Leaders Who Stay

Leaders Who Stay

Categories: Breastfeeding Today, Current Issue

We asked Leaders who stay in La Leche League despite having weaned long ago: “Why does LLL continue to be important to you?”

Paula

Paula Hinson, Farnham Group, Great Britain. Accredited in 2000.

I was guided to LLL Farnham by a friend who was and still is a Leader (Ginny Eaton) as soon as she heard I was pregnant with my first baby in 1991.

The experience of being a part of LLL from early parenthood influenced the sort of parent I became. My own questions during those early months about the path we should take with raising our baby were settled by reading books from the LLL library, and it felt like a good fit for us.

I was accredited in 2000. By then, LLL Great Britain (LLLGB) was my community, the place where I felt accepted and appreciated. Volunteering provided fulfilment through all the stages of family life.

Paula’s Family

Twenty-one years later, I am still embedded within LLLGB. Despite different faces on the Council of Directors, the wider philosophy of the organization was an anchor which didn’t change (at least only gently and with consultation!). Being an LLL Leader has shaped my identity and breastfeeding support became my career. The role has provided a rich source of colleagues who have become friends, and working with new Leader Applicants has provided a fruitful sense of growing the future.

Barbara Childs, Okehampton, Great Britain. Accredited in 1998.

I stay because I love to listen to mothers’ stories;
because mothering through breastfeeding has still not been normalized;
because LLL values the wisdom of older women;
because whenever I consider how I can contribute to making the world a greener place I think: “help women breastfeed”;
because I am still paying forward the help I received when my first baby was six days old and my dear friend, Sandra Lang, took just twenty minutes to show me how to achieve a good latch;
because no other voluntary work seems as important as my LLL work;
because I haven’t yet supported enough mothers to become Leaders;
because it is something I do well;
because I am allowed to do as much as I am able and not forced to do more;
because when I have listened to a mother, or facilitated a Group, I do not have to justify my existence in this world;
because apart from mothering my own children it is the best thing I have done in my life.

Anne Devereux, Dunedin, New Zealand. Accredited 1972.

I was accredited in November 1972 and facilitated my first meeting on November 15. This was a daytime meeting and over 25 women and numerous babies and children were there.

I first heard of LLL in 1969 and when I was pregnant with our seventh baby in 1970, I made some enquiries about the organization. There was no Group at that time in Dunedin but I was told that a woman in the city was preparing for leadership. Subsequently, I was able to borrow her library of books—The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, The Child Under Six and Karen Pryor’s book Nursing Your Baby. I found the information so amazing and quickly understood that some of my previous “failures” in breastfeeding were due to my lack of knowledge about breastfeeding management rather than an inability on my part to adequately meet my baby’s needs. I had so many regrets, but it fired me to become a Leader and help as many women as I could. This contact with LLL also helped me to unlearn some of my mothering and parenting ideas and goals.

Many women talk about feeling that finding LLL is like coming home. I agree with this sentiment, although I had the support of my doctor in having my babies with me from birth. This was frowned upon in the early ‘60s, so when I read the LLL philosophy and saw the statement about birthing and mother-baby togetherness, I felt I was on the right path.
While I was still breastfeeding our eleventh baby, our eldest daughter announced that she and her husband were expecting their first baby. Naturally, we were able to share this special time until our youngest child weaned when she was about three years old. However, I could not see this as a reason to stop my work as a Leader. I found so much support and ideas from our support group planning meetings, Chapter Meetings and LLL publications and could see the impact that LLL parenting was having on our family, especially in the area of communication skills, which provided an unexpected bonus—they helped our family listen to, and respond to each other. I was also aware that often it is enough to just be with a person and let her/him talk and reach their own conclusions without any suggestion from me—all of this I learned from LLL.

Gradually, I made small but important changes to our nutrition. While nutrition was rarely discussed in the media, LLL philosophy helped me to see that good nutrition was a worthy goal that would benefit our whole family. We began making our own bread and added more whole grains and legumes to the family diet. We were seen as ‘quaint’ by some of our friends, but I was loving this quiet revolution.

