Hana Cermakova, Brno, Czech Republic
I became an LLL Leader in the summer of 2021. My first encounter with LLL was in 2018 when I was an expatriate (expat) living in Berlin, Germany and pregnant with my first child.
I felt quite anxious about the whole process of having a child in a foreign country due to the language barrier and being isolated without any support network. When I read about LLL expat meetings in English, I hoped this could be a good opportunity to find support.
I still remember the pleasant calming vibe that being in the company of other women who were in a similar situation gave me. I sat in awe that, for the first time in my life I could actually see women breastfeed. The whole subject of breastfeeding —similar to natural birth—felt to me as something that many women strived for but often do not succeed with. I was naturally curious to learn more from them.
I left the meeting with a healthy dose of self-confidence and a copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, which one of the Leaders kindly lent me. I spent my postpartum dutifully in bed, mostly in the laid back position, reading with my baby sleeping on me. Breastfeeding has worked for us—and is still working to this day when I am pregnant with my second child.
The next LLL meeting was the first place that I went to after having my baby; a safe place where I could breastfeed her, change her nappy and enjoy the company of, and learn from, other moms without the pressure to look organized! I kept going to the monthly meetings regularly for more support and eventually I felt I would like to return the favor and become a Leader, too.
When I applied as an LLL Applicant, I got connected with Misha Laudicina, a fellow Czech Leader living in Italy. She supported me through the training process wonderfully. At that time we had no idea what the future had in mind for the two of us and what journey might await.
When the COVID pandemic hit, many of us were separated from our families by borders that at times became impenetrable and extremely difficult. My family decided to leave Germany and moved back to the Czech Republic. I was unsure of what would become of my LLL leadership as LLL is not formally established in the Czech Republic. The only mention of LLL I could find was that there were some expat groups in the years 2002-2006 in Prague, but that was all.
If there is something positive about the COVID crisis, it would be that thanks to everything moving online, Misha and I were able to start LLL Groups online, so that I could benefit from the support of a co-Leader. Building a new community is a challenge, but we have established an online Group in Czech and one also in English for expats living in the area of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Slovakia is a neighboring country with which we share a lot of history. Being split peacefully in 1993, it’s very common to find Czech and Slovak people in both countries and many resources are still shared. Because our languages are very similar, we can also support Slovak speakers, too. There’s no LLL in Slovakia either, so why not! I am glad to see that the Groups are growing. We are starting to see familiar faces at the meetings and we also have some potential Leader Applicants. More and more mothers are reaching out for individual support, too.
To help us reach out to more mothers, we are currently trying to get in contact with the hospitals that are certified through the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). This happens to be the majority of Czech hospitals but in our experience the clinical practices of the BFHI do not seem to be consistently used. Breastfeeding rates are still very low—only 26.1% of all babies were exclusively breastfed at six weeks of age and 13.2% at three months in 2020. I am excited that LLL could help to improve these numbers.
Sadly, there are not that many quality resources on breastfeeding and motherhood in Czech that I can recommend. Many of the titles that I got to know about through our LLL library in Berlin are not available in Czech. It would be my greatest wish to have The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding translated into Czech. Let’s hope it will happen one day!
Hana Cermakova became an LLL Leader in the summer of 2021 while living in Berlin, Germany. Soon after she moved back to Brno, Czech Republic and established LLL Czechia online there. Hana has a three-year-old daughter and is currently expecting her second child.
Photos courtesy Hana Cermakova