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La Leche League International
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A Global Community

Thalia Madewell
From New Beginnings, Vol. 26 No. 1, 2009, pp. 10-11

Last April, my family and I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel overseas and visit our dearest friends, the Cockrell family, who we first met in 2003.

Tessa and I met at a La Leche League meeting in 2003, and we soon became fast friends. I was just discovering the art of mothering and breastfeeding and how the two were intertwined. I loved breastfeeding my daughter and it was so encouraging watching Tessa mother her two children through breastfeeding. Five years and a few more children brought our families even closer together. Tessa and I were both accredited as La Leche League Leaders in 2006, and we were able to give back to the LLL Group in Northwest Arkansas, USA that had given us so much.

My family spent weeks preparing for our 15-hour plane ride to Okinawa, Japan to visit our friends. We were eager to see them and their new life. Traveling with our children, four years old, two years old, and nine months old, we loaded our backpacks with healthy snacks and quiet toys. One thing we didn't have to worry about packing or preparing was milk for our littlest one, who was perfectly content to sit (or walk around the plane) with Mama and nurse. Of course, nursing made this trip so much easier and, dare I say it, even enjoyable!

Toward the end of our trip, a worried looking flight attendant rushed to my seat with a tray in hand. "Oh, please forgive me," she said, "I just now realized that this infant food tray belongs to you." I looked at the tray, somewhat puzzled and noticed that it contained everything my baby would have needed for the long ride had we not been nursing. It came complete with baby cereal, artificial baby milk, and even crackers. I reassured the concerned attendant that we were just fine: we breastfed. She looked both relieved and a bit perplexed.

Our two weeks in Okinawa were packed with exciting activities and sightseeing excursions with a total of seven children in tow between our two families. It goes without saying that breastfeeding and a good baby carrier were indispensable.

Okinawa has a strong American military presence. Soon after Tessa's arrival in Okinawa, she revived an LLL Group on one of the bases. Our first week there coincided with her regularly scheduled Series Meeting.

I was pleasantly surprised at how closely the meeting resembled other LLL meetings I had attended in the US. Apart from the military uniforms, the 10 mothers sitting on the floor with their babies and toddlers around them were a familiar sight, and I was astounded that this exact type of meeting was happening halfway around the world! Here I was listening to mothers with similar struggles to the mothers I worked with in Bentonville, Arkansas, USA.

Most of the moms were either on active duty themselves, serving on one of the bases on the island, or they had family members who were actively serving on one of the bases. Some of them were new to the island and were trying to establish a network of support in their new foreign home. Others had been in Okinawa for years and were eager to meet with like-minded mothers. As similar as all mothers are, I also noted that these military mothers had struggles different from those that I have experienced as a breastfeeding mother. Some of them were temporarily caring for their families alone, as they had husbands away on missions around the world. Others were trying to balance their role as mother with the rigorous demands of a career in the military. Many missed their families back home.

But what this meeting impressed upon me was that La Leche League and its unchanging mission are the same anywhere in the world. Mothers all over the world need accurate information and support in their decision to breastfeed their children. Given the opportunity, LLL can be the tie that binds. The mothers whom I had the privilege to meet might be relocated almost anywhere in the world, yet they would instantly be able to reconnect through their local La Leche League Group. I am so thankful for La Leche League and the lasting friendships I have developed through its presence in my community. I am inspired by the nature of such a far-reaching presence to mothers all around the world.

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