Honoring the Contributions of Hispanic and Latinx or Latine People to the Breastfeeding Field at the Conclusion of National Hispanic Heritage Month

Today is the final day of National Hispanic Heritage Month (NHHM), which takes place from September 15 to October 15, coinciding with Independence Day celebrations in several Latin American nations. The month is dedicated to celebrating the rich histories, cultural influences, and contributions of Hispanic and Latinx or Latine people in the United States. In the face of a pandemic disproportionately affecting the health and longevity of Latine people, raging xenophobia compromising the real and perceived safety and security of their families and communities, the uprising, the climate crisis, and a historic election, the efforts of Latine lactation support providers has not wavered. From double masking for home visits to restructuring services to provide distanced care, these providers continue to show up for their communities.  On this last day of NHHM, the USBC is here to say, "Gracias por los servicios."

There are many recognitions and acknowledgments to reflect upon as NHHM concludes. On Wednesday, September 16, LER Live! Nikki and Nikki hosted Andrea Blanco of The Milk Collective for ¿Cómo Se Dice Leche? Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Andrea is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) practicing in the Miami-Dade area in southern Florida. The conversation was rich rich rich! If you missed it, listen right now. Andrea contextualized the colorful tapestry of cultural and language (yes language!) diversity within the U.S. Latine community.  HHM-pic-1.png


Pointing to the high rates of any breastfeeding in different Latin American nations, she noted the role of acculturation and assimilation on human milk feeding rates documented in the U.S. Furthermore, she discussed the need to stratify data collection by country of origin to more deeply inform provider understanding of the client experience and inform their capacity to connect with and serve families. My favorite quote from the Q&A was at minute 10:30, when Andrea said, "considering the way that COVID is affecting our Black and Latinx Hispanic communities, the ultimate act of racism is not taking it seriously right now." That is genuinely speaking truth to power.

We heard similar "real talk" on Thursday, September 24, when Brenda Reyes, the Immediate Past Secretary of the USBC Board of Directors, delivered a moving "Mission Moment" at the USBC Membership Meeting. In grounding our members in what impassions the work she does for families and communities, Brenda powerfully celebrated the observance of NHHM, and she lifted the contributions of Latinx people who work tirelessly to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding. An excerpt from Brenda's speech where she valiantly challenges us to look at ourselves and our systems as a first step to identify and later address inequities through policy, system, and environmental (PSE) change strategies is captured below, but you can read her full discourse here.

On Thursday, October 8, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health hosted the Bilingual #HealthyLatinos Twitter Chat. And the Binational Breastfeeding Coalition continued to host events and support groups throughout NHHM.  

Honoring the heritage and the unique cultures of those we support is a critical step toward transforming the lactation landscape. The families we all serve have a full existence outside the lactation service space in which providers interact with them. They live, work, play, and worship within a broader context that shapes and influences the infant feeding decisions and supports available to them. We know that many peoples and communities, including Latine communities, are disproportionately subject to oppressive forces that make it challenging or even impossible for families to achieve their breast/chest-feeding goals.  

 

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Creating an environment with optimal support for human milk feeding requires us to consider the whole family in their fullness. A lactation-only focus will likely prove insufficient in supporting the families and communities with the highest need. I invite you to consider the entire well-being of lactating people and the well-being of those they hold dear as you do your lactation protection, promotion, and support work. 

While this is the last day of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the work of transforming the lactation landscape continues. The USBC stands in appreciation of and in solidarity with Hispanic and Latinx or Latine lactavists today and every day.

Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month,

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Nikia Sankofa
Executive Director
U.S. Breastfeeding Committee

ExecutiveDirector@usbreastfeeding.org

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