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Instinto Maternal program travels north to follow migrants

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Program Coordinator Katie Schlaudt and Promotoras Ericka Salinas and Suzy Nevares create incentives for Instinto maternal program participants

MHP Salud’s Instinto Maternal program that seeks to spread best community practices in breastfeeding has migrated to follow the migrant farmworkers it serves.

The W. K. Kellogg Foundation-funded program kicked off last December in west Florida, and it has moved north for the summer, where it will spend five months in northwest Ohio and west Michigan.

With a new location and new staff, the program is collecting information that will be used to develop a program that centers around two questions about women who are able to balance farm work and breastfeeding: How do they do it, and how can their peers adopt their strategies?

Instinto Maternal Promotora, Ericka Salinas, is no stranger to these questions. She is a mother of four spending the summer in Pandora, Ohio where she not only performs program outreach—she also continues to work in the field.

“I’m a migrant myself. My parents were migrants, and that’s where I come from,” she said. “We travelled from Michigan to Florida and from Florida back to Michigan for many, many years.”

She said she is happy to serve as a Promotora, because she knows how confusing it can be to adjust to a new place.

“There’s a lot of people who may not know about the services that exist for migrant mothers, and I would like to help them learn about them,” she said.

Program Coordinator, Katie Schlaudt, says that she loves the fact that the program is implemented with Promotoras.

“Even having accompanied Ericka one time into the camps, I saw how effective she was at communicating with the people,” she said. “I think that her being a mom, a migrant and a farmworker at the same time, she can relate to them, and in the future, the education that she gives will be lasting and effective.”

Ericka said even though she has learned a lot about the services available to migrant mothers, balancing motherhood and farmwork wasn’t easy.

“The hardest thing when I had my first child was that I couldn’t find daycare for him, and when I couldn’t find anything, I literally had him in a car seat in the tractor when we were picking tomatoes,” she said. “Not only that, but being pregnant and having to be out in the fields was hard and tiring.”

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Promotora Ericka Salinas with two of her four children

Because of this experience and the fact that she spends her mornings picking blackberries in the field, women who are currently in that position in her northwest Ohio community connect with her on a personal level.

“This week, I spoke with a mom who was just getting out of work. I was sort of embarrassed, because she was tired, getting her kids together and cooking dinner, but when I told her that I had been picking blackberries that morning and I understood that she’s tired, she was really understanding after I said that,” she said.

Learn more about the program and its approach at the program page here.