In a recent study, Disparities in Breastfeeding Duration of New York City Latinx Mothers by Birth Region Lauren Gerchow, MS, RN, IBCLC, a PhD Student, NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, and co-authors Allison Squires and Simon Jones, made some interesting discoveries. For Gerchow, there were reasons for conducting this particular study.
“Both my family and work histories came together as motivating factors for this project. As a nurse home visitor for the Nurse-Family Partnership Program in both New York City and San Francisco, I worked with Latinx families from all of the regions included in the study. In addition, my father’s family is from Costa Rica,” says Gerchow. “Through my work as a home visitor, I learned of both shared and distinct aspects of my own family’s culture and the cultures of my Latinx clients and how cultural beliefs and patterns translate into health behaviors. I wanted this study to emphasize that Latin America encompasses an enormous geographic region, where a multitude of cultures comprise the Latinx identity, and that grouping distinct groups into a single category can perpetuate health disparities.”
As for what they discovered, Gerchow says, “In the study, mothers from the Caribbean breastfed for a significantly shorter time than mothers born in the US, Mexico/Central America, or South America. Half of all Caribbean-speaking participants stopped breastfeeding by 3 months postpartum, compared to 5 months for US-born mothers, 7 months for Mexico/Central American-born mothers, and 8 months for South America-born mothers. Statistical analyses found that Caribbean-born mothers had the highest risk of shorter breastfeeding duration.”
Because of this, she adds, “Additional research around mothers’ beliefs and attitudes about breastfeeding must be conducted to understand what influences breastfeeding behaviors specifically. The significant differences by birthplace suggest that within-group cultural differences are significant, but which cultural beliefs are significant is still unknown.”
Nurses who work with breastfeeding Latinx moms may be able to help. “Nurses have a unique opportunity to offer anticipatory guidance and education around breastfeeding in the preconception and prenatal phases of the reproductive life cycle. For mothers from families or cultures where breastfeeding is not the norm, education and guidance might be different than for mothers with family members who have successfully breastfed. Tailoring counseling to the needs and attitudes of individuals and families is crucial,” says Gerchow. “Nurses have the skills and relationships with patients to offer education that enables mothers to make an informed decision. I firmly believe that infant feeding is a mother’s choice and support the decision not to breastfeed as long as it is the mother’s desire.”