Tuesday, 6 March 2012

La Leche League Conference 2012

Here is a first-hand account of the La Leche League conference which happened at the weekend. I really wish I could have made it, by all accounts it was a fantastic weekend, really informative and validating from a parenting perspective.

My friend Mairead Murphy, an I.B.C.L.E. accredited Lactation Consultant who runs www.betterbreastfeeding.ie kindly wrote this account for us at The Mama's Hip:

   "I spent the weekend at the annual La Leche league conference in Sligo .We stayed in the Clarion Hotel under the watchful presence of beautiful Ben Bulben-a really intriguing mountain.This is my 14th year attending the LLL conference and being there this year I just know it will not be my last!To be a mom and stay in a hotel that is populated with moms,dads,little babies in slings,baby carriers,arms and buggies,toddlers so happy to be exploring new places and meeting new faces under the watchful eye of mom or dad,.This year I met some of the teens that had come for the weekend -i knew them when they were tiny people snuggled to their mothers' breasts,being carried and slept with and listened to and loved and fed again when they woke from a snooze.I mothered my first baby in a simple way-if it felt good i did it,if it felt wrong i didn't.However I got so many negative comments from neighbours,relatives and strangers on the street!!!'You are making a cross for your back by carrying that baby all the time'...'you should not let her in your bed -she needs to learn to sleep alone'...'let her cry it out,she'll learn'.I went to my first LLL meeting when my baby was 9 weeks old...it was like coming home.It was so wonderful,such a relief and a joy to be amongst people who revel in babies being babies,people who recognise and appreciate  the neediness and dependence of the helpless human baby and who luxuriate in meeting baby's needs through their mothering. And here I am nearly 17 years later,mom of 4 lovely children and none of the prophesies came to pass-all 4 children outgrew the need to be in my arms for most of the time,they moved onto solid food and in their own time outgrew their need to breastfeed,they move out of our bed and into their own roomsthey have no separation issues and are respectful,affectionate and loving towards us.
                          Being a mother these days can potentially be a lonely business-many of us do not now live near our extended family.Many mothers seek information and reassurance from the miles of parenting books on shop shelves.Some of these books talk about a baby like he is a little dictator who needs to  be trained into submission...to be a 'good baby',to ignore his instincts that the safest place for a baby to be is ...near mom.
                         At this year's conference I met up with moms of my own vintage-but as always I met many new moms who were there with first babies-They nursed their babies while listening to the various speakers -Diane Wiessinger...Diane co wrote The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding and is a LLL leader,lactation consultant and a mom.She spoke about new approaches (actually ancient ways) to latching on baby-babies need to get to the breast themselves and know how to latch on.She showed beautiful slides of many kinds of mammals(including human babies) feeding from their mothers  and showed how all of us mammals need to extend our heads and reach up to latch on effectively.We also listened to Wendy Jones who spoke about helping breastfeeding mothers find the right medication when they need medication.Wendy said-we need to stop saying 'you can't breastfeed when you take this medication' but rather say 'what medication is safe for this breastfeeding mother to take?'.Can you see that huge difference in approach?!
                       Jonas Himmelstrand informed us about the lifestyle in Sweden-yes the breastfeeding rates are very high but almost 100% of children are full time in creche from the age of 18 months and the Goverment are discouraging mothers from staying at home.In the space of a few decades the Swedish culture has changed utterly with high rates of marital breakdown,abortion and teen violence  now the apparent outcome of a complete devaluing of family life and mother-child bond.Parents who choose to go against the system and keep their children at home and home educate them are now having their children removed from their care! Ireland beware!
Marie O Connor brought us a bleak picture of childbirth in Ireland in 2012-no homebirth after a c-section,overcrowded understaffed maternity hospitals and closure of smaller maternity hospitals,Active Management Of Labour still being used widespread,our Government ministers and obstetricians claiming the the symphysiotomies performed up until the 1960's  were actually  warranted.Marie urged us to campaign to our public representatives -raise the issue of birth and homebirth and womens' choice in child birth.
                                     We had other wonderful sessions on so many varied topics-family finances,financial rights,playful parenting,parenting 8-12 year olds,book club and much more.

                                                          And then of course there was the apres sessions !! Delicious get togethers with other moms-new and not so new -sharing of memories ,plans,mothering stories,life,loss,love and some chocolate.Uproarious laughter and  a few tears.Recipes swopped ,email addresses swoppedThere was a great feeling of kinship there-the parents and the more experienced moms who are there to help with breastfeeding queries or just to offer support and contact-La leche League,Cuidiu,Friends of Breastfeeding.Years ago Annie Lennox sang 'Sisters are doin it for themselves'.....we still are Annie ,we still are."

I am so inspired reading this, not 4 years yet into our parenting journey, all I've had to go on was blind faith that this attachment parenting approach was going to pay off in the long run. I'd read books on the long-term benefits; more confident, secure children, and a deeper bond with them, but had never met anyone who had parented this way (to my knowledge!) So to read Mairead's account, and see how it has benefitted her family gives me great confidence. When I meet people on the street, I get "Oh two boys, God love you when they hit their teens" , but I'm sure we'll weather the teenage years the way we weathered the "terrific twos", with love and patience (but without breastfeeding to resort to to tame the temper!).

Mairead has a breastfeeding course coming up at the end of March, and holds them regularly for expectant parents in the Dunboyne / Clonea / Blanchardstown areas. For more information, or for a one-on-one session please contact her at mairead.murphy@betterbreastfeeding.ie
She is on Facebook as Better Breastfeeding.

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