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My First La Leche League Meeting

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ever go someplace where you expect to be the "normal" one and walk away feeling like the "weirdo?"

Went to my first La Leche League meeting this morning. It was pretty...vanilla? I don't know, that's the best way I can think to describe it. I don't know what I was expecting...maybe I thought I'd see four year old nurslings, maybe I thought I'd see a lot of Birkenstocks, maybe I thought I'd be shunned for feeding my child Goldfish crackers, maybe I thought...I don't really know what I thought.

Talk about tame. (And I don't mean that as a slam, though it was a little disappointing.)

I arrived at 9:30am, just as the meeting was supposed to start. There were three other women there. One with a five month old, one with a two year old and an eleven month old and one (the leader) with a fivish-year old. I said hello and introduced myself and the kids, they did the same.

The leader asked me if I'd ever been to a LLL meeting before and I said no. She asked what type of help I was looking for. I said "none really, just wanted to get connected with some other breastfeeding moms." She looked at me a little funny and then launched into some basics on what LLL is all about, including handing me a multi-page brochure. I listened, thanked her for the brochure and sat down.

There were some toys there, so Nora headed off to play with them and I laid Emmitt on the floor in front of me on a blanket.

Then the meeting began. It was strange. The leader passed out slips of paper to each of us to take turns reading, it was sort of a "You know you're a breastfeeding mom when..." kinda thing, cept it wasn't really funny. Instead it was things like "you refer to expressed milk as liquid gold" and "you can eat that extra cookie because you're burning 500 extra calories a day."

Basically? Sorta felt like a big old session of preaching to the choir. After all, would any of us have really been there if we didn't think that breastfeeding was the best? (especially since they all seemed to be regulars and I was the only newbie?) They never bothered to ask what my own background was or what my own experience breastfeeding was.

Eventually it came up a bit in conversation. I think it was around the time that we talked about the calories burned and I volunteered that I used to play the fun game of "how many calories did I shoot through my breasts today." I explained that since I exclusively pumped and was a milk donor, I knew how many calories my milk had and I could simply multiply by the ounces pumped to get my total for the day. (To note, some days I topped 850 calories which is probably why I weighed about 20 pounds less than I do now.) That did start a bit of conversation about my EPing experience and that I was now EBFing Emmitt.

Overall it wasn't a bad experience but it wasn't quite what I was hoping for. I think I was really looking for a place where we could have some good discussions about life as a breastfeeding mom, could maybe share some of our personal experience and so on. Instead, it sort of felt like kindergarten for breastfeeders. Honestly? I think they were pretty tame. The oldest nursling there was 11 months old and as discreet as I am about nursing, most of them there showed even less skin than I do. (Only one nursed during the meeting, then another nursed after while we were chatting.) I actually kinda felt like they might think *I* was weird if they knew I'd done casual sharing or that what Nora was drinking from her sippy cup wasn't cow's milk, but rather breast milk.

That's not to say that I was turned off by the experience. I'm planning on going back next month, though I may also check out another group nearby that meets next week. I realize the group dynamics probably vary a lot and they obviously are going to want to work to make sure everyone feels comfortable. It just wasn't quite what I expected.

Does kinda make me think that what I REALLY want to do is find some IBCLC's to hang out with. ;) I like the clinical talk.

Hmm. Maybe I AM the "freaky, hippy breastfeeding type" that I thought I was trying to avoid.


  1. Anonymous Sara | 1:57 PM |  

    You say you're planning to try another meeting and perhaps check out another nearby group. That's a really good idea. The meetings are all different, it just depends who shows up. And the Leaders are all different, so not all meetings are run the same way. I think if you try for at least a few months, you're bound to run into some other moms of the type that you're looking for.

    Also, the reason that you gave for attending the meeting -- to connect with other breastfeeding moms -- is not strange at all. Many mothers go to LLL for that reason, especially when their babies are "older" (approaching a year old) and everyone else in their playgroups is talking about weaning.

    I also think it's funny that your expectation of LLL attendees is that they'll be mostly of the wacky hippy type. The stereotype that I've always heard, especially about LLL Leaders, is that they're all middle- to upper-middle-class white housewives. And in my group, they're fairly conservative and I don't think there's even one with a tattoo, let alone hairy legs!

