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Mother-to-Mother Connections

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 9, July-August 2002, p. 152

Our readers shared the following stories as part of the celebration of mother-to-mother connections described in the past two issues of New Beginnings. These stories show the depth of feeling common among women in La Leche League. Our style of support, information, and encouragement enriches both the recipient and the giver beyond the value of breastfeeding for mother and child. Women continue to use the problem-solving skills and new perspectives they learn through LLL for the rest of their lives.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this celebration in any way, whether it was through sending an e-greeting card or making a donation to LLLI.

The Seven Founders of LLLI

Susan Switzer
Atlanta GA USA

Dear Betty, Edwina, Mary Ann, Marian, Mary, Mary Ann, and Viola,

I am in the midst of a woman's retreat where, as a group, we have just listed the women of our communal past who have paved the way and led us to where we are today-women from Eve through Mother Teresa and Rosa Parks. We have now been asked to think of a woman in our own past who demonstrated and taught love, peace, strength, power, and acceptance and to journal to her.

As the list of historical women was recited, I whispered to my friend (and former LLL co-Leader) that you seven women belonged among them. And so it is that I chose to journal and share with you.

The example set by the seven of you has led to a revolution in relationships within families and among families. In standing firmly and proudly for the value of breastfeeding and mothering, you gave us the power to change (and I believe, save) the world. Both directly and through succeeding "generations" of Leaders, your continued and unfailing example of courage, strength, love, commitment, acceptance, and womanhood has served as my inspiration both for the kind of mother I want to be and for the kind of person I want to be. It has been my pleasure and a privilege to pass it along to the many mothers and new Leaders with whom I have worked with over the years. I thank you from the bottom of my heart

Gentle Guidance

Lenora S. Mesibov
Tappan NY USA

When my first child, Rachel, was born four-and-a-half weeks early she was very small and had no sucking reflex. She lost 12 percent of her birth weight and my milk had not come in by day four. The pediatrician had told me to pump and supplement her with a bottle-feeding every four hours. This led to nipple confusion, sore nipples, sore breasts, and general family misery.

With my husband's insistence, I phoned my local La Leche League Leader, Maddy Malfa. She was so kind and gentle on the phone. It was 9 pm and I was near hysteria, overtired, and overwhelmed. She talked to me through my tears and discussed proper latch-on, and milk expression. She also let me know that for tonight it was okay to feed my baby with a bottle, "The most important thing right now is to get the baby fed; we will fix this tomorrow. But keep pumping to get that milk supply up."

Chonyi, a lactation consultant, spent a week with Rachael and me teaching us to nurse, teaching my husband to finger feed, teaching me to relax, and helping us all feel better.

The following week, I attended my first LLL meeting. Maddy was there along with 25 other nursing mothers. Four of us were there with newborns and having major difficulties! Maddy lined us up on the couch at the end of the meeting and asked us to show her how our babies were nursing. I never imagined I would be sitting in a room full of strangers breastfeeding my three-week-old baby with my breast exposed. But Maddy was so genuinely tender, giving, and unself-conscious that she made each of us feel uninhibited enough to focus on her straightforward guidance. I even felt comfortable enough to let her show me how to get Rachel latched on correctly. Maddy spent two hours at that meeting and many hours on the phone helping me nurse my baby.

A year later, she invited me to become a Leader. Throughout my application, she stood by me, guided me, coached me, and gave me lots of loving support. When I watch Maddy with her two children, I see these same qualities in her mothering style.

She is a gentle, loving person who makes all those around her smile. Without her mother-to-mother support I would have never nursed successfully, much less for over three years. I am a Leader, an Area Conference Supervisor, and a better mother because of Maddy. Anytime I meet someone who knows Maddy, they always have the same comment, "Don't you just love Maddy? She is one of the best friends I have, she just gives and gives." I will forever be grateful to her.

Sister-to-Sister Support

Jennifer Salamon
Bethlehem PA USA

On August 3, 2001, I gave birth to my first child. A beautiful healthy daughter named Cora Rose. My birthing experience was good, but Cora would not latch on. For 15 hours, I sought help from hospital employees, and was offered pacifiers and bottles. Even sugar water, without my consent, was put onto my nipple. Still, there was no latch on.

After not getting any sleep for 48 hours and Cora crying for a good portion of her first 24, my husband and I decided that we needed help. I called my sister, Angie McIntyre, and she arrived a little over an hour later.