LLL has provided me with a rich and diverse learning experience. It has helped me to see the worth in each mother I have met and to applaud her unique ways of meeting her child’s needs. It has taught me to do my best, to keep information simple and do-able and to set realistic goals. Our monthly awhi** meetings and Leader Accreditation Department work and communications remain an inspiration and keep my focus on the mother-baby dyad.
All of us have gained from belonging to an organization with a mission and philosophy that provide a springboard for personal growth, no matter where we are and what we do within LLL.

** “Awhi” is a Māori word with a number of meanings for example to surround or to embrace. The term “Awhi Groups” was given to former Areas when LLLNZ changed its structure from a number of areas to being one national area. Leaders from within a particular awhi group might meet for enrichment or to plan a workshop.

Loreto I. Rubianes, Fylde Coast, Great Britain. Accredited in 2010.

Loreto with her family

My children are now 13 and 11 years old… Why does LLL continue to be important to me? LLL philosophy has resonated deeply with me from the very first moment. With the support I received, I learnt to trust my body and my instinct, which I think is priceless and too often lacking in our society. The feeling of supporting a mother and her baby to achieve their goals brings me immense satisfaction every time. I feel it is a meaningful job that fills my heart, but also an important activity workable with family life. LLL knows no frontiers and the network is amazing. I have had the joy of running LLL Groups in Preston (Lancashire, Great Britain); Tokyo, Japan; and currently in the Fylde Coast (Lancashire). However, I am also aware of my privileged position of having a supportive husband who appreciates and values my contribution to society, with earnings that have allowed me to stay home and balance family life with my passion. Two years ago, I began proudly working as a paid breastfeeding peer supporter. With a science and research background in engineering, I find the field of human lactation fascinating, so I challenged myself and passed the IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) certification exam in April 2021. I am learning something new every day. I LLLove it!

Jill Unwin, Craven Arms, Shropshire, Great Britain. Accredited 1992.

First meeting 1978, Leader LLL Berkshire 1992-2019, LLL Shropshire 2019.

Jill pictured back row left hand side, with her family

Mothering skills are so important. LLL is the only organization that encourages mothers to trust their instincts and this, to me, is something we learn more about as time passes. Experience is the greatest help, as despite hearing the words, it is always difficult to have every faith in them, especially when the pressure is on. My grandchildren continue to teach me, in the way my children did. I enjoy gently sharing ideas and helping mothers to understand their babies. Society changes, as do the pressures on mothers, but babies’ and children’s needs are always expressed by the babies and children themselves. Helping mothers to identify needs is timeless and essential. Personally, I still get considerable satisfaction from being with the mothers who can recognize this, and I go on learning about our changing world as I help them. So much in this world is unpleasant, but babies and mothering give me hope for future generations. Mothers I have helped still kindly seem to value that support and so I carry on. As Help Form Coordinator, I hope I can continue helping mums without the rapidly greying hair being significant.

Nan Jolly, Gqeberha, South Africa. Accredited 1979.

I knew I would breastfeed my babies and never for a moment considered formula. I had worked with so many babies on IV (intravenous) rehydration for diarrhea during my training as a doctor. Despite this, and diligently following breastfeeding protocol in the hospital (four-hourly formula, as my “milk had not come in,” and no latching on my flat, inverted nipples), I went home bottle-feeding formula, heartbroken. I felt inadequate, ashamed, as if I wasn’t a real mother. During my second pregnancy, my neighbour lent me a borrowed copy of the second edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (The Womanly Art). As I read it, the light came on! I had nothing to lose. So, I followed the simple advice it contained—I kept my baby with me and put her to breast at the slightest excuse, with no “prelacteal”*** formula or clocks, and this time I went home breastfeeding, without nipple problems, rejoicing. A few months later, when walking in the park with my baby, I was invited to a meeting of breastfeeding mothers. Here I met the owner of my borrowed copy of The Womanly Art which I only parted with when my own copy arrived months later. It was my lifeline, the encouragement that eliminated all my doubts!

Elizabeth weaned at two and a half years. I became a Leader 42 years ago. And I have done my best to help mothers achieve the joy I experienced from a successful breastfeeding journey. It wouldn’t have been possible without all those mothers at our meetings in my home, living the experience in front of our eyes, and the knowledge of all those Leaders who felt as I did about breastfeeding. Those mothers and Leaders empowered other mothers to breastfeed and mother through breastfeeding. It made such a difference to our relationships with our children, our partners, our communities, our nation, and the planet earth!

