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Looking Back: Sharing A Well-Loved Book

Roberta O’Benar, La Grange Park, Illinois

Originally published in the September/October 1978 issue of La Leche League News.

Editor’s Note: The first issue of La Leche League News, the bimonthly publication for members, was published in 1958. The name changed to New Beginnings in 1985. New Beginnings continued to be published until 2014 when it transitioned to its current blog format at

Old copies of The Womanly Art of BreastfeedingI was just digging out my old copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding to loan to a young friend who is pregnant and, having a few spare moments, sat down to leaf through it. What memories it brings back! I bought it at my first LLL meeting in 1965 before my first daughter, Kellie, was born. I remember underlining several important passages—how long ago that seems—and I smile at what seemed so vital to me then: one marked sentence concerned getting back my pre-pregnant figure sooner.

I have read it through many, many times in the intervening years, and the book has taken on many new meanings with each stage of the children’s growth and my own maturing process. Some paragraphs are highlighted in another color as I prepared to speak to high school classes or to lead a couples’ night or toddlers’ meeting. One whole section is coffee-colored, no doubt by an impatient toddler’s hand as she hurried to gain my full attention. Many more pages are dog-eared from just plain use over the past 13 years. There are a few teeth marks, and the whole thing is held together with a rubber band, for if it weren’t, those loose pages would surely get lost. Interspersed here and there are newspaper clippings: one is a picture of my co-Leaders and me and our children. We all looked so young!

What a monument this book is to parenting the LLL way. And to the friendships loaning the book has brought to me. A whole way of living is implicit in those fingered and creased pages. Many times I’ve thought of buying a hardcover edition to loan out to friends, but I just never got around to it.

There is, however, great value to me in keeping this tattered and well-loved manual. It reminds me that love is not always a matter of clean bright covers or untouched pages and that a little wear and tear gives character far beyond the original pristine condition of any love.

I don’t know if my new friend will appreciate the love and wear and tear, but for me, it was really nice to take a nostalgic look at my old friend, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

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Thank you to Patricia Ericsson for the donation in honor of Kelsey Giano and the work she does for La Leche League.

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