She walked in the hospital room with a big smile on her face, an LLL bag filled with information, and good food. She greeted Mark, my mother, and me then started to rub her hands together to warm them.

Taking Cora she walked to calm her while guiding me on how I should be positioned to be comfortable. Then, she simply brought Cora to me, placed her in my arms and directed her head onto my breast. Latch on! Cora nursed for 40 minutes. It was a moment we will never forget.

Over the next few weeks, Angie was like a personal lifeline to me. There were many times I would call her crying, tired, frustrated, and feeling guilty because I just thought I couldn't do it anymore. With no pressure, just kind and loving guidance, Angie would put everything into perspective, reassure me that it would get easier and that the rewards were endless.

Today, I am still nursing Cora and plan to naturally wean. I often think about where I might be if I never had Angie's support. I also think of all the mothers and children she has helped over the years as an LLL Leader. As Angie puts it, what she does is a privilege. Well, it is a privilege for me to call her my sister. Thank you, Angie, for making these endless rewards possible for my family.

Neighborly Encouragement

Jill Cunningham
Avondale Estates GA USA

I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Jameson in October of 2001. Naturally, I thought that breastfeeding would be the easiest thing in the world and getting any sort of support for this was the least of my concerns. When Jameson was born there were 11 other newborns in the hospital. Consequently, the lactation consultant on staff didn't have much time for me and you can imagine how busy the nurses were. I put Jameson to my breast as soon as he was born and he kind of lay there with his mouth open and I thought, "Well, this is no big deal." Little did I know he wasn't even latched on!

On day two when my nurse midwife came in and helped me, Jameson finally latched on and I remember thinking "Oh, so this is it!" After that there were hardly a few hours in the day when he wasn't latched on!

Jameson was a high-need (fussy) baby, a lazy eater, and he liked to use me as a pacifier. Of course I was a mess. I thought to myself, "This is not what I had in mind" and "I can't do this." I was very used to being independent and suddenly I felt trapped in my home with this baby who always nursed or cried. I was very seriously contemplating quitting when a little angel appeared at my door.

Her name is Kelly Marcuzzi and she is my neighbor as well as a new mother of 10-month-old Sydney. We only knew each other by briefly talking in the neighborhood or waving to each other at church, but she knew I had just had my baby. She had stopped by to bring me a meal. When I answered the door, I must have had that look of all first-time mothers on my face: a combination of sheer exhaustion, fear, and happiness. She could tell by the wild look in my eyes that I needed help and help is what she gave me. She offered to take me to a La Leche League meeting with her the next week and I accepted, all the while thinking that La Leche League was some radical group and I wouldn't get too much out of it.

When I got to the meeting, the Leader immediately asked for questions and off I went. All of the mothers in the Group shared with me their similar experiences and offered some wisdom about my baby's character traits. I was able to borrow some books by Dr. Sears from the Group Library, which helped me learn about the high-need child.

Most of all I was able to understand that I was not alone in these problems and that they were all very common. I left that meeting feeling as if I was on cloud nine. Just knowing that I wasn't alone and getting some helpful hints from experienced mothers on how to cope meant the world to me. I have been a La Leche League member ever since. Now I am able to help other brand new mothers who are experiencing these same issues and they can look at my happy, contented child and know that there is hope.

The other thing that my friend, Kelly, taught me is that there is not just one way to parent a child. I remember thinking that my dirty little secret was that my child was sleeping with me. Kelly assured me that this was okay and in fact she introduced me to the idea of attachment parenting. The mothers at La Leche League also supported this idea and even encouraged me to go out and buy a king-sized bed! Kelly opened up a whole new, non-judgmental way of looking at things for me. She taught me to listen to my instincts and know that I am a good mother no matter what my style of parenting. She encouraged me to continue breastfeeding, and brought me a support pillow and THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING. She supported me through the rough times and I eventually discovered that what started out as one of the toughest things I have ever done eventually turned into the easiest thing I have ever done. Now I feel as if nursing my baby is the most natural and easy thing in the world to do. It makes me calm and it teaches me to slow down and savor these moments.

Jameson, of course, is thriving and weighs a whopping 18 pounds. He is happy and secure and I owe so much to Kelly and La Leche League for offering much needed guidance and support. I couldn't have done it without either one of them and for that I will be forever grateful.

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