My First LLLI Conference
Harper Woods MI USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 5, September-October 2001, p. 169
My youngest son woke up on July 7, 2001, as he usually does—in the wee hours of the morning. I started to nurse him and he soon drifted bark to sleep. I tried to close my eyes again but I just couldn't. Today was the day of my big trip. I was too excited to sleep. As I lay in bed enjoying the stillness of the early morning, my mind raced ahead. Did I remember to pack everything? My toothbrush? What about my extra sling? Should I bring it or leave it at home? There were so many details filling my head, and I was overwhelmed with anticipation.
Hours later, I boarded the airplane to Chicago with my eight-week-old son in my arms. Several fellow travelers gave me slightly worried looks. They were probably thinking, I hope she doesn't sit next to me. Little did they know. As the plane took off I quietly nursed Samuel. The sucking he did helped to ease the pressure build-up in his ears and he soon went to sleep. He woke up a bit later and smiled at my seat mate until it was time to nurse again, as the plane descended. He never fussed a bit and proved to be a great traveling companion for all on the plane.
We soon arrived at our destination—the La Leche League International Conference in Chicago, Illinois. No wonder I was so excited! I had an opportunity to meet with many mothers and families who feel as I do about the importance of breastfeeding in life and in mothering! It was my first LLLI Conference, and I was thrilled to be able to attend. I was looking forward to hearing the speakers, and meeting many friends I had made through online contacts.
The atmosphere in the hotel was incredible. Everywhere I looked, there were loving families. During sessions I saw fathers bringing babies and toddlers in to breastfeed and then leaving again, letting mother gain new knowledge and attend to her children's needs at the same time.
In elevators, people would often gently stroke the back of my son's head. I'm not always comfortable with strangers touching my baby but here, at the LLLI Conference, it seemed natural.
The opening night ceremonies included the Parade of Nations. Children and families walked into the International Ballroom, each carrying a sign representing a nation or an area of LLL. As they entered I looked around me. It was a sea of beautiful faces—women who have breastfed, children who have been breastfed, and the fathers who support breastfeeding and La Leche League. My eyes filled with tears at what I saw. I was overwhelmed by the love in the room.
When friends and family discovered that I was planning on attending the Conference by myself, they were amazed and worried. "Are you sure you can handle the baby yourseIf?" "You sure are brave," they said. But I wasn't worried.
Traveling with a breastfed baby seems so easy. I only needed to bring plenty of diapers and some clothes for Samuel. He is entertained when I smile and sing to him so I didn't need any special toys. He eats only what I make for him with my body, so I didn't need to bring special foods or snacks.
At this age, he is happiest sleeping next to me at night, and curled on my body in a sling during the day. I attended many sessions with my son quietly sleeping through only to wake during the applause at the end.
The few times I did need a bit of assistance, it was always available. One of the wonderful things about attending an LLL event is knowing you can count on the kindness of strangers. At the luncheons I felt at ease asking someone at my table to cut up my meat for me so I could then eat one-handed. I even briefly let someone hold the baby for me in the toilet facility. Everywhere people were more than happy to help.
There was so much to see and do, and so many new friends to meet! The only difficulty was in trying to see and do too much. Samuel started to show some signs of over-stimulation to the constant noise and bright lights. However, I was able to recognize and respond to my babys needs. Between sessions we would go to our hotel room where I would lay him on the bed and gently stroke his tummy. He would soon relax and begin to smile again. It can be hard to get enough sleep at an event this busy. Despite my desire to go, go, go, I attempted to get enough sleep myself, in an effort to avoid plugged ducts that I know can occur when I try to do too much. By making the effort to provide rest and quiet for myself and for Samuel, we avoided unpleasant consequences and enjoyed ourselves.
All in all, the Conference was wonderful. I learned so much and returned home feeling energized and motivated. In fact, I can't wait until San Francisco in 2003!