As you see, LLL expanded my world in extent and in depth. I travelled to many countries, met wonderful, amazing people, learned useful skills, latching, communicating, emailing, public speaking, teaching…
Breastfeeding, the way LLL enabled me to experience it, was not about the food. I discovered that breastfeeding involved all of me, all of my baby, the family, all humanity. It involved the soul: the dark, deep mystery of life and creation. It speaks of the feminine of our roots and source, of continuity, and needing trust, faith to give unstintingly and grow.

I have become aware of the way the value of breastfeeding has been denied, used, analyzed, and measured until almost out of existence in order to manufacture substitutes; missing the point—that it’s not about millilitres (mls) or proteins, but about love.

I will forever be grateful to LLL: those courageous seven Founders and all the thousands they inspired to gradually, with LLLove, change the world.

*** Prelacteal feeds are feeds given to babies before a mother’s milk comes in. Common feeds given on the first day of life in some countries are honey, sugar water, and water.

Naomi

Naomi Stadlen, Central London Group, Great Britain. Accredited 1990.

In 1989, Jean Waldman, one of the first Leaders in LLL Great Britain (LLL GB), suggested I train to become a Leader. She read out the ten LLL philosophy concepts and asked if I agreed with them. Oh, yes, I certainly agreed with them. I wished I had written them myself! The wording was simple and expressed some of my deepest convictions. ‘Mothering through breastfeeding’ encapsulates the essential work of mothers, and La Leche League provides information and support, without pressure, when mothers need it. There has always been so much misinformation about breastfeeding, from a strange ancient Egyptian parchment to recent sites on the internet. La Leche League is needed more than ever. It’s research-based and collects mothers’ accounts from all over the world. I like being part of this necessary organization–so I’ve stayed.

Rachel

Rachel O’Leary, Cambridge, Great Britain. Accredited 1980.

I have stayed on as a Leader because what we do in LLL is so important.

The term the breastfeeding relationship sizzled into my head and left my mouth flapping open when I first heard it. This is what it’s all about! Not just the (incredible) milk, but also the to-and-fro between the mother or nursing parent and their little one.

Within the nursing relationship, we learn to read each other’s body language and respond. We listen with our whole self and make those little adjustments that help each other feel safe and loved: a muscle relaxed here, a tiny cooing noise, a cheek against a soft head. When we do this, we flood each other with the hormones of love and change the world.

Rachel with one of her children

When we stand with another mother as she spills out her story, we help her hold steady. She is able to find a place of balance within the flood of her experiences. We help Leader Applicants discover this skill within themselves, because they learned it with their babies.

As an organization, we speak for the values embodied in the nursing relationship: love, kindness, justice, care.
What would happen in the world if people listened to each other with their whole bodies, giving powerful attention to their enemies as well as their friends? If everybody rooted their actions in mothering values, what would change?

Linda Wieser, Nova Scotia, Canada. Accredited 1984.

I attended my first La Leche League meeting in Nova Scotia, Canada, after I had weaned my first daughter, Heidi, at seven months. I stayed because the other mothers had a similar parenting approach. I became a Leader in 1984 in California, USA, after my second daughter, Erica, was born and have remained a part of the organization for the past 37 years. Being an LLL Leader has fulfilled my desire to continue supporting breastfeeding families and has allowed me to develop new skills. Working in the Professional Liaison Department and now the Leader Accreditation Department, I have improved my writing and editing skills and learned ways to be an effective administrator. I am currently volunteering in the position of LLLI Director of the Leader Accreditation Department. What excites me these days is working at the international level. This gives me the opportunity to see LLL as one organization and to be a part of decisions that will strengthen LLL for the future. Through my entire time in LLL, I have continued to lead with a local Group. This keeps me grounded in what LLL is all about—helping breastfeeding mothers and babies, supporting parents and families who value the breastfeeding relationship, and making breastfeeding the norm in our communities.

Sarah

Sarah Gill, Nottingham, Great Britain. Accredited 1979 at Hull Group, 1981 Nottingham Group.

