Kimberly Jarest, New Hampshire, United States of America
I would like to share my story of becoming a new Leader in New Hampshire, USA, during the pandemic.
My joy for breastfeeding started by breastfeeding our two sons. Both breastfeeding journeys were very different, and my love for the whole process just kept growing. In 2018, I decided that I wanted to look into becoming a gestational carrier. A couple ended up finding me through social media and we instantly clicked. I became pregnant through in vitro fertilization (IVF) with their second daughter and delivered her in April 2019. That was my first hospital birth, since our boys were delivered at home. It was very different from my home births, but I was grateful for the experience.
After the surrogate birth, I started exclusively pumping to provide milk for the surrogate baby. After a few weeks, the parents no longer wanted milk and I started pumping for moms local to me and a preemie milk bank in California. I pumped for more than 18 months. I would have kept pumping but we found out that we were expecting our 3rd son in July of 2021! I weaned from pumping which was bittersweet but I had learned so much and now had such a special place in my heart for all pumping moms.
During my many hours of pumping, I started looking into becoming a lactation consultant. I wanted to help other breastfeeding parents with chestfeeding and pumping. I knew about La Leche League (LLL) from reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding during my pregnancy with our first son. I decided I wanted to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). I chose pathway 3, the mentorship. My mentor said I should become an LLL Leader because IBLCE (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners) was created from an LLL Group. I instantly went out to look for the next meeting in my area. That’s when I found out that my area could really use more Leaders. There wasn’t a Group for my specific area.
Then the pandemic hit and things were shut down for a while. La Leche League meetings were therefore only virtual. I went to a few meetings and knew this was the place for me! I’ve become a Leader in about four months or so which I’ve been told is quick. I think I was able to get a lot of my application work done because things were virtual and meetings were held weekly in my area.
I loved that I could volunteer and help breastfeeding moms at the same time. I loved the relaxed atmosphere LLL set for mothers and Leaders. The fact that LLL encourages Leaders to put family first really spoke to me because most places say these words but never follow through.
I’m still in the process of getting my IBCLC accreditation and LLL leadership has brought so much knowledge to my breastfeeding outlook. I do wear two hats, one for LLL leadership and one for when IBCLC work is calling, but I wouldn’t do it any other way. LLL leadership has taught me so much and every meeting I host or co-host I learn more about breastfeeding, parenting and more!
I’m planning to start my own local LLL Group soon for the Monadnock Region in New Hampshire in 2022.
Livia Defranchi, La Leche League Réseau pour l Allaitement, Corsica
I am the mother of little Natale, two years and nine months old, still breastfed. Natale had a very difficult start to life. He had a restrictive frenulum (tongue-tie) and was hospitalized for severe anemia as a one-year-old. He has also developed many allergies and a sensory disorder complicating food diversification. With such difficulties, we really needed the knowledge, support and accompaniment of a La Leche League (LLL) Leader… But there wasn’t any Leader in Corsica at that time.
This is how my application to become a Leader myself became a reality. Mothers in Corsica needed a La Leche League Leader to accompany them when they encountered difficulties.
LLLI supported me in my approach by helping me to train and be accredited. I am the only Leader in Corsica at the moment, and I feel very grateful for this and hope that others will follow.
I am happy to be part of La Leche League Réseau pour l Allaitement (LLL RpA) as a Leader, to be able to represent LLL in Ajaccio, and I hope that we will have many opportunities to exchange and share our experiences so that mother-to-mother support will be even stronger.
Je suis la maman d’un petit Natale de 2 ans et 9 mois, toujours allaité. Les débuts chaotiques de sa vie (il est poly-allergique, a eu un frein restrictif sectionné à 9 mois, hospitalisé pour une anémie sévère à 1 an, trouble sensoriel compliquant la diversification alimentaire…) nous ont mis face à des difficultés pour lesquelles nous aurions bien eu besoin des connaissances, du soutien et de l accompagnement d une animatrice LLL… mais il n y en avait pas en Corse jusque là.
C’est de cette façon que ma candidature pour devenir moi-même animatrice est devenue une évidence: tellement de mamans se retrouvent sans interlocuteur fiable pour les accompagner lorsqu’elles rencontrent des difficultés !
LLLI m’a soutenue dans ma démarche en me permettant de me former et de me présenter à vous aujourd’hui. Je suis la seule animatrice en Corse actuellement, j’en ressens beaucoup de reconnaissance et j’espère que d’autres suivront.
Je suis heureuse de faire à présent partie de LLL RpA en tant qu’animatrice, de pouvoir représenter la LLL sur Ajaccio, et j’espère que nous aurons souvent l’occasion d’échanger et partager nos expériences afin que le soutien de mère à mère soit toujours plus fort.
Bridget Muir, Sydney, Australia
I am a Queer La Leche League (LLL) Leader located in Sydney, Australia, and I help administer and run online meetings in a new LGBTQA+ Families Group. This is an international LLL Group for LGBTQIA+ families only (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and the plus recognizes that there are many more diverse identities and orientations). The Group started because a number of Leaders who are LGBTQIA+ themselves, recognized the specific needs parents have within their own communities. LGBTQIA+ parents and families often feel more comfortable and at ease in groups that are specifically for them.
This Group is run and looked after by LGBTQIA+ Leaders only, and we have been running monthly, sometimes bi-monthly, online meetings. The Facebook Group started in June 2020, has over 160 members and can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/llllgbtiqaplusfamilies
The meetings are run within the Facebook Group using a “text format” with written information, images and articles. This is because the Group is international, so this format helps navigate the diverse range of time zones. It also means if someone cannot attend the meeting, they can still access the information.
