STC grad promotes August as Breastfeeding Awareness Month

 WESLACO – One Mid-Valley woman has transformed the challenges she faced while breastfeeding into a flourishing health care career.

South Texas College alumna Sabrina de la Rosa began her health care career preparations at STC in 2007 as a dual enrollment student. She said she remembers spending half her school day at Weslaco East High School and the other half at STC.

“It was a great experience,” de la Rosa said. “I graduated in the top 10% of my class, ranked 37th, and was awarded a two-year scholarship to STC.”

She received her associate degree in biology in 2009 and then decided to study physical therapy at the University of Texas-Pan American. That’s when she began her own journey into motherhood.

“Throughout that time, I never had help in learning about lactation,” de la Rosa said. “I had to use Google and books. I lived at Barnes and Noble – buying books about breastfeeding and, you know, books about being a mom.”

De la Rosa is now a mother of four who, during the COVID-19 pandemic, found herself at a crossroads. She considered her options of what other fields she could try and thought about her time and experiences as a new mother.

“I knew I wanted to help moms who struggle with the same challenges I had during breastfeeding,” de la Rosa said. “I already had people messaging me for breastfeeding help, and I was kind of like a peer counselor. I didn’t have the credentials yet, but all my friends who were having babies and friends of friends would ask me for advice. I knew I wanted to help.”

De la Rosa enrolled in an online program and earned a bachelor’s degree in Maternal Child Health. She then obtained her International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant certification. De la Rosa was hired by Knapp Medical Center in May.

“I really, really enjoy it and it’s very rewarding,” de la Rosa said of her new position. “Moms will message me pictures of their babies once they leave the hospital and say, “Look, he’s gained this much weight.” That’s awesome. It’s always good to hear.”

Every day is different for de la Rosa due to the unpredictability of labor and delivery. Each case has its own needs, and de la Rosa may never know what will be waiting when she walks into work. But she’s ready for the encounters.

De la Rosa’s new position was vacant for years, and she has developed and implemented individual breastfeeding plans for new mothers. Her efforts are already being recognized by Knapp Medical Center. She recently won a staff award for the month of June. The award was a moment for her to reflect, especially since patients’ comments were read at the ceremony.

“I did get teary-eyed because they’re all really grateful,” de la Rosa said.

During her time as a consultant, she has gained connections and partnerships to help refer moms to other services in the Rio Grande Valley. Especially since she can see up to 20 babies, or 40 patients including the mothers, at one time. So, she always refers new mothers to lactation care centers in the RGV for follow-up.

“I want Knapp Medical Center to become a Texas Ten Step hospital,” de la Rosa said. “That’s part of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative where we do a little more breastfeeding support. That’s my end goal. I’m here to raise our breastfeeding rates, too. To encourage moms, and give them reassurance that what they’re doing is fine and completely normal.”

For de la Rosa, Weslaco has been home. A place to learn, work and thrive. And she hopes STC students can find a career path they not only enjoy but makes them feel like they’re contributing to others, even in a minor way.

“I’d like to tell them (STC students) to pick a career they’re passionate about,” de la Rosa said. “Something that you can see yourself doing every day and you don’t really consider it work. That what you choose is something you enjoy doing, and makes you feel like you’re making a change in the world.”