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Breastfeeding Awareness Week in Cantania, Sicily, Italy

Grazia De Fiore-McKeown
Catania Sicily Italy
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 40 No. 6, December 2004 - January 2005, p. 138.

I’m an LLL Leader. I was accredited in France and moved to Italy. I trained with Corinne Dewandre while I was living in France and, some time after that, my husband, our daughter, and I decided to move back to Italy. Currently, I live in Sicily, which is one of Italy’s many beautiful regions. The immense stretches of gorgeous coastline come at a price, though, because Sicily is isolated from the mainland.

Once I was settled in my town of Catania, I set about helping and counseling breastfeeding mothers and local health care operatives. I was lucky to find an LLL Group of mothers who were united and shared ideas and values similar to my own. However, I had very little to do with forming this wonderful Group. The groundwork had already been done by an extraordinary woman, Nina Zenner, who is a well-known and respected physiotherapist throughout Italy’s professional circles. At 82 years old, she bicycles everywhere, weather permitting. When she isn’t helping mothers and massaging babies, she looks after her vines and olive trees.

My very first meeting as an LLL Leader in Catania was attended by two mothers. Twelve mothers came to the next one. Over the course of the next few months, the number of mothers grew from 12 to 25.

In 2002, I told the Group about the LLL Italia Conference in Rimini, a famous resort town and venue on the Adriatic coast. Their enthusiasm was dampened by the knowledge that the venue was logistically problematic for us "islanders." Five mothers from my Group wanted to attend the congress and wanted to make reservations, but it soon became clear to them that the journey would be very tiring and costly.

This clear interest in a wider breastfeeding experience, the possibility of meeting other mothers and Leaders, and the opportunity to hear experts speak on subjects so close to our hearts inspired me to think of ways I could make this possible at a local level.

I was already in contact with Michel Odent for other reasons, and I asked him if he would be interested in coming to Catania to speak during our 2002 World Breastfeeding Awareness Week Celebration (or SAM, as we call it in Italy). He was delighted to receive my invitation and his enthusiasm gave me new drive in preparing an event for Catania. The City of Catania offered me the use of one of their reception rooms for the event. We prepared brochures and posters and then waited anxiously for the dates of our Conference to arrive. The program included a variety of presentations, such as "Breastfeeding Begins Before Birth," with Michel Odent, "The Advantages of Natural Birth" with Laura Belloni, "Tactile Experience and Breastfeeding," with Simona Carfi, and "The Broken Code," with Sergio Conti Nibali.

The small room could seat 100 people, and it was always full. Mothers and fathers came from all over Sicily eager to learn and enthusiastic about meeting like-minded people who were ready to spend time in the company of their children. For some parents, it was quite a discovery that it was possible to learn, have intelligent conversations with other adults, and devote energy to their children at the same time.

After the Conference, when things were calm again, many mothers phoned to thank me and to say how very rewarding they had found the whole experience. Buoyed up by all this enthusiasm, I started thinking about what we could do in 2003. I still had a lot to learn about organizing seminars, however, especially from a financial point of view. It took me a while to get back into the black, but I managed.

For the 2003 Conference, I made sure I wasn’t trying to do everything on my own. I learned about budgeting and built up a small team of helpers. We put together a program that included information on the composition of human milk, growth curves, the newborn brain, cosleeping, and more. We also ran a number of parallel workshops on how to carry babies, singing lullabies, and massage. During the breaks, we had a slide show presentation of photographs accompanied by lullabies from all over the world.

Once again, the whole experience was so positive and rewarding. This time, the Conference room could seat up to 200 people and was almost full for both days. Families came from all over Sicily, and some LLL Leaders from other parts of Italy came with their families. One Leader came all the way from France!

Even now, we still have vivid memories of the mothers and fathers singing lullabies in the corridors of the hotel, or walking about with their babies in various slings and pouches, more confident than ever after attending the enriching sessions.

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