I was a Leader for 42 years. I stayed that long because opportunities in LLL pulled me forward. I met LLL head on and the “style” of parenting, particularly mothering, was so new. I loved it and learned continually with my children as they grew.

At that time mothers stayed at home when they had children and I met mums with children of all ages. We learned from each other all the time. Some of my very close friends now are Leaders and mothers I met 40 years ago. I helped grow the Group, then got involved with the Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) which is where my heart is in LLL. I had the opportunity to run three national conferences in the mid-’80s. I moved on into Administrator for Great Britain, but at the same time LAD for LLLI.

The opportunities for meeting people and traveling were huge in the ‘80s. I went to many LLLI conferences and meetings. I learned all the time. I couldn’t get enough information and support for mothering my children.
Through the LLLI connection, I “met” the Peer Counsellor Program (PCP) in 1989 and then, through a series of coincidences, had the opportunity to start one in Great Britain. The government at the time was interested in breastfeeding and so grants became available to run programs in lots of different parts of the country. Until this point, LLL was not well known so the PCP helped to raise the profile enormously. This snowballed into over 300 programs over 20 years.

In 2000, we got a grant to trial breastfeeding classes and these ran in Nottingham for more than 10 years. We helped develop the classes by passing on all our resources.

I loved being part of developing LLL and it certainly helped me “grow” as a mum.

Sue Sutton, Bombay, New Zealand. Accredited 1971.

I feel like I have been a volunteer from the time I first read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (The Womanly Art) in1966 following the birth of our second son. I was so enthralled with the confidence in myself, my body and my baby with the information in that amazing publication. At that time, there were many so-called “medical information” publications around that I found disturbing because of the amount of misinformation in them. I was a registered nurse, working one or two night shifts a week between having my first and second born. I went back to work in the delivery suite and postnatal wards at Middlemore hospital when Tim (our second) was five months. That’s when our lovely neighbor offered me The Womanly Art to read. I was hooked and found it so practical and sensible, with lots of research-based information that could be trusted. I had been giving our baby a bottle of artificial baby milk every evening as I feared I was “running out of milk” because he was feeding so frequently during the day. I was amazed that I didn’t need to do that. Through my work I shared what I had learnt about breastfeeding, both as a breastfeeding mother and nurse, with others I came in contact with.

I didn’t realize until 1968, following the birth of our third baby, a daughter, that there were LLL Groups and Leaders in New Zealand! I met Jane Ritchie and Yvonne Procuta at a Parents Centre* conference in Hamilton. Thus was born my desire to become an LLL Leader and help others as I had been helped.

I was sole Leader of Manurewa LLL Group for about eight years, before becoming a Leader Reserve (as it was in those days) for a number of years while continuing to work as a nurse in various roles.
I was always very happy to do talks at various LLL workshops and fill in as Group Leader on those occasions. I did antenatal talks for Parents Centre and Middlemore Hospital about breastfeeding and always promoted LLL philosophy. I loved sharing my knowledge and experiences.

In 1987, I began working in the Special Care Baby Unit, and in 1991, I became an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) mainly so my knowledge would be recognized by medical staff. I was also involved in the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and then the Baby Friendly Community Initiative doing audits around New Zealand. I only recently retired from this role.

In 2003, I began a role within the Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) and have enjoyed this so much. I feel I have gained so much from my involvement with LLL and love being able to help others achieve the learning, confidence and joy in breastfeeding that I have experienced. I believe the LLL philosophy underpins my interactions with friends, relatives and many others. I think acceptance of others’ values, even if they disagree with me, helps not only breastfeeding families, but the wider society, too. Meeting the Founders in Chicago, Illinois, USA in 2009 was an incredible experience. I can see the difference ordinary mothers like me could make to society by a “simple” philosophy of helping mothers to breastfeed. I see and have experienced the societal changes that have occurred from 1959, when I started my nursing training, just in maternity care and breastfeeding support. Then, it was “breastfeeding is best, but if you can’t then this is how to make formula,” four-hourly feeding, formula top-ups until milk comes in, mothers “getting a good sleep over night” while babies are given formula, to name some of the huge changes that have happened.

* Parents Centre is a New Zealand not-for-profit organisation which provides antenatal classes and parenting classes.

Ginny Eaton, Surrey, Great Britain. Accredited 1979.

