May 26 2012
Valantina is the granddaughter of my host family in Riobamaba. The family is middle class and well educated, both parents having attended university. As is common in Ecuador, Valantina’s parents started having children very young and continue living with their parents. Before the recent death of my host mother’s mother, four generations had lived in the house. Valantina is 9 months old and the delight of the entire family. As you will note in the pictures she is generally healthy and adorable. There are some things that her family does that help her grow and stay healthy. Though her mother is in college full time, Valantina has never received formula. Her mother frequently breastfeeds at the table or in public places. This is common practice in this provincial capital and during the Easter parade, there were women openly feeding their children as they marched through downtown, an unlikely sight in the U.S. After I moved to Cuenca I noticed that more babies were drinking formula from bottles. Multiple people explained that this as a consequence of wealth. Cuenca is more affluent then Riobamba and formula is considered proof of economic security, an unhealthy trend. I was fascinated by these changes because they seemed opposite to what I have observed in the U.S. where it is often well educated, more privileged women who tend to have the control over their lives that allows them to breastfeed.