Jasmin Coreno is the mother of a three-year-old daughter, whom she breastfed for two years. She currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She was interviewed by Brenda Reyes, a Project Manager for HealthConnect One.
This interview has been edited and condensed. The full interview is available here.
What did you hear or experience before birth that influenced your decision to breastfeed?
Just reading and through all the information I was getting, I kind of knew that’s what I wanted to do. It wasn’t like “Oh, I’ve seen this, or I’ve heard,” I just knew that breastfeeding was the best thing you can do, so I went from there. My mom also gave me The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, by La Leche League.
My mom didn’t breastfeed me or any of my sisters. She told me that she tried but we never latched on. She said, “It was just very frustrating that you guys were fussy.” And then, the fact that she had five kids, she was just like, “the formula was there, so why not?” My aunt, who’s a bit younger than her, has five kids as well, but she breastfed all of them, except the last one. She lived in Mexico, so even though she was a young mother and didn’t have my grandma to help her, she did it anyway. I think the culture and location played a role.
I was in high school when I was pregnant—my senior year. So, I was the only one out my group of friends that was pregnant, and it wasn’t until after I had my daughter when I went to a mom group that I saw someone openly breastfeed.
Please describe your birth experience, especially how it influenced your early breastfeeding.
I had a water birth, so they had a different set-up in the delivery room. There was a full-sized bed, a bathroom with a shower, and the tub where I would give birth. It was very calm and peaceful. My boyfriend and my mom were the only ones I let in the room. I wanted to have a natural birth and to breastfeed. Learning about water births, I saw a bunch of benefits, and it went hand in hand with what I was reading from La Leche League that the baby’s ability to suck is the strongest right after birth, therefore skin-to-skin right away is really important. My OB/GYN, before I transferred, said I shouldn’t because she just didn’t feel like it was safe in general. I was a low risk patient and I didn’t see why I couldn’t. I really wanted a water birth, so I just switched hospitals.
Right after I pushed my daughter out, the midwife passed her to me onto my chest. Then they rubbed her for a bit to get her heat circulating, while she was still on me. We did skin-to-skin and then I tried to latch her on. The only issue I had with the hospital was that, I guess, one nurse thought I had inverted nipples, but they [my breasts] were just really full. She tried to give me a cup, but I know what my body looks like, so it was irritating because I felt like she was trying to say that I didn’t know what I was doing.
Then they had formula on the cart, underneath the little bag with the diapers that they give. In my head I saw that as saying: “If I can’t breastfeed, then I can just give her that”. Looking at it now, it made me question my abilities as to whether I could breastfeed. Why would they give me formula? Does that mean I won’t have enough milk? She won’t get full?
Then I had to move out of that room. My experience at the hospital was okay after that. They kept leaving formula there after I said I was breastfeeding and dropped off the pump. The lactation consultant that came in told me that it’s okay for babies to lose weight if they’re breastfed and how their poop is going to look. I was really relieved that I was informed with what I got out of the book. I knew she was latching on properly because I could feel her swallow.
What was your experience like after you got home?
It kind of reminds me of the first day of school, where you’re excited but scared and it’s new, and you don’t know what to do. I was trying to pump while I was at home to build up milk supply. I don’t know why I felt that, since leaving the hospital, it was going to go down from there. That was my fear, so I kept trying to pump and feed her. But, after a while, pumping was too much to do. And, all of this was during the first two days, then I was like, okay, I’m not going to pump, I don’t feel like this is going to work.
And I wasn’t going to go to school yet, because it was barely August, so I just started latching her on. Just by feeling how my breast felt and seeing the signs she was giving me, I fed on demand. It went really well after that.
I’m glad that I didn’t have to deal with any bumps when I got home. It was just me and my boyfriend, who was really supportive of breastfeeding. Whenever she was hungry, I would just feed her and then pass her to him so he could burp her.
What was your experience like with your family? What did you find helpful and/or what would you have found helpful?
In my family, we’re all girls, aside from my dad. My two older sisters had daughters that they didn’t breastfeed, so there was overall support for me to breastfeed but at the same time, they shied away from it and kind of made it awkward. So, it’s like, “Yea, do it, but I don’t really know how to feel around it.” My dad was really supportive, he didn’t make it weird.
It was kind of weird especially when my sisters’ daughters, my nieces, would want to see the baby, and I would be like, “Oh, okay, I’m just feeding her.” Then my sisters would take them out of the room, just be like, “Okay, wait for her to finish, then you can go back in.” I didn’t mind, but just the fact that they were making it something really private was kind of weird for me, because I didn’t want it to feel that way.
I found it helpful when they would say that it was good for me that I was breastfeeding and that it was good for the baby. The other way they showed support was, when I would go to a relative’s house, they would be like “If you want to feed the baby, you can go in my room.” Not that I felt like they were telling me they didn’t want to see that, but just in case I was uncomfortable. But I would just breastfeed around them and put a blanket over her while she ate.
What was your experience like in the community? What did you find helpful and/or what would you have found helpful?