My weaning days for our two children are long gone… They are in their late 30s and mid-40s now with children of their own. I have given thought to this question about remaining as an LLL Leader during this pandemic year. In March 2020 we settled into the new-normal of more time to read, to walk, and more time (and fewer excuses not) to go down the allotment with my husband David to grow vegetables. This less stressful way of life seems to me the way to go as I approach my mid-70s. What should I keep active with? Of course, our grandchildren, no question. And LLL?
LLL work is important to me and as desperately needed as in my early days in 1979 when I was accredited as a Leader. At that time our son was approaching four and it was to be another three years before our daughter entered our lives, by a different route: adoption. We eventually brought her home in October 1982. I had the best LLL information about breastfeeding an adopted baby and I was now doing so, partially at least.

My LLL work included starting two new Groups, becoming a Coordinator of Leader Accreditation (CLA), staying for ten years in the Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) and preparation in 1989 to facilitate Communication Skills Workshops (formerly called Human Relations Enrichment workshops) which I have only recently stopped. Some editorial consultancy work developed which I only do a little of now. Opportunities within LLL and friendships have been so enriching for me and I am very thankful.

I continue to help mothers who phone for LLL help. I so believe that having a good mother/nursing parent-child relationship at the very beginning is one of the best ways to contribute to good mental as well as physical health. And it is so important for the mother/parent to feel the satisfaction and empowerment of meeting their babies’ needs for food and comfort and security through breastfeeding. I still find much satisfaction in carefully sharing this with mothers and parents, mostly through positive encouragement and affirmation of all they are doing. Two things that are often in short supply in their new experience as breastfeeding parents.

Heather’s daughters with Marian

Heather Rice, Portlaoise, Ireland. Accredited 1996.

Nadia and Kalia had first met Marian in Washington DC in 2007 when I got my dream of going to an International Conference. Toddler Kalia was minded by her wonderful eldest sister Nadia and we had an amazing adventure from Ireland to America leaving daddy home with the other two children.

I have been an LLL Leader for 25 years this September and have massive gratitude to the Founders and all the Leaders who have made me a better mother through the wonderful organization.

La Leche League Portlaoise, Ireland 30th Anniversary party with most of the Leaders who have run the Group for 30 years!

Anna Burbidge, Market Harborough, Great Britain. Accredited 1983.

Looking back, I think how lucky I am that fate led me to La Leche League back in 1973. As a young mother, living in a society where bottle feeding was the norm, I instinctively felt I wanted to breastfeed. However, after three months of struggling with inaccurate information and advice to top up with bottles, I sadly decided to stop.

Anna

Determined to do things differently in future, I ordered The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding from a list of books in a magazine, mainly because it was the cheapest! Reading that book was a revelation to me; it filled me with confidence that I would be able to breastfeed any future babies. I even asked my health visitor about re-lactating, but was told it was best to forget it.

By 1975, I had moved to a different house and was eight months pregnant with my second child. That’s when I went to an antenatal appointment and saw a poster for an LLL meeting. Recognising the name from my book I thought I would phone up just to get some contact details. Little did I know then that this Group was one of the first LLL Groups in Great Britain, and that 24 hours after phoning I would find myself, somewhat reluctantly, in a car going to my first LLL meeting.

Stepping into that meeting changed my life. I’d always felt I wasn’t mothering the way I wanted to, but I didn’t know how to change. LLL opened my eyes to a different way of thinking and to respectful communication, and I knew I wanted to belong. At first, I went along for the support and information, but soon I was involved in helping to set up a more local Group and, like so many Leaders, wanted to give back to others the help I had received. I became a Leader Applicant, but due to chronic shyness it was seven years and two more babies later when I was eventually accredited.
As I took on other roles in LLL, two more babies joined our family, and as the children grew, I found that the support I got with mothering preschoolers, then school-age children and eventually teenagers, was just as valuable as when they were babies. I learnt how to listen to them and understand what they could cope with at that time, and adapt my expectations of how I, or others, thought they should behave. If I got it wrong, there was always a listening, nonjudgemental ear to turn to among other Leaders. When I became a grandmother, it was such a relief to be able to chat to other Leaders about a whole new experience, and to use LLL wisdom in my relationship with these special little people.

