After six continuous years of breastfeeding, eighteen months of making time to read and learn the information I need to help others, and after making the commitment to represent the philosophies of La Leche League International; this evening I will be hosting my first meeting as an accredited LLL leader. I am excited and have a touch of stage fright, but feel confident in my ability to help others, as leaders in my past have helped me.
I first heard of La Leche League when I was pregnant with Aidan. My mother-in-law told me that when she needed help learning to breastfed Doug, she turned to LLL and found they helped her tremendously. She said, “They were such a nice group of ladies! I was so glad to have their help.” I had a friend due just before me with her first child and we decided to check out a meeting together, each offering the other moral support. I don’t know what I expected before my first meeting, or if I had any pre-conceived ideas. I guess I just thought of it like a child birth class- a place you go to learn how to do something than you never need to go again. A one-stop-shop for breastfeeding basics.
When we arrived, the room was full of mothers, babies and toddlers. The group had snacks for everyone, books you could check out and the moms gathered in a circle. Everyone went around the circle, introducing themselves and their children. The group leader had a daughter that was about 18 months old at the time. Petite, quiet little girl who kept popping up at her momma’s side and slip into her lap for a quick nursie before trotting away to play some more. I remember being surprised that a child “that old” was nursing. I thought breastfed babies weaned at 1, just like when bottle-fed babies are supposed to switch to cups. I’ve learned a lot since then!
I can’t remember what series topic the group discussed or even if there was a planned agenda. I just remember moms asking questions about what they were concerned about and other moms and leaders offering information or support. I watched with interest as mother’s fed their babies, the ease many of them seemed to have. There was a young toddler named Aidan that kept asking his mom, “Want grapes. Please!” His mom had to keep telling him “No grapes, makes your tummy hurt.” I guess he was grape-intolerant.
The leaders asked if I had specific questions and I don’t think I did, I just was there to soak up info. Before I knew it, the meeting came to an end. The leader gave me a folder with some sheets about latching on and other newborn info. She gave me her card and said to call if I needed her after my son was born. I was invited back to attend as many meetings as I could before the birth and after. I left feeling like I had found a nice place to meet moms and get help if I had any questions later.
I didn’t realize that night how much help I would need from LLL or how much the group would grow to mean to me.
I had difficulties nursing Aidan and the LLL leader came to my rescue. She made a home visit when he was just 4 days old. I felt comfortable with her, she explained our complications in ways that made sense to me and helped me figure out how to work past them. She encouraged me to continue working at our issues and gave me confidence that I could reach my goal of comfortably exclusively breastfeeding my son. I went to meetings to continue to get support, information and companionship. Gradually I changed from the new mom that had no experience and needed so much support, to the mom that could offer support and some experience.
When Sean was born, I was faced with new challenges in my breastfeeding experience. I was positive that he would also be breastfed and that it was the best choice for him. Here is a link that explains why it is so beneficial to breastfed a baby with Down syndrome. It took us a long time to achieve exclusive breastfeeding, but was certainly worth the effort.
In the past six years, I have learned so much about breastfeeding and how it relates to other aspects of my mothering. I had given thought to becoming a leader, but wasn’t sure if I was needed as one in our community. Luckily, my group leaders were having the same thoughts themselves at the time and approached me about making that decision. It took me awhile to get through the education process required for accreditation, but it gave me time to carefully think about why I was doing this and what I hoped to achieve.
I originally set a goal of completing the accreditation process before Eleanor’s birth, but didn’t get everything wrapped up until she was a couple weeks old. I was immediately “throw in the fire” so to speak with a call from a new mother that needed a home visit to help her with latching on her newborn.
I had come full circle. From lost mother to guiding mother. Tonight I will lead my first meeting, and hope that I too can spark the desire and confidence to breastfeed in another new mom, as well as offer her a place she feels comfortable and welcomed.
A special thank you today, to the three people who’s breastfeeding experiences mean the most to me:
I love you, babies!