La Leche League: My Safe Space
Adina Pearlman, Old Bridge, New Jersey.
La Leche League has been a staple in my life since I was five years old. My mother breastfed my brother and me until we were a little over a year and then stopped cold turkey. My mother found LLL with my sister and “wanted to get it right.” She nursed my sister until she weaned herself during kindergarten.
I spent my childhood running around at a LLL meeting space with the children (of other meeting attendees). My mother thrived and soaked in the extra support. She gained breastfeeding knowledge, but more importantly, she acquired a sense of self.
With this newfound confidence, she became a Leader. Over the next 15 years I’d hear her on the phone providing support and information to new mothers. Her Breastfeeding Answers book in front of her, my father in the background saying, “Well did you tell them to try…” and her waving him away (but sometimes his answers were right – he was a proud, supportive breastfeeding father): this was how she chose to spend her small amount of free time.
For my family, breastfeeding is the norm. My mother, two of my aunts, and both of my grandmothers breastfed. To me, human milk is right for human babies. I knew I would breastfeed. When looking for a partner, being supportive of breastfeeding was nonnegotiable.
When I was seven months pregnant with my son, I went to my first meeting as an expectant mother. My mother urged me to go. I didn’t think I needed to; I assumed breastfeeding would come naturally to me. I went, though, and I felt childhood memories come back to me as I watched the other mothers discuss their experiences and ask their questions.
Following a traumatic birthing experience, I struggled with breastfeeding. My son’s latch was fine, but my milk didn’t transition in until day seven. By day four, my instincts told me he wasn’t getting the milk he needed and he dropped in weight by over a pound. (I now know that dropping weight is common, especially after births with medical intervention.) My mother was at my side with all of her LLL knowledge and experience. She had me calling local Leaders, and she reached out to her old co-Leaders for help finding a great lactation consultant. We supplemented using an SNS. I felt broken and alone, even with the support of my family and spouse.
My son was three weeks old when the next LLL meeting rolled around. My mother insisted I go to get out of the house and to be around like-minded mothers. I was exhausted, still stressed about my milk supply, and had to return to work in a week. I didn’t know what I would get out of this meeting, but La Leche League turned out to be the light in my postpartum darkness.
La Leche League was a safe space for me. I found support and connection at my first meeting as a breastfeeding mother. Regardless of our other parenting choices, we were all breastfeeding. La Leche League has been a learning experience. I’ve been taught that there are different ways to feed your baby human milk and to be proud of all of them. Whatever your supply level, whether you work or stay at home, if you nurse publicly or with a cover, La Leche League welcomes you and encourages all its participants to accept each other.
These meetings build confidence, bring mothers together, and create a community. The Leaders make the time to answer breastfeeding questions and encourage us to trust our parenting instincts. I’ve found a calling in La Leche League, partially because I want to give back the support I received to new parents struggling with breastfeeding, but also, for the first time I feel a sense of respect and appreciation for my LLL Leader mother. As my family moves back to New Jersey to be closer to my parents, I’ll be attending meetings with her old Group. This reminds me of what an integral part La Leche League has played in my mother’s life and mine. It has made us stronger, more confident breastfeeding parents with a deeper connection to each other.
I am proud to be part of the La Leche League community and eager to see how it continues to support my growth as a breastfeeding parent.
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