  2. Blogger heidi | 2:05 PM |  

    I think you and other likeminded mamas should infiltrate the group. It needs you- sounds bloody boring, like a WIC breastfeeding class- where I was the only one planning to nurse, so why were they there?

    I'm planning on attending a LLL meeting soon. I met the leader at an art show where she approached me to praise me for wearing Molly in a ghetto-looking homemade sling:) The moms in her online chat group seem very AP, granola, cloth-diapering types, so I think I'll be more "vanilla" than they are. I dunno, like you, when I take stock of things- homemade babyfood & sling, cosleeping, planning on nursing until Molly weans herself, etc... I realize I am pretty hippy-fied, at least for Appalachia.

  3. Blogger heidi | 2:07 PM |  

    P.S., Sarah, I just squirted water out of my nose- I forgot to add hairy-legged tattooed chick to my litany of why-I-am-a-hippy;)

  4. Blogger Jennifer | 2:16 PM |  

    Yeah, I think it's all about the individual groups. Just like any other group...church, play-group, school, whatever...they all have so much variation.

    I did meet one mom there that I had a good conversation with. We exchanged emails and I think I'll try to keep in touch with her.

    There's another meeting next week in a nearby town, so I may give that one a try.

    I realize that LLL tries to avoid getting too political and I can respect that, but it just all felt so... basic. I hate to say that because it makes me sound really snotty and uppity, but that's not what I mean. Obviously when new moms show up, they need that kind of support and info.

    But since I was the only new person there and the other moms all gave the impression that they'd been around awhile, I'd think they'd at least ask something about my own experience level. Then it seems like the meeting could have been tailored around the lowest common denominator...

  5. Blogger Soundhunter | 11:09 PM |  

    Wow, I went to a LLL group a few times in Western Canada, and it was FULLY Birkenstocks, people nursing older preschoolers, natural living types. It must really vary from group to group.

  6. Blogger Micky | 4:09 PM |  

    Please consider trying the group you went to again and going to a different group. I live in the Nashville area (Tennessee, USA) and our groups are very eclectic. There are the conservitive christian mamas, radical feminists, cloth diapering, non-vacinating vegetarians and those who wean on the first birthday. It also goes it in cycles. Sometimes I have some working moms, sometimes just stay-at-home, sometimes all cloth diapered, sometimes a few pacifiers, even those supplementing or pumping and bottle feeding and sometimes all hard-core breastfeed-till-they-self wean types. That is what I LOVE about the groups in this area. You get to rub elbows with women who may believe some very different things from you but you at least both believe in breastfeeding as absolutely best for you and your baby. And most are there to get help, support or learn how to be the best mom they can be.
    The meetings (I think) should be basic, inclusive, straight-forward. Depending on who is there, different topics may come up and be deeper but it is not about going into the latest research or talking about lactation science. I would love that, because I am the BiGGEST "lactation nerd". I take CEU credit courses for fun. There are often "enrichment" meetings for topics that fall outside of the 4 meeting topic rotation.

    Maybe that group needs YOU to be a voice of experience and encouragement for the younger moms. That is what it is all about. Most moms think LLL is only for those "having trouble" with breastfeeding. It's nice that you went without having trouble.

    Here is the LLLI philosophy which while it does address other areas of parenthood, is pretty strictly focused on breastfeeding. Yes, most leaders and long time members end up interested in baby wearing, ap parenting and maybe even natural birth or not circumcising that is not the focus. The focus is "Mothering through breastfeeding" and everything else may or may not become a part of the moms belief system and is not part of LLL philosophy. For many moms it is the beginning of their journey into crunchiness or at least less mainstream parenting ideals. I would bet the leader is pretty crunchy if you got to know her. She has to leave some mystery, right? You just met her!

    LLLI Philosophy
    Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.
    Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply.
    In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food.
    Breast milk is the superior infant food.
    For the healthy, full-term baby, breast milk is the only food necessary until the baby shows signs of needing solids, about the middle of the first year after birth.
    Ideally the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.
    Alert and active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.
    Breastfeeding is enhanced and the nursing couple sustained by the loving support, help, and companionship of the baby's father. A father's unique relationship with his baby is an important element in the child's development from early infancy.
    Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
    From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.


  7. Anonymous tash | 6:15 PM |  

    I went to three diffrent LLL groups in your area. and I do mean diffrent. My personal favorite was the T&T group. You might like them. :)

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