LLL also gave me the opportunity to grow in other ways and fulfil many ambitions I had put to one side, including editing an LLL magazine, writing articles and dealing with public relations and media; all things I had dreamed of but, leaving education at 16 and becoming a teenage mother, I never thought I would do. I also discovered I could do things I had never dreamed of, such as giving talks, and representing LLL at events. I gained the confidence to travel overseas on my own, leading to many adventures. I also got to fully comprehend the international reach of LLL and made so many friends from other countries.

There have been several times over the years when I thought my time in LLL was coming to an end. I have even set myself various deadlines for leaving. But each time, I find that I am not ready to leave an organization which has been part of my life for over 45 years. I always think of articles I still want to write, and things I want to do. But more than that, after all these years, I still get such joy and satisfaction from talking to new mothers and being able to offer them support and information that may make a difference to their mothering experience, just as it did for me. I have loved all the opportunities I have had within LLL to take on interesting roles, but nothing beats hearing a mother who had a difficult start tell me how much she is now enjoying breastfeeding. More than anything, being there for other mothers when needed is what has kept me in LLL all these years.

Mary Jeanne Hickey, Weymouth, Massachusetts, United States of America. Accredited more than 55 years ago.

My youngest weaned 49 years ago. Why am I still an LLL Leader? Am I crazy?!

First, I sought out La Leche League for help with breastfeeding. There were no Groups in the Boston area of Massachusetts. I had read a copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding in my childbirth class, taught by a nurse-midwife (both the class and the instructor were very unusual in 1960). I had many difficulties breastfeeding my daughter, but I nursed for nine months, also unusual at that time.

Expecting my second child, and hoping to avoid my previous struggles, I contacted La Leche League. I was given a breastfeeding “pen pal” who was nursing twins. She answered my questions, and I had no problems breastfeeding my baby until he tragically died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) at five and a half months. Second son (no more girls for me) nursed for nearly a year. Again, no problems. I went on to have three more boys.
In July of 1964, LLL announced its first convention, to be held at the La Salle Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, USA. My husband, Charles, decided we should try to go. I learned so much from the Founders and other speakers that when we returned home, I decided to begin an LLL Group in Boston and later a Weymouth Group in the Boston suburb where I lived. I wrote to La Leche League for guidance, received a fairly long questionnaire about breastfeeding, sent it back, and received my Leader certification by return mail! Visiting my parents on Long Island, New York, USA a week or so later, I contacted two nearby Leaders whom I had met at the convention. They gave me the information and courage I needed to start a Group. Both Groups began in October 1964.

As my knowledge of breastfeeding and my ability to help mothers increased, I began to see breastfeeding and La Leche League as my mission. There were many women in the community who could cook and run bake sales, or organize a yard sale, or volunteer for the parents organization, but how many could help a mother breastfeed?

As my children grew, I had more time to share my administrative skills with La Leche League. And there were many opportunities to do so. I took on various jobs in my Area, then the Region, and finally, internationally where I was a liaison with the Affiliates at the time: Canada, French Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, and New Zealand. With every progression of role, LLLI provided the training needed to do the job well. The people skills and organizational know-how I learned were easily transferred to later paid management positions. And at every step of the way, there was fun, with family often included.

We attended LLLI International Conferences as a family with the older children helping other families. My husband and I worked on conference committees, and Charles gave sessions for fathers. Older teens met other teens to hang out with during free time. Some kept in contact over the years. In Massachusetts, I have been spending Labor Day weekend, camping with LLL families for over 50 years.

Working with La Leche League on different levels brought friendship with incredible women and families, around the United States, and around the world. At every stage of life and while raising children, La Leche League conference sessions, publications and friends gave me the best help. When my first grandchildren were not breastfed, the only people who truly understood my deep disappointment were my co-Leaders.

While serving LLLI in various capacities, I remained an active Leader in my original Weymouth Group. For me, there was never greater satisfaction than helping a mother progress from an insecure first-time mom to a confident breastfeeding woman. If she stayed, and contributed to the Group, even becoming a Leader herself, my heart was filled with joy. And there was a bonus. Years later, someone would rush up to me in a restaurant or parking lot for a hug while explaining to those around how much I had helped her, or “saved her life.”

