I'm home from one of the nicest days out in a long while (no offence to those I've been spending my time with!)
The annual La Leche League conference is being held in Maynooth this weekend, and I'm telling you, if you ever feel like the only breastfeeder in Ireland, get your ass down to it tomorrow to soak up the atmosphere.
This was my first year attending, it has been on my radar for the last few years, since I became aware of LLL, but money has kept me away until now. (If it's held too far away I'd need to book a hotel etc) so I had no excuse. I am SO glad I went. I got to sit in a room full of maybe 600 breastfeeding mothers listening to Dr. Jack Newman talk. I met friends new and old. Faces from Facebook became reality. Blog readers came up to thank me for sharing my story. I learned of a regular breastfeeding group I can walk to. Other tandem feeding mothers shared their experiences with me. Other mothers feeding older children, wearing babies in slings, home educating, co-sleeping... my whole tribe were there. Oh my god I was moved to tears with gratitude for just meeting so many beautiful friendly people.
Babies slept on boobs, toddlers fed on laps, children were danced to sleep in slings, dads wore babies and minded each others children. Mothers chatted, shared information, hugged, gave support. For one glorious day we could nurse in public without fear of disapproval.
I really wish I'd begun to meet with other like-minded mothers during my first pregnancy. It would have given me so much more confidence and strength to weather the judgements that I was subjected to. It's really only in the last year that I've begun to meet other mothers in "real life" who mother the way I do, and I feel an invisible support net around me now.
La Leche League, like Cuidiu, like Friends of Breastfeeding, are out there, in every corner of Ireland, and if not in your neighbourhood, you can create a mother-to-mother support network of your own, contact any of them for advice.
Back to the conference. The hotel had great facilities, Jack Newman was informative and engaging, and everything was run so smoothly. But for me the biggest thrill was seeing happy children and happy parents everywhere. It was like Disneyland with boobs. I was remarking this to a new friend I just met today, and another happy mom stopped me and said " I was just saying that!"
So if you can't make it this year, put it in your calendar for next year, and join up with some online groups (Facebook is full of them, at least in Ireland) and real-life friends. It can mean the difference between a 6 week or a 6 month or a 6 year breastfeeding experience. And you don't need me to list the benefits here, you know them already. Peer support is crucial. Go get it!
(And before I walked in there I was nervous as hell that I'd have nobody to talk to, so I'm not the world's most extroverted person, but if I can do it you certainly can!)