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Leading and Managing an LLL Group in Cape Town, South Africa

from LEAVEN, Vol. 34 No.2, April - May 1998, pp. 27
by Rosemary Gauld
Bellville, Cape Town, South Africa

This is my 21st year as an LLL Leader. I have been in Cape Town for 17 of these years as a Leader of the Durbanville Group. I have three daughters, aged 22,19 and 16, all of whom were breastfed, thanks to the encouragement and support of LLL.

In this beautiful part of South Africa, we have eight active Leaders, three Leader Applicants and three Groups to cover as wide an area as possible. The Groups have changed in structure over the years and it is interesting to see how they are presently functioning.

The Southern Suburbs Group meets on Friday afternoons because the Leader works as a school librarian during the day. Attendance is booming with a core of nine regular mothers; at the last meeting, there were 14 mothers.

The Tableview and Durbanville Groups hold morning meetings and are not as busy. Many mothers return to work so attendance is lower. Recently at the Durbanville Group meeting, three Leaders, one Leader Applicant and four mothers attended. This is something of an imbalance and we are very aware of the need to do some advertising within the local community and in the newspapers.

Cape Town has many "breastfeeding clinics" which have sprung up over the years and we have felt that this is another reason our meeting attendance has dropped. Some mothers choose to go to these clinics, which charge a fee and offer inoculations and other well-baby services. Bottle-feeding advice is also offered at these clinics that are mainly connected to local hospitals.

We have long been puzzled as to why the word "breastfeeding" is attached to these clinics when the breastfeeding advice given is generally full of misinformation. Test-weighing is routinely performed at every visit and the course of breastfeeding is plotted based on these results. If the intake is "too high," the mother will be told to restrict breastfeeding and give water "in between"; if "too low," the mother will be advised to give formula in a bottle after every breastfeed.

The giving of Rooibos (herbal) tea, juice and water is also encouraged from a very early age. However, as mothers are becoming more informed about breastfeeding, we are receiving calls from those who are either concerned or angry at what they have been advised to do at one of these clinics. The people running these clinics are trained by an organization which believes in putting the mother first rather than viewing the mother and baby as an inseparable dyad.

At the end of last year, we decided to invite every mother who had ever attended the Durbanville Group to a party. Mothers who had attended when my own children were small came and we were able to reminisce at length about the "good old days." Many remembered me leading meetings with my youngest daughter firmly attached to my breast. She is now almost 17 years old, as are many of the babies who came along with their mothers in those far distant days.

Among the mothers who came to the party were some who had long-term nursing relationships with their children. I know that I would not have been able to experience natural weaning if I had not been exposed to this facet of breastfeeding through LLL. This was the general feeling of other mothers of older children, too. We were able to reflect on how well-adjusted our children have turned out, in spite of all those dire warnings from well-meaning friends and relatives that these children would always be dependent on us or "spoilt."

The Tableview and Southern Suburbs Groups meet in mothers' homes and the Durbanville Group meets in the local Library. Venues have varied for each of the Groups over the years and there is no clear consensus as to whether a home is more suitable than a community place. When my children were small it was much easier to hold meetings in my own home rather than travel elsewhere with all three of them plus all the books and meeting paraphernalia. Now that I am into the next phase of my life, my home is decidedly not baby-friendly with all my favorite trinkets and potplants very much within reach of tiny exploring fingers.

To be one of three Leaders in a Group is a very positive bonus and affords us a great deal of freedom to be more flexible in other areas. Our LLLI Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program has a full schedule. If I am running the 10-week course, the other two Leaders are able to take care of Group concerns. One of the other Leaders is also a Regional Administrator of Leaders (RAL) and her workload sometimes means that she needs to sit at her computer rather than attend to the Group. Our third Leader has two young children who sometimes need her more than the Group does. In spite of all these other activities, meetings are still able to be held.

All Leaders and Leader Applicants come together monthly at Chapter Meetings. We plan to change their format from pure business discussion to include enrichment, book reviews, and time to socialize.

LLL in Cape Town is active and alive and it continues to be an enriching experience that helps mothers and babies enjoy a very special breastfeeding relationship.

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