I am still able to contribute, in small ways, to the Area. I have a son who teaches homeless children. They are children who live with their mothers in state shelters. No one understands his philosophy, except the children who love him dearly. He watches some of the La Leche League educational webinars and Zoom lectures with me to help him better understand babies and mothers with stress, trauma, and other issues. Why would I retire?

Leith Kassier, Cornwall, Great Britain. Accredited 1975.

I am 73 years old and still an LLL Leader, I have been active in LLL in three stages: 1975-1982; 2008-2012; 2018-2021 ongoing.) I’ve stayed because I feel for the new mothers who don’t have the correct information and support for breastfeeding from our formula-dominant culture going back generations.

I love that LLL can advocate for the baby’s needs—and the need for the breastfeeding dyad to be together. Our culture just does not seem to have a clue about the baby’s needs and the mother’s need to satisfy her baby’s needs.

Janet McClean, Plimmerton, New Zealand. Accredited 1989.

I continued to stay involved, well after my daughter Phoebe weaned in 2006, mostly because I was involved at the Area level and thought I still had something useful to contribute to our important mission. Working alongside accepting and kind women has always felt encouraging and motivating. I am in awe of so many of my fellow Leaders past and present.

Every role I have had in La Leche League New Zealand has taught me so much. Helping me learn my strengths and also where I need to ask for help (all in progress). I enjoy participating in other volunteer groups in my life but none more so than LLL. I also feel that skills I have learned in LLL have enhanced all my relationships.

Now that I have three grandchildren the support we provide for new parents feels again so personal.

Charlotte Spieth-Hassel, Neckartenzlingen (near Stuttgart), Germany. Accredited 2000.

My oldest daughter turns 30 this week. She was born by an unplanned cesarean section. I had sore and bloody nipples after only a few days and the pediatrician just shrugged her shoulders at my desperate question of what I could do (“go to the doctor”). Only with the help of my family doctor and the support of my husband, I persevered. During pregnancy with my second daughter, I turned to LLL for tips to avoid initial breastfeeding problems. When I had a breast infection one time, I received help from an LLL Leader within a few hours (at that time by fax because I didn’t dare call). That impressed me very much and so, with my third daughter, when I had breastfeeding problems again, I already knew where I could get help: at LLL!

Unfortunately, I could not attend any breastfeeding meetings in my area. But it helped me a lot to know that there was someone somewhere who would listen, take my problems seriously and try to help me.
When my godchild also had breastfeeding problems and I could only help my friend with “you can do it,” “it’s just a phase,” “look how well she’s gaining weight,” I realized that a few words, information and support can have a decisive influence on the success of the breastfeeding relationship. My friend and my mother then encouraged me in my desire to become an LLL Leader.

At the same time, as my youngest started kindergarten, I completed my accreditation process and began to offer breastfeeding meetings in our small village, 30 km (about 20 miles) from Stuttgart. At first, there were only one or two mothers who came, but with time this grew and mothers came from a wide radius (over 60 km)!

Eleven years later, I finally gained a permanent and conscientious co-Leader who, despite traveling 60 km to the breastfeeding meeting, is always thoroughly prepared and we complement each other wonderfully.
Instead of “stopping” now (which was actually my plan), I realized that I am not yet “weaned” and not yet ready for an “end.” Breastfeeding, and my work for LLL is a matter of the heart and it thrills me that even after 21 years I am still learning. I love how a phone call, an email, or a breastfeeding group visit has a positive effect which still shows years later. This fills me with joy, enthusiasm and gratitude.

In the meantime, I no longer “have” to prepare and lead the breastfeeding meetings, but I stand in for my co-Leader or am simply there when I feel like it. I continue to do phone and email help and do a lot of outreach for La Leche League Germany, working out new meeting formats with other Leaders, such as online breastfeeding meetings for postpartum moms, or online breastfeeding information courses for pregnant women.

It is still great fun, and I have the feeling that breastfeeding mothers do not yet regard me as an “old grandma” and that I am no longer needed. And so, I will keep going until I don’t feel like it anymore—just like when I was breastfeeding!
So, I am in the extremely long weaning phase—an end is certain but when, that remains to be seen!

