be explained by a number of factors, but one huge one is the cultural acceptance of breastfeeding in Latin American countries – nursing a baby in public or in front of family and friends is seen as a normal part of life. The U.S., in this respect, is still catching up.
The Breastfeeding Movement Has Celebrity Fans
Who can forget Gisele’s nod to multitasking – where she’s seen breastfeeding her child while getting everything ready for a photoshoot. Other celebrities, including Salma Hayek, Shakira, Roselyn Sanchez and Christina Aguilera, have all made public statements supporting breastfeeding. In fact, Thalia gave tips for nursing mommies in her book Radiante.
Breastfeeding Helps Mami, Too
When you breastfeed, your body releases oxytocin, a hormone that induces a calm, relaxed feeling. New studies have also found that breastfeeding helps with heart health and also reduces risks for breast and ovarian cancer among women.
There Are a Ton of Resources
From helping with problems in latching and mechanics to support for working mothers, there are a ton of resources there to help you breastfeed your child. Head over to cdc.gov for a great list, and also call up a local hospital to see what other resources are available in your area.
It’s a Choice
At the end of the day, remember that breastfeeding is a choice. While the health benefits for mom and baby are proven, sometimes life isn’t so predictable and you’ll need to make the right decision for you and your baby. Take a look at the resources available to help ease your decision.