Circle of Support
From New Beginnings, Vol. 26 No. 2, 2009, p. 23
As a child I remember my mother spending what seemed like hours on the phone in endless discussions about nipples -- how embarrassing I thought at the time! She was a La Leche League Leader and she founded LLL Luxembourg in 1979. Of course after having my own children, Jemima and Rufus, I've been so grateful for my mom's support and especially the fact that our ideas on raising children are so compatible, based as they are on the same LLL philosophy. Becoming a Leader myself seemed like the natural next step.
I first attended an LLL meeting when I was eight months pregnant with Jemima. My mother suggested I go and how lucky that she did because Jemima got off to a difficult start, and it was so much easier calling my local Leader for help when I had already met her and the group of mothers who met together monthly.
In Jemima's early weeks, I struggled with the effects of a cesarean birth (she was undiagnosed breech), persistent unexplained nipple pain, and severe mastitis (probably a hospital acquired infection), while Jemima was admitted to hospital with a viral infection. For months I battled with chronic blocked ducts; and I found at LLL meetings the strength to keep going and the hope that they would some day get better. Finally they did clear up completely.
Breastfeeding Rufus has been a breeze in comparison despite some problems with oversupply and food intolerance. In his early months, I still found much that I needed at LLL meetings as a tired mum struggling to meet two children's needs.
With Jemima, my initial breastfeeding goal was to make it to six months of exclusive breastfeeding. After that, I naively assumed, she'll be eating food anyway, right? I didn't think she'd still need my milk. It's thanks to LLL that we are "still" happily nursing, although I'm pleased to report she does also eat food.
As a naturally rather impatient person, I am so glad I found the support I needed to continue to meet my daughter's needs and not to try to rush her developing independence. She has recently started preschool very confidently, has lots of friends, and frequently expresses disappointment at weekends because it's not a school day. I attribute these indications of security to the parenting philosophy my husband Phil and I have learned from LLL. Whenever I go to an LLL meeting I feel as though I'm tapping into a maternal essence that refills my tanks of patience, gentleness, and empathy with my children.
Special thanks are due to Leader Ceri Glenister, who has provided me with so much encouragement and practical advice, and the other LLL Oxford Leaders and members for their friendship and motivation to encourage me to become a Leader myself. I very much appreciated the help of Leader Sarah Brown and wish I had been able to thank her for her warm and encouraging support before her sudden death last year.
I am looking forward to working with LLL Oxford along with some very inspiring Leaders; although I am a little sad that I'm no longer just one of the punters after hanging out at LLL meetings for so many years! I hope to be able to pass on to other mothers the support, information, practical help, and friendly welcome that I received from LLL when I really needed it.
Adapted from a story in LLLGB's Breastfeeding Matters