Every year, more than 120 countries celebrate World Breastfeeding Week during the first week of August. Each year, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) coordinates and organizes World Breastfeeding Week.

WABA is a global network of individuals and organizations dedicated to the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding worldwide, as stated on their website

As a first-time mother, I believe it’s important to support and raise awareness for future and current moms about breastfeeding, as it is an essential need in the first six months of motherhood. 

I wish I had known two years ago all the breastfeeding information I know now. Being prepared before giving birth would have been extremely helpful for me, as I knew nothing about breastfeeding. Even though breastfeeding can be a beautiful experience for many, it isn’t always easy.

Struggling to breastfeed

I really struggled on my first day as a mom to latch my baby to my breast. During my entire pregnancy, I was much more focused on the birth experience and how scary it would be. I completely forgot about everything else. Thankfully, at the hospital, there was a breastfeeding instructor to show me and guide me. Although I was successful in breastfeeding while she was there, once she was gone, it just wasn’t the same.

Levis as a newborn at the hospital.

I had a rocky start in my first few days as a mom. A 24-hour period passed before I was able to see my son again, who was in an intensive care unit on the second day. I remember my nurse telling me to just keep pumping, even though my son wasn’t with me. She said that would stimulate my breasts and make the milk ready for the baby.

On the third day of our hospital stay, I was finally able to see my son again as my COVID-19 test came back negative. Here I was again, trying to latch my newborn baby myself. Looking back, I don’t think I was doing it right because it was a little painful.

During my learning process, my baby was still drinking milk from a bottle with someone else’s milk. I had given the hospital permission to do so.

Upon being discharged from the hospital a couple of days later, the doctor gave us the news that my son Levi had jaundice.

I always wonder if his jaundice was caused by not being breastfed continuously for the first 24 hours after birth. It’s crucial that all newborns are breastfed from day one, according to the lactation consultant at the hospital.

“Some babies don’t breastfeed well at first. This causes breastfeeding failure and jaundice. Not feeding well makes your baby dehydrated. It also causes your baby to urinate less,” according to UCLA Health.

Dr. Gloria Monsalve on Breastfeeding

Dr. Gloria Monsalve, advocate for patients in the San Fernando Valley.

I recently spoke with Dr. Gloria Monsalve, who is a bilingual family physician and an advocate for patients in the San Fernando Valley. She’s been in practice for more than 15 years, helping those in low-income communities, specifically the Latino community. After our talk on the importance of breastfeeding, I am completely convinced that it’s vital for a mom to breastfeed her newborn baby at least for the first six months.

“The benefits are not only for the baby but for the mom too. Breastfeeding helps the baby’s immune system. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to contract an infection, such as an ear infection, a cold and a stomach flu,” Monsalve said. “Breastfeeding not only makes a difference in the first six months but for the rest of their lives.”

Apparently, there is no better nutrition for the baby than breast milk. “The milk has good antibodies, good minerals and good vitamins for the baby. There is also no formula that can compare to breast milk,” Monsalve said.

In addition, breastfeeding helps moms and babies bond. Baby bonding is beneficial because it helps the baby bond with mom and vice versa. It also helps the mom reduce the risk of maternal stress. For some moms, the downside of not breastfeeding is being at risk of maternal postpartum depression, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Monsalve said that children who have been breastfed as babies are also less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression later in life. Moreover, she asserted that breastfeeding reduces stress, anxiety and postpartum depression among new mothers, which is a very common mood disorder that affects how a person feels, thinks and handles daily activities, such as sleeping, eating or working. A study in the Journal of Racial and Health Disparities found that the risk of postpartum depression is nearly 40% higher in Latina women.

Breastfeeding benefits

Another reason why breastfeeding is important is because it reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, asserts Monsalve.

“Breastfeeding confers many benefits. For mothers, that includes a decrease in the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a precursor to diabetes,” according to a UCLA Health report.

Support and appreciate

Supporting a mom who is struggling to breastfeed includes acknowledging her feelings and validating her experience. I remember being upset and feeling guilty when my milk dried. In my defense, I was told by my doctor to stop pumping excessively, so I did just that. By the next day I was low on supply, and unfortunately, I had to start giving my son formula. 

A couple of months later when I joined a Facebook mom group, I discovered I wasn’t alone in my breastfeeding guilt. Apparently, it is a common experience among new moms. At least we can say that we tried our best and were able to cherish a few of those breastfeeding moments.

If there is anything I can help young mothers and fathers with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at amairani@latinomedia.org. Follow my Mami & Me column here.

Amairani Hernandez is a native of Los Angeles and a graduate of the California State University of Los Angeles with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She is a staff multimedia journalist, who focuses on...