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La Leche League Participates in the First National Breastfeeding Conference in Spain

Connie Little
Bilbao, Spain
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 36 No. 3, June-July 2000, p. 43

"Pack your bags! In the International Division we don't hope for miracles, we count on them!"

That's what Carmen Vandenabeele, Co-Director of the International Division, said to Monica Tesone when she needed $1,100 for the plane ticket from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Valencia, Spain. Of course, Carmen didn't have the money either, but a spur of the moment fund raising drive, fueled by customary LLL enthusiasm, resulted in nothing short of a miracle.

Monica Tesone, Area Professional Liaison for Argentina, emailed me just three weeks before the First National Breastfeeding Congress in Spain, which had been organized by Spanish health professional societies and indirectly by the Spanish Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Committee. Monica had submitted her poster abstract to the Scientific Committee for the Congress and it had been accepted. She had already secured a waiver for the conference registration fee, but she needed the money for her travel expenses.

Well, this was an opportunity I couldn't refuse! We in LLL Iberia (which includes Spain and Portugal) had been frustrated because we hadn't been able to plan our own participation in the Congress Poster Session, and Monica's acceptance was just what we needed. I contacted my LLL support person, Carmen Vandenabeele, to see what could be done to get Monica to Spain. Carmen said, "Great minds think alike. I've just earmarked $200 for Monica's travel expenses." Graziana de Bozzo of LLL Chile had already begun fund raising in Latin America via enLLLace* and LLL Iberia pledged $200. My own Group in Bilbao matched that.

In just one week, with appeals through email, we had almost enough money for the ticket. Paulina Smith, Executive Director of LLLI, responded immediately with the exact balance needed to purchase the ticket Monica had reserved "just in case."

But the donations kept on coming. A total of $1,900 was pledged from all over the world by Leaders, Groups, Areas, the International Division, and LLLI. The extra funds have been put aside to use for other urgent situations in the International Division.

Once we knew that Monica was coming to Spain, I began to think of attending the Congress myself. Bettina Gerbeau, APL Iberia, and Gina Negro, an American Leader living in Madrid, were already planning to attend.

I decided to join them, so four LLL Leaders attended the Congress. It was an interesting meeting. Monica is an active participant in LACMAT.* This fact, in addition to Monica's outgoing and friendly personality, allowed us to meet many interesting people involved in breastfeeding promotion both in and outside Spain.

Monica's poster was titled "Weaning after the First Year" and offered a weaning technique based on ideas from THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING and MOTHERING YOUR NURSING TODDLER. It was presented in a way that was attractive to health professionals. Many people asked for copies of Monica's paper which included arguments and a bibliography in favor of "prolonged" breastfeeding, as it is called in Spain. This aspect of Monica's poster was supported indirectly by one of the Congress speakers, Kathryn Dewey, from the Department of Nutrition, University of California (who speaks excellent Spanish, by the way). Dr. Dewey, responding to a question about how long children should nurse, said that it was common in many parts of the world for children to be nursing at age four. We were delighted with this response because the idea of a child who walks and talks and nurses is still pretty shocking here in Spain. It is always nice when a renowned expert recognizes this aspect of breastfeeding.

We are very grateful to Monica for the excellent information she shared with us and for making it possible for LLL to participate actively in the Valencia Congress. An abstract of her poster has been published in the Proceedings of the Congress.

We are also grateful to Leaders, Groups, and Areas of Latin America and Europe who supported us so generously in our efforts and also to Paulina Smith who gave us the final sum we needed, the moment we needed it. We want to thank Carmen Vandenabeele for transmitting her faith that together we could make it all happen.

Thanks to all of you, LLL Iberia, a growing Area with plenty of growing pains, has received a much needed boost to our self-esteem. Thank you for helping us grow and for showing us that we matter to you. This is the LLL spirit we need for the future!

*Editor's note: LACMAT is the Spanish Language version of LACTNET, an email list for lactation consultants and others who work in the field of lactation management; enLLLace is the Spanish Language version of The Leader Connection (TLC), an unofficial, private email list for Leaders.

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