Originally posted April 23, 2012.
Celebrating 50 Years in New Jersey: La Leche League of the Garden State Area Network Conference
April 20 – 22
I want to start this article off with the disclaimer. I am not writing this article to make anyone feel guilty about their personal decisions or circumstances surrounding about infant feeding methods. I’m just giving a personal account about something that helped me more than I can describe in words and is a big part of my emotional life and thought processes on a daily basis, even if I don’t directly talk about it.
This weekend, I had the pleasure of exhibiting at the La Leche League of the Garden State’s Annual Conference: Celebrating 50 Years in New Jersey. I wanted to exhibit at this conference as a way of giving back to this organization. La Leche League of New Jersey provided me with invaluable social and breast-feeding support during one of my most painful periods of transition in my life.
Today, I want to publicly thank the organization and the individuals who helped me in my transition to motherhood.
In 1994, when I was a new mother and learning how to breast-feed, I felt very alone. My sister had breast-fed her daughter, but my sister lived in Florida (I am in New Jersey)! None of my neighbors were breast-feeding. I was a 37-year-old career woman with a newborn, I had never babysat when I was younger, in fact I’d never changed a diaper. So I was woefully uneducated about infant care. I had confidence in myself as an emotionally stable person, but nothing (nothing) in my life prepared me for the emotional and physical demands of caring for a newborn.
The supportive structure of La Leche League, the monthly meetings, the kind and welcoming leaders, the social support, got me through a very difficult time. Words don’t really describe how hard it is to be feeling alone with a newborn (even though I have a wonderfully supportive husband). I found La Leche League Hackettstown, NJ and attended the meetings. To this day, I hold that circle of women in my psyche as a remembrance of a circle of security for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
La Leche League is a wonderful intervention regarding infant care. La Leche League normalizes the demands of infant attachment needs. La Leche League says “Pick the baby up” as a normal way of parenting. La Leche League says “Sleep when the baby sleeps” as a way of caring for yourself. La Leche League says “It is not easy to breast-feed, if you wish to be successful at this, you need support” and they provide this support, if you’d like it. LLL is a positive, influential organization that is now an integral part of America’s social fabric.
I had the immense pleasure of meeting Mary Ann Kerwin, JD, at this conference this weekend. I have tears in my eyes as I read her biography on the LLL website.
Ms. Kerwin says her initial experience with breastfeeding was not easy. In the US in 1956, she says, breastfeeding was a dying art . She received help from her sister-in-law, Mary White.
Soon after, she joined forces with Mary White and soon seven women were working together to support new mothers with breast-feeding.
Imagine that, a core group of seven women started the international organization La Leche League. How inspiring!
Ms. Kerwin served actively for La Leche League for 45 years. In the meantime, spurred on by an interest in legal aspects of breast-feeding, Ms. Kerwin became a lawyer, specializing in family matters and serving as an expert witness involving breast-feeding issues. She currently spearheads legislation in Colorado regarding breast-feeding issues. She has accomplished a lot in her lifetime. What a dynamo!
And thank you, as you directly positively impacted my and my family’s lives.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Judith Gilbert from Glassboro, NJ, an active member of La Leche League. She is an LLL Leader with the Glassboro group and Associate Events Department Coordinator for the 2012 conference. She is consistently active in World Breastfeeding Week, concentrating on raising funds to help families with their goals. Ms. Gilbert is a participant in the World Alliance for Breast-feeding Action Quilt. She tirelessly works in support of women and families and has volunteered countless hours as a community advocate. Another dynamo!
I had the good fortune of being with these women for a bit at the conference and this is a picture of me with Judith Gilbert and Mary Ann Kerwin, JD.
Thank you to La Leche League, a positive community intervention for women and families.