Online Program

Lactancia Materna: Supporting Breastfeeding with Latino Families

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Julie Smithwick, LMSW, PASOs Programs, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Alison Voravudhi, MSW, PASOs Programs, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Lizbet Herranz, PASOs, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC

South Carolina’s Latino population grew 154% from 2000-2011 and Latino birth rates in the state are nearly double those of other groups. Health care systems have struggled to keep pace with growth and often lack the capacity and policies to effectively serve Latino families, including in the area of breastfeeding. PASOs is a community-based organization working to bridge the gap between providers and Latino families around issues of MCH and Early Childhood.


In 2013, PASOs conducted surveys and facilitated focus groups with Latino families and medical professionals regarding their experiences with Latino breastfeeding. Findings were used to inform the development of a comprehensive breastfeeding support initiative.

Results and Response

Results support data indicating high Latino breastfeeding initiation rates (83%); however, Latino duration and exclusivity are more problematic. 59% of Latina participants did not meet their own breastfeeding goals – 46% because of unresolved breastfeeding problems and 13% because of returning to work. This indicates a lack of supportive workplace policies and professional breastfeeding help. Medical professionals reported difficulty providing adequate breastfeeding education and support to Latino families, exacerbated by language and culture barriers.

PASOs’ initiative addresses this disparity through advocacy, capacity building, and individual support. Sixty-four medical professionals have participated in breastfeeding-focused cultural competence training, and 139 Latina mothers have received education and support from breastfeeding-trained Latina Community Health Workers resulting in 93 successful interventions to date. Latino families in South Carolina often receive insufficient support to solve breastfeeding challenges, but obstacles can be overcome through a multi-level response.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Diversity and culture
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs

Learning Objectives:
Discuss specific breastfeeding disparities faced by Latino immigrant families. Identify policies and practices that can be adopted by health care organizations to alleviate these disparities.

Keyword(s): Breastfeeding, Latinos

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: For ten years, I have been the Executive Director of PASOs, a community-based organization working with Latino families around issues of Maternal Child Health and Early Childhood. During this time, I have implemented community-based breastfeeding education and overseen the development and implementation of a breastfeeding support initiative based on an assessment of community need.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.