Veronica Rohalevich, Mtein, Lebanon
La Leche League came into my life when I was pregnant with my third daughter. Breastfeeding was always my main goal in nurturing and raising children, and I had wanted to breastfeed them with all my heart… However, I had two previous unsuccessful breastfeeding experiences with my older children due to common misconceptions in society. This was heartbreaking for me. I believed that I was one of those unlucky women who doesn’t have enough milk for their babies. I got inspired about breastfeeding again when I met a mother of twins who exclusively breastfed her babies. She asked me how I was going to feed my future baby. I replied that I would have liked to breastfeed, but I hadn’t been able to produce sufficient milk for my other babies. She then told me her amazing breastfeeding story and suggested attending an LLL meeting, which of course I did. This event literally changed my life!
You can’t imagine my excitement for the anticipation of a successful breastfeeding journey this time. My first LLL meeting was incredible, I learned basic information about breastfeeding, heard mothers’ experiences and asked lots of questions. Right after that first meeting, I became an LLL member and borrowed several books about birth, breastfeeding and attachment parenting. As I was living in a foreign country because I married a Lebanese man, imagine my surprise and happiness when the LLL Leader turned out to be a Russian-speaking mother like me. I had a lovely opportunity to borrow several books from the LLL library in my native language. I read one or two books a month while I was expecting my precious baby. Some of my family members laughed at me and asked why I only just started learning about birth and breastfeeding despite already being a mother twice over! My gynecologist wasn’t supportive of either completely natural birth or of breastfeeding, but I had the help of one of the most powerful breastfeeding support organizations—La Leche League!
On 25th March 2018, I gave birth to my third daughter, Melinda, with minimal interventions. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to spend the magic first hour after birth with my new baby. However, I did have some skin-to-skin contact soon after and my baby was with me 24 hours a day.
I was so excited and determined to embark on my long-awaited successful breastfeeding journey, even though not everything happened the way I expected. Despite the information about breastfeeding I had learned; I still had some worries. I suffered from hypothyroidism (low thyroid) and I had a severe hemorrhage after the birth—both of which could affect milk supply. My baby wanted to feed all day and all night. Sore nipples and a painful latch on top of everything were really devastating.
However, this time I knew where to find help and support. So, without hesitation, while still in the hospital, I called my LLL Leader to get practical tips and encouragement. That phone call and reassurance were exactly what I needed, along with several more calls, ongoing support, monthly meetings and frequent discussions through the Group during those early challenging months.
Once home, my newborn daughter was almost constantly fussy and crying, as if she had a permanent growth spurt. She refused to stay with someone else, constantly sucking her hands and sleeping only on my breast. Everyone around me doubted my milk supply, so I checked her weight every few days. All these factors contributed to my deep painful uncertainty and fear during those early months, a fear that I couldn’t share with anyone but my LLL Leader.
Little by little, with the enormous help and encouragement of my Leader, regular LLL meetings, other mothers with similar experiences, their support and care, I started gaining confidence in breastfeeding despite my family’s misgivings. Meanwhile, I was watching Melinda growing and enjoying breastfeeding and our strong attachment gave me the strength to continue.
By finally making my cherished dream to breastfeed come true, I was able to fully realize myself as a woman. I felt elated and empowered. So, I decided to become an LLL Leader in order to debunk prevalent myths and help mothers avoid being trapped by common misconceptions about breastfeeding. I wanted to help families, and especially mothers, experience a strong bond with their children through breastfeeding. I wanted to give them the opportunity to heal their hearts after traumatizing and unsuccessful breastfeeding experiences, by enjoying their future breastfeeding journeys.
My preparation for leadership started before the COVID-19 pandemic and I benefited from several face-to-face meetings with my supporting Leader. However, later we were forced to move to online meetings. It was a very special period in my life. My supporting Leader, Nadiya Dragan, and Leader Accreditation Department representative, Linda Wieser, were amazing people; I was able to learn a lot from them, due to their extraordinary knowledge and long-standing expertise in the lactation field.
La Leche League enabled me to experience the immense happiness of mothering through breastfeeding. LLL has become my “second” family: not only have I met wonderful people, but I have also had the awesome opportunity to find purpose in my life, especially when living in a foreign country. Women who were exclusively breastfeeding their children and provided valuable support for me at LLL meetings before I became a Leader now come to my LLL meetings for help and encouragement with their new babies.
As an LLL Leader, I am able to provide much needed help and support for pregnant women and breastfeeding families without sacrificing my family’s needs. This is the least I can do after all the warmth, care and love that I have received from LLL since our first acquaintance when I was pregnant. Here I am, a successful breastfeeding mother of a three-year-old daughter and an LLL Leader who supports and reassures breastfeeding mothers on their way to a successful breastfeeding journey.
Madeleine Munzer, Sydney, LLL Australia
La Leche League Group meetings create community havens for breastfeeding mothers. In these meetings women put aside their differences to meet on the common ground of mothering through breastfeeding. It is a joy to see mothers encourage each other and uniquely, LLL provides a space for mothers to be supported and encouraged at all ages and stages of breastfeeding. LLL Leaders are in it for the long haul! This means that as mothers and Leaders grow in their understanding of breastfeeding and mothering they will all perpetuate the cycle of giving and receiving of motherly wisdom at Group meetings. LLL Mother-to-mother support has the added aspect of being free of charge which means Leaders lead Groups simply because they enjoy it. The gift of mother-to-mother support is just one mother making time for another, and yet it is profound, irreplaceable, and timeless.
Veronica Vargason, New York, USA
Breastfeeding my first child (Ariella) was nothing like I had imagined. In my mind, I imagined something like this: a baby nuzzled into my breast suckling away and slowly drifting to sleep for every feeding. In this version, the baby latched right on, it wasn’t painful, and it didn’t seem hard. My idea was quickly overturned by reality! It was so much more than just putting her to my breast and letting her feed. I faced so many hurdles when nursing her. I didn’t even know some of them were possible, and my husband and I had to learn everything at once. Our difficulties included a tongue-tie, colic mainly due to cows’ milk protein intolerance, gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), milk supply issues, eczema, endless feedings using a nipple shield. However, we got through it all, and I am thankful for being able to nurse her. Even though it was hard, it’s the greatest thing I have ever been able to do. I’m so proud of my body and of my daughter for being able to breastfeed her through all the challenges, and I wanted to share that joy with others. It felt empowering that my body was capable of something great like producing milk. I became a Leader to share those feelings, to help other mothers who may be going through the same struggles with breastfeeding. I wanted to give them encouragement and the confidence that they are doing something great too! I am thankful and happy to be doing it all over again with my son (Everett) right now. Even though we have had similar challenges as with my daughter, it has been easier with the support and help from other LLL Leaders and I am forever grateful for them and their expertise. I hope as an LLL Leader that other mothers feel that same way when I have helped them.
Kristin Oparaji, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
I chose to become a Leader because I believe in empowering women to be the best mothers they can be. La Leche League taught me to not only trust my mother instincts, but also to become educated in what our bodies have to offer our children. First, as a single mother, and now as a married mother, I have seen how the world can try to change our minds and our opinions, even if briefly. Staying true to your hopes and desires, even in the moments of despair and struggle, is a sign of strength. When we feel weak or uncertain, there is nothing quite like the welcoming, encouraging arms of mothers like me who wish the best for all our children and all mothers. I believe in the strength of mothers and their selfless love through all things. La Leche League is a beautiful example of both love and empowerment that all mothers deserve to experience.