My La Leche League: Finding Support, Embracing Differences
Anna, Minneapolis, Minnesota
I’m a work-at-home parent in Minneapolis with two spectacular children: a four-year-old and a 22-month-old. Our family is incredibly high-energy and talkative. One thing I love about us is that we always share our feelings with each other and pay attention to how each other is feeling. I feel so proud when my children check in with each other and try to help if one is feeling down. I must be doing something right!
I work for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board leading family nature programs. We are outside a lot, which keeps me feeling healthy and helps with perspective when my family and other duties feel overwhelming. I also love that it provides my children with nature education. We also make a commitment to environmental health by using bicycles and buses for transportation, and we love that we can go out on our family bike rides into the community, running errands and visiting friends, and see many familiar places and people around us. We love to figure out creative ways to create community and sustainability, whether that’s through seed swapping and starting a garden or gathering used clothing and teaching a sewing class at our neighborhood art studio. These endeavors are endlessly more interesting with my preschoolers involved.
Breastfeeding has always been an intense challenge and a joy for me, and I cannot imagine parenting without it, though there are days that it feels overwhelming and I wish I could just take a day or two off from making milk altogether! After a rocky start to breastfeeding my first son with many interventions and a short separation after birth, it was smooth sailing until I became pregnant with my second, which was shortly after I found my local LLL Group and quickly became a regular at meetings. I certainly wouldn’t have had the support to continue and go on to tandem nurse if I hadn’t had LLL, but I’m most thankful for the impact that support has had on my parenting style. I had a traumatic childhood marked by abuse and conflict, and I think I would feel totally lost parenting two children without the examples and resources for gentle parenting I’ve seen in my co-Leaders and learned through LLL resources.
As a single parent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I can become overwhelmed by the role of sole caregiver. My co-Leader and friend, Vickie, has been a source of