‘In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food.’ This is one of the 10 philosophy statements of La Leche League international and just one of the 10 that as a Leader, I have made a commitment to. I sign an annual statement of commitment to being a Leader, to provide my continued support to mothers who need help to breastfeed.
When I was lying in hospital, almost 6 years ago, trying to work out how to breastfeed my twins, with confusing, contradictory information, wishing I had been better prepared; I reached out and called the La Leche League helpline. First, I spoke to a Leader who was in the UK (I don’t know where!) she was calm, kind and reassuring. She asked my local Leader, Caroline, to call me. I remember the feeling of relief as I finally spoke to some people who seemed confident in my ability to breastfeed my twins. My mum was an amazing support too (having breastfed all 3 children) but somehow, speaking to a La Leche League Leader, someone who was trained to support breastfeeding mothers, helped me to believe in myself.
As time went on, I started attending meetings, I began reading the books in the LLL library, I joined as a member and then I was asked about Leadership. I was so excited! I went along to workshops and a conference that LLLGB were organising. I remember feeling a little scared and intimidated, surely I couldn’t become one of these confident, strong women who worked tirelessly to support breastfeeding mothers. I couldn’t believe I would be good enough.
However, I started the training and I loved it. I loved the knowledge I started to gain, the skills that I developed along the way and after two years I was an accredited La Leche League Leader.
When my children were little, I took them with me to the workshops and conference. I sat at the back and tandem fed them on the floor (easiest place if there are chairs with narrow arms, you can’t fit two babies in between to feed them!)
Now they are older, I am able to leave them for the day with my husband. They have a great time with daddy and I get a day out. The most recent workshop was in London. Going to workshops is a great way to connect with Leaders, we don’t work in an office together so we rarely get to see each other although we do talk a lot online. We also get to meet members from other LLL groups who are starting their journey, just as I did, thinking that Leadership may one day be for them. And it’s a great way to get a more in depth idea of what the organisation is about and the breadth of work that is done.
This time we learnt about the amazing LLL Leaders from Greece who are supporting refugee mothers in desperate situations, yes I was sobbing at the end of that session. We learnt about the work being done by a Leicestershire Leader who is supporting mothers in vulnerable situations often involving families living in poverty. We also learnt about statistics – yes we have the fun job of reporting on our figures every quarter, but it’s a great way to see how many mothers we are supporting year round. We learnt about the invaluable work of the LLL helpline, a resource which is available 24/7 and how much it means to mothers. We learnt about LLL antenatal sessions which are being rolled out over the UK and are very much looking forward to doing a pilot in Southampton later this year. We learnt about the importance of not mixing causes, LLL is a group which is purely for breastfeeding, whilst there may be overlaps or other good causes which we would like to be involved in, we stay focused on breastfeeding, meaning that we can support all mothers and not make anyone feel that LLL is not open to them.
I feel incredibly proud to be part of this wonderful organisation. Some days I still can’t believe I am a Leader. Everytime a mother thanks me, tells me her situation improved thanks to my help, supports other mothers by attending our group and shares the LLL support, I feel all warm and fuzzy. It’s a great feeling; I love what I do.
LLL Leaders are mothers, like you 🙂