Meet Myriam Valer, Culturally Diverse Community Breastfeeding Educator
Myriam Valer joined the CBE program in 2016. She speaks Spanish and English.
Where were you born, Myriam?
I was born in Lima, Peru, South America. My children were also born in Lima. I came to Lincoln in 2012, after my son came to study here. He got married and stayed and I joined him. My daughter came to Lincoln shortly after.
Were you around breastfeeding mothers as a child in Peru?
Yes. All babies are breastfed for about three months in Lima. If a mother is going back to work, her baby is then fed formula when she is at work. When a baby is six months old, they begin to eat soft foods, such as potatoes, carrots, artichokes, avocados, sweet potatoes and pumpkins, but they continue to breastfeed. At one year of age, the variety of foods on their menu is increased and breastfeeding continues until a baby voluntarily stops breastfeeding.
I saw many mothers breastfeeding their babies while I was growing up: my mother, my aunts, my cousins. In Peru, only mothers with a serious illness or who are sick in the hospital do not breastfeed. In South America, pumps are not common. They are expensive and they are not available to moms.
What was your experience like breastfeeding your own children? Was it easy or hard? What helped you?
Before and after getting married, I was still working outside of the home. However, Peruvian law allows a three month leave for pregnant mothers and mothers with newborns. I breastfed my three children 100% for the first three months, then I combined breastfeeding with formula during the hours I was away from home. It was not easy to get a pump in those days and I had to coordinate the times well to get home and breastfeed my son immediately because my breasts got very full.
I always had someone who helped me with the housework, especially with the children, and there were also my parents. They helped me a lot taking care of the house so that after work I could just take care of my baby and eat well.
What do you like most about helping other mothers to breastfeed?
I enjoy helping mothers understand the benefits of breastfeeding for them and their babies, helping them learn how their bodies work, and helping them understand how to use a breast pump when they are at work and other people are caring for their babies.
What do you think mothers find easy (or hard) about breastfeeding today?
It is not easy to breastfeed your baby when a mom must work. It is hard for moms to adjust to the different schedule of pumping and not being able to attend to their babies.
How can our community better support new mothers?
We can help more by having regular classes and occasional talks on the use of breast pumps for moms who work outside the home, plus education for the people who help moms take care of their babies. This way they can provide good support for a breastfeeding baby when their mom is at work.
What do you like about being part of the CBE group?
I really like being available for moms who are new to America to help them understand the different cultural factors. It is nice to be there for a mom who needs support. Being part of the CBE group allows me to improve my knowledge for moms and babies.
(Interview July 2022)