From: LEAVEN, Vol. 43 No. 3, July-August-September 2007, p. 55
In the span of 50 years, LLL has touched countless lives -- helping mothers and babies in all parts of the world. When we help a mother, we never know how far those ripples will reach. Here are two stories with a common thread from Leaders in different countries. In each story a mother recognizes a Leader by the LLL logo, and it inspires her to pour out her breastfeeding story. Despite the passage of decades, the passion for breastfeeding is still there -- and each of these women has gone on to encourage others to breastfeed. There could not be a more fitting birthday gift for LLL!
-- Nancy Spahr, Contributing Editor
20 Years Ago
Cambridge Great Britain UK
Everyone passes through the photocopy room at the hospital where I am employed four hours a week as a breastfeeding support worker, drawing on my experience as a Leader. (The rate of pay is low, but being privileged to assist at the dawn of a breastfeeding relationship is priceless.)
One day, as I stood at the photocopier, a senior staff member whom I had not met before stopped by, seeing the LLL logo on my bag. "Oh, are you involved with La Leche?" she asked. "Yes, I'm the local Lead..." Before I could get the words out of my mouth, her story tumbled out about the difficult time she had had with her baby 20 years ago, about how talking with a Leader had "saved her life," and how her son is now a strapping man.
She went on to say that she was setting up training sessions in skills to help with breastfeeding for health care assistants in the hospital. Would I be available to help? I jumped at the chance, of course.
What amazed me was the strength of feeling that remained with her after all those years, and the positive image of LLL that she retained. Whoever that Leader was, congratulations! This midwife had developed her own knowledge and skills over the years, building on the foundation of warmth that the Leader had given her. Now she shares not only knowledge and skills, but warmth and passion, too, with the staff she trains.
32 Years Ago
Rolla MO USA
A little over a year ago I was in the post office -- 24 weeks pregnant and holding my sleepy two-year-old, three packages, and my purse. An older woman in front of me offered to hold my packages so that I could hold Lann better. We chatted for a minute about how crowded the post office was. She glanced at my necklace then and said, "I like your necklace. Is that La Leche League?" (I was wearing my logo pendant.) I told her it was, and she said, "LLL saved me about 32 years ago." She proceeded to tell me her story.
Her baby had weighed seven pounds, 13 ounces at birth. At his two-week checkup, he weighed seven pounds, three ounces. The doctor watched her nurse, weighed the baby, and then decreed that she wasn't making enough milk for him. He "ordered" her to give the baby formula. She said she is someone who always follows orders. He had previously ordered that she feed the baby only every four hours and never wake him when he was sleeping. Wanting to nurse before it was "time," her baby had been crying himself to sleep; she wouldn't wake him to nurse when the prescribed four hours had passed because she had been ordered not to wake him. So, he was "starving to death." She went to the store, got all she needed for formula feeding, and went home crying.
When her husband came home, the woman was still crying. He had seen a poster for La Leche League and told her, "Before you give him that stuff, call that La Leche person." She called, and the Leader encouraged her to nurse the baby as often and long as he wanted; so she did. The baby started to perk up and gain weight, and they had no more problems. When she went back to the doctor, he said it looked like his plan was working. She said, "No, I know what really works!" and told him that she was nursing the baby anytime he wanted and that everything was going great. (The doctor then told her that his office could no longer help her and she would need to find a new doctor.) "He never did have a drop of formula!" she reported with obvious happiness. Then she told me that her daughter-in-law is expecting a baby and is going to breastfeed and that she had told her about LLL.
One of the things that stood out to me about this story is that the woman had never gone to any LLL meetings, met the Leader she talked to, nor had any further contact with LLL...and yet she still recognized the logo and felt so positively about her experience that she wanted to tell me about it 32 years later. One funny point is that 32 years before our conversation was six years before I was born! That made me feel a bit sad because the things her doctor told her are not dramatically different from what some mothers are hearing today. I would have hoped things had changed more!