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August 4, 2022 – Six months into her first pregnancy, Erika Sanchez from Detroit had not even considered breastfeeding. When a friend mentioned AmaMantando, a virtual breastfeeding support group in Spanish, offered by the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan’s REACH team, she joined. “There’s no judgement,” Erika says of the group. “You can literally ask any question. It doesn’t matter how long you have been breastfeeding. You always learn something new.” AmaMantando reaches women over WhatsApp, a free messenger app for smartphones, and meets monthly over Zoom. The group has been supporting Latina moms in southwest Detroit and western Wayne County for the past year. The REACH team also focuses on educating the staff in health clinics and community organizations, such as Covenant Community Care and Brilliant Detroit, about referring women to AmaMantando.

NKFM’s Sheila Harris, a breastfeeding lay educator who speaks fluent Spanish and understands Hispanic culture, facilitates AmaMantando over Zoom on the third Wednesday of every month at 12:00 pm. The group has an average of 5 to 12 women per meeting. Most of the moms are under 30; half the group is first-time moms. In meetings that last about one hour, the topics include common breastfeeding concerns, challenges and self-care tips, all explored in a safe and supportive environment. Support is available in Spanish, by phone and through WhatsApp. For more information or to join the group, visit reachhealthmi.org/support-group.

AmaMantando will also be having an in-person Breastfeeding Celebration for Hispanic Moms on Wednesday, August 17 from 12:00 to 1:30 pm at Brilliant Detroit Southwest, 5675 Larkins St, Detroit, MI 48210. The event, which will be in Spanish and English, will feature food, prizes, games and resources for families at any stage of a breastfeeding journey. For more information, email Sheila Harris at sharris@nkfm.org.

August is National Breastfeeding Month and the 2022 theme is a celebration of the power and the impact of collective efforts. According to a 2016 study in Nursing Research and Practice, fewer than 1 out of 5 US Latina mothers breastfeed their infants exclusively. The study also mentions that while Latina women have the highest rates of starting to breastfeed, they have the lowest continuation rates. Even more discouraging is that, after 5 months, 85% of Latina mothers supplemented their breastmilk with formula.

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for at least six months, many mothers find that it is not an easy decision. Breastfeeding can sometimes be difficult, especially at the beginning. According to an NKFM 2020 community needs assessment, an absence of cultural and linguistic support and community trust in Wayne County makes it more difficult for Latina mothers to meet the AAP recommendations. Many Latina women start breastfeeding in the hospital, directly after birth. Unfortunately, the staff may not speak Spanish or be familiar with Hispanic culture. This makes it difficult for women to ask questions and request support.

Erika’s baby had some problems with colic but when she started to feed him just breast milk, the colic disappeared, and he thrived. Her dad has been her biggest supporter. Of breastfeeding, he says, “It’s the most healthy thing.” Erika agrees. “I would definitely recommend this group,” she says.

Erika Sanchez