Meine älteste Tochter wird diese Woche 30 Jahre alt. Sie kam mit einem ungeplanten Kaiserschnitt zur Welt. Ich hatte schon nach wenigen Tagen wunde und blutige Brustwarzen und die Kinderärztin zuckte nur mit den Schultern auf meine verzweifelte Frage, was ich tun könne („gehen Sie zum Arzt“). Nur durch die Hilfe meines alten Hausarztes und den Beistand meines Mannes, habe ich dann durchgehalten. In der Schwangerschaft mit meiner zweiten Tochter wandte ich mich an LLL und erhielt Tipps um anfängliche Stillprobleme zu vermeiden. Auch als ich an Ostern eine Brustentzündung hatte, erhielt ich innerhalb von wenigen Stunden (damals noch per Fax weil ich mich nicht getraut habe, anzurufen) Hilfe von einer LLL-Beraterin. Das hat mir sehr imponiert.

Mit der 3. Tochter gab es wieder Stillprobleme- aber ich wusste ja schon, wo ich Hilfe erhalten kann: bei LLL!
Stilltreffen in meiner Umgebung konnte ich leider keine besuchen. Aber das Wissen, dass irgendwo jemand ist, der mir zuhört und meine Probleme ernst nimmt und mir versucht zu helfen, hat mir sehr geholfen.

Als dann bei meinem Patenkind ebenfalls Stillprobleme aufgetaucht sind und ich meiner Freundin nur mit „du schaffst das“, „das ist nur eine Phase“, „schau wie gut sie zunimmt“ helfen konnte, stellte ich fest, dass wenige Worte, Information und Rückenstärkung entscheidenden Einfluss auf den Erfolg der Stillbeziehung haben können. Meine Freundin und meine Mutter bestärkten mich dann in meinem Wunsch, LLL-Beraterin zu werden.

Gleichzeitig mit dem Kindergartenbeginn meiner Jüngsten war ich dann fertig mit der Ausbildung und begann Stilltreffen in unserem kleinen Dorf- 30 km von Stuttgart entfernt anzubieten. Zunächst waren es 1 oder 2 Mütter, die kamen. Aber mit der Zeit wurden es mehr und mehr und sie kamen aus einem weiten Umkreis (über 60 km)!
Zwischendurch hatte ich Unterstützung durch Ursula Weitzel, die – zurück aus Asien- mich trotz weiter Anfahrt unterstützt hat und einer jungen Co-Beraterin, die jedoch nur kurz als LLL-Beraterin tätig war.

Aber nach 11 Jahren hatte ich dann endlich eine dauerhafte und gewissenhafte Co-Beraterin, die trotz 60 km Anfahrt zum Stilltreffen diese seither verlässlich leitet, gründlich vorbereitet und wir ergänzen uns wunderbar.
Aber anstatt nun „aufzuhören“ (was eigentlich mein Plan war), merkte ich, dass ich noch nicht „abgestillt bin“ sondern noch nicht für ein „Ende“ bereit bin. Das Stillen, die Arbeit für LLL ist Herzenssache und es begeistert mich, dass ich auch nach 21 Jahren immer noch dazu lerne – auch von den jungen Eltern – und erleben darf, wie ein Telefonat, eine Mail, ein Stillgruppenbesuch positiv wirkt und noch Jahre später seine Wirkung zeigt.
Das erfüllt mit Freude, Begeisterung, Dankbarkeit.

Inzwischen „muss“ ich nicht mehr die Stilltreffen vorbereiten und leiten, aber springe für meine Co-Beraterin ein oder bin einfach dabei wenn ich Lust dazu habe. Ich mache weiterhin Telefon- und Mailberatung und mache viel Öffentlichkeitsarbeit für LLLD, erarbeite mit anderen Beraterinnen neue Stilltreffen-Formate aus wie Online-Stilltreffen für Mütter im Wochenbett oder Online-Stillinformationskurse für Schwangere.
Es macht noch immer großen Spaß und ich habe das Gefühl, dass mich die Stillenden noch nicht als „alte Oma“ ansehen und ich nicht mehr gebraucht werde. Und somit mache ich noch weiter bis ich keine Lust mehr habe- ganz wie in der Stillzeit….

Ich bin also in der extrem langen Abstill-Phase- ein Ende ist sicher aber wann, das bleibt abzuwarten!

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