When I went out in public, it was weird for me just because, I’m a new mom, I’m a young mom at that. So, when I would go to the mall, I felt like all eyes were on me, and for some reason, it kind of felt like I was disturbing them or it [breastfeeding] was something they didn’t want to see. But, I still breastfed, and it was a weird feeling. I wasn’t 100% comfortable with doing it, not because of me, just because of other people around me and their reactions. But it was helpful that, whoever I went to the stores with, like my boyfriend, would sit next to me and be extra support so other people would know it’s not weird.
I think it would be helpful if there was an overall embrace, an actual embrace supporting it. It’s easy for them to say, “Yea, breastfeeding’s good,” but then, they act different when it happens in front of them. I’m Catholic, and even the Pope said that if the baby’s hungry, then go ahead, there’s no problem with that.
I feel like if there was an actual embrace of breastfeeding, it would be more comfortable and show more moms that it’s perfectly fine to do it.
What was your experience like with health care providers? What did you find helpful and/or what would you have found helpful?
My experience when I was pregnant was different, because they never mentioned breastfeeding, they never asked me if I was going to breastfeed, they didn’t say that there were classes available. It was not spoken about. I guess they just thought I wasn’t going to breastfeed.
I was a young Hispanic mom, so they probably just assumed I wasn’t going to do it. The way that I was treated made it pretty clear how they perceived me. I went to UIC [University of Illinois at Chicago], and for the most part doctors don’t see you, you get the students. Most patients are low-income, like myself. They never told me anything about breastfeeding. I didn’t see any posters, bulletins, or pamphlets about breastfeeding.
It would have been helpful if they had simply treated me as an adult. I understand my age and my appearance might give them that assumption, but if they had just simply treated me like any other woman, and asked things like: “How are you feeling? What are your plans for breastfeeding? Have you thought about it and the benefits? If you want more information, we can give it to you.” But it was not even brought up at all. I think in my head, because I knew I was going to breastfeed, I didn’t bother to ask. But looking back on it, I would have asked those questions, and I wonder what their reactions would have been. If they simply would have done that, that would have been really helpful. Just the fact that you’re treating me that way and giving me these options, would make me feel really comfortable and give me that confidence. You see me as a grown woman and a future mother, so you’re giving me these tools and that confidence I need so I can do it. But, it’s just like, they see you and they’re like, “Yea, she’s not going to do it.”
What was your experience like returning to school? What did you find helpful and/or what would you have found helpful?
I had my daughter in late summer, in August, and I didn’t go to college until spring semester, in January. That gave me four or five months in between, and it was really helpful. When I went back, I just tried to pick my classes around that and tried to get them all done in one day. I didn’t really think that through, because I would get really full and feel when [her] feedings were. Even though I pumped milk for my mom to give to her, I didn’t show her how to eat out of a bottle, so she wouldn’t really take it.
The problem was, I would be in the middle of class and I would feel really full, so I would either wait until the end or wait between classes. To get to my other class, I had about 10 or 15 minutes, and then I just didn’t think of where I would pump. I would go to the bathroom and do it, and obviously there aren’t any chairs or anything, so I would have to go in the stall. Sometimes I remembered to bring my bottles and stuff, but it’s so much to carry, aside from my books. And, it was really difficult. If there was a place for me to pump, that would have been better.
It definitely would have been helpful if someone had provided guidance, because I was the first in my family to breastfeed and then go on to do something else. My older sister had her child a year ago, she’s a teacher and was asking me, “What would you do differently?”
What do you think is important for breastfeeding success from a Latina and Hispanic perspective?
I think what’s important is to just go with your instincts. We’re always taught in this kind of society that the doctors and health providers way is the only way, and we always have to go by the book. But, in reality, we just should follow our bodies. I think maybe, back in Mexico it would have been different. My aunt [who lives in Mexico] would tell me, “It was no problem, my daughter was three and she was still eating off of me. It wasn’t hard for me to breastfeed.”
Here it’s different. They’re like, “You have to go by routine. You have to do this. You have to hide it.” You have to figure out all these obstacles, when, in other countries, they see it for what it is. It’s natural, so you just do it. And I feel like, as Latinas, we should just embrace it. It’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
We should embrace it and get our family to jump on board with it. It’s not like they’re saying, “Don’t do it,” but they can help normalize with their kids and to anyone else around them. Culturally, we learn to stick together and be supportive, so breastfeeding should be included in that support.
Is there anything else that you would like to share? Or any message for breastfeeding moms? Any words of wisdom for our closing?
Stand your ground and stand up for yourself and your body, because that’s been taken away from us sometimes: our choices, medically, our choices on how we give birth, our abilities to take care of our kids and what we feel is best. Just to stand your ground for that. If I would have paid attention to all those looks I got or all these opinions and medical advice from medical providers, I probably wouldn’t have been successful at breastfeeding. I would have doubted myself a lot. I would have thought twice about it. I think I would have complicated my life way more than what I already felt like it was being a young mom. I think that’s important, just to stand your ground as a mother and as a female.