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Conference Report: Mother-to-Mother and Leader-to-Leader Support at the LLLI Conference

Karen McGratty
Brooklyn NY USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 5, October-November 2006, p. 106.

As I walked through the hotel door with bags in hand and baby in tow, I was eager to be back with my LLL family. It felt wonderful to be surrounded by such amazing people all tied together by our dedication to help mothers breastfeed their babies. This was the first LLLI Conference that I attended as a Leader. I learned later that there were more than 1,500 adults and over 1,200 babies and children present! As I walked around the grounds of the hotel, there were mothers breastfeeding their babies everywhere. What a beautiful sight to behold. At an LLLI Conference, breastfeeding is the cultural norm.

I arrived on Saturday and attended the Parade of Nations, where flags representing 65 countries and territories worldwide were carried by Leaders and members. As I watched mothers and Leaders from around the globe walk through the International Ballroom proudly representing La Leche League and breastfeeding, I could not stop the tears in my eyes.

The Conference offered many informative and thought provoking sessions. It was very hard to choose which ones to attend. I felt honored to attend a session presented by Dr. Jack Newman, who spoke about "Breastfeeding a Toddler? Why on Earth? Is There Any Reason To Do It?" After listening to him, I asked myself, "Is there any reason not to do it?!" I have recommended his books to mothers in our Group and I thanked him personally for all the work he does to encourage breastfeeding to his patients and colleagues through his literature and public speaking. It is wonderful knowing we have doctors like Dr. Newman advocating for breastfeeding.

I also attended a session by Marsha Walker, RN, IBCLC and Marta Trejos, MS, titled, "Counteracting the Marketing of Human Milk Substitutes." Afterwards, I was emotionally charged and better educated regarding what we can do on a global level to promote breastfeeding and to stop the large infant food companies from presenting potentially dangerous misinformation to their consumers.

In LLL, we provide mother-to-mother support. However, there are times we, as Leaders, need some support as well. At the Conference, there were many examples of Leaders helping Leaders from around the world. The LLL of New York-East (USA) Area Coordinator of Leaders (ACL), Kristin Carter, and Area Secretary, Gail David, made me feel welcome and helped me when I needed them. I would also like to add a special word of thanks to the LLL Group from the Dominican Republic for sharing their table with us when there were no other spaces at a lunch session. And when my daughter, Erin, was crying, two mothers knocked on the door of my hotel room to ask if they could do anything to help. To quote my ACL, Kristin, "This is what LLL is all about."

On Sunday evening, the nations of LLLI gathered to hold a "World Faire." Each country set up a table to exhibit what breastfeeding and LLL is like in their part of the globe. LLLI is made of diverse groups of mothers from many different places, and yet we are united by our commitment to breastfeed our children and help other mothers breastfeed their babies.

The Conference is a place to meet new friends and families who parent with gentleness. It is a place for people who are interested in encouraging, supporting, promoting, and protecting breastfeeding to gather. It was my privilege to be among these great people. On behalf of Leaders from all over the world, I appreciate everyone who helped make this Conference the wonderful event that it turned out to be. In a perfect world, life would be exactly like it is at the LLLI Conference. I'm looking forward to the 2007 LLLI Conference in Chicago, Illinois, USA, where we will celebrate 50 years of helping mothers to breastfeed their babies!

Karen McGratty is a Leader in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, USA. She has been a Leader since March 2005. She has a daughter, Erin (21 months), who is a happy and healthy breastfed toddler. Karen works alongside her co-Leaders, Marjorie Vera and Ann De Jesus Negron. She believes that becoming an LLL Leader is the second best job in the world, second only to being a breastfeeding mother.

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