LLL Lebanon Online WhatsApp Group
LLL Lebanon (Middle East) is very happy to share news of creating a new LLL Lebanon Online WhatsApp Group that currently unites 169 mothers who have attended at least one online LLL Lebanon meeting. The Group was created in May 2020 when LLL Lebanon had to switch to holding only online meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic spreading in the country. The Group grew rapidly attracting moms from all over Lebanon! The Group discussion is monitored by all current Leaders in Lebanon and we all take turns holding online Zoom meetings—most of the year we have four meetings each month on various topics. We had a lot to learn along the way about switching to an online format, but we are happy to say it has been super fun and successful too! We often have more than 60 mothers registered per meeting and it is common that we may stay on for four or five hours discussing different topics relating to breastfeeding not noticing how the time flies! Online meetings have their challenges, but they surely have lots of positive points too. We strongly recommend all LLL Leaders around the world give it a try! It can be a great new and exciting way to reach out to moms who otherwise may never be able to attend an actual face-to-face meeting. Good luck!
Nadiya Dragan, with input from other Leaders in Lebanon
LLL Hokkaido Online Group, Japan
When COVID-19 brought about a State of Emergency the end of February 2020 making in person La Leche League (LLL) meetings not possible throughout Japan, the four Leaders in Hokkaido came up with a plan to continue providing support for breastfeeding mothers. The three Japanese LLL Groups in Hokkaido in the cities of Sapporo, Tomakomai, and Wakkanai formed an online group called ラ・レーチェ・リーグ北海道オンライン (LLL Hokkaido Online Group) in April 2020.
Online breastfeeding support meetings are held in Japanese once a month via Zoom. Meetings are announced on the LLL Hokkaido Online Facebook page and on the LLL Japan website. Previous participants are also sent information of upcoming online meetings. A topic is chosen for each meeting but often the questions participating mothers bring to meetings become the main focus with mothers sharing experiences, concerns, and ideas.
Although Leaders in Hokkaido look forward to being able to hold in person LLL meetings in the near future, planning and co-leading the online meetings together have been a source of encouragement for the Leaders. They hope to continue holding joint online meetings even after in person meetings become possible again, perhaps on a less frequent basis though.
Link to the LLL Hokkaido Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LLLHokkaido
RuthAnna Mather, one of the Leaders in Hokkaido
La Leche League Melbourne Online
La Leche League Melbourne Online just started in September 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. As Melbourne is one of the most locked-down cities in the world, an online format was a no-brainer. At the first meeting, five mothers and their children attended and discussed their challenges and their successes of breastfeeding.
Currently, the Group is run by two Leaders who have actually only ever met online and who both coincidentally have experience parenting in Japan. The Leaders had really wanted to start a group in the Melbourne area for a long time and look forward to growing the Group and supporting mothers as they were once supported.
The Group meets every second Thursday of the month at 10:30 am and every fourth Tuesday of the month at 2:00 pm. The topic is different every meeting but relevant to all stages from pregnancy to older children. Questions can be asked during or at the end of the meeting. LLL Melbourne Online looks forward to meeting new participants! Please check the following links for more details:
Jillian Nambu, co-Leader of LLL Melbourne Online Group in Australia
Santiago de Veraguas, Panama
Santiago is the head district of the province of Veraguas, a province bathed by two seas in the center of Panama.
The new Santiago de Veraguas Group was able to do two face-to-face meetings in January and February 2020. In 2021, we had four mini-meetings by WhatsApp calls.
The mothers who attend this support Group joined as they learned by word of mouth among acquaintances. It is a community that has grown and maintains frequent contact as our children grow.
Mireya Batista, La Leche League Santiago Support Group in Panama
Hola mi grupo de Santiago de Veraguas.
El grupo de Santiago pudo hacer dos reuniones presenciales Enero y Febrero 2020.
Y en 2021 4 mini reuniones por llamadas de WhatsApp.
Santiago es el distrito Cabecera de la Provincia de Veraguas, provincia bañada por dos Mares en el centro de Panamá.
Las madres que asisten a este grupo de apoyo se fueron sumando al enterarse de voz a voz entre conocidas de estos espacios de apoyo, una tribu que ha crecido y que mantiene contacto frecuente a medida de nuestros hijos crecen.
Grupo de verano en la playa (“Summer Group on the Beach”), LLL Argentina
A month before the pandemic was declared, we had held the first of what we hoped was a series of support meetings every summer on the beach. We were only able to do just one, on February 24, 2020, and we have this souvenir photo (below). Since then, everything was and continues to be virtual. We have an average of four weekly virtual meetings coordinated by Leaders from different parts of our country.
We are pleased to have been able to provide this support for mothers and those wanting information on breastfeeding despite the difficult times we are going through.
Marcela Jurquiza, ACL for LLL Argentina.
Un mes antes de declarada la pandemia habíamos realizado el primero de lo que deseábamos fuera una serie de grupos de apoyo cada verano en la playa. Solo pudimos hacer este, el 24 de febrero del 2020, y tenemos esta foto de recuerdo (que está adjuntada). Luego todo fue y sigue siendo virtual, tenemos un promedio de cuatro grupos virtuales semanales coordinados por líderes de distintas partes de nuestro país.
Pudimos sostener este apoyo para las madres y quienes desearan información sobre lactancia a pesar de los tiempos difíciles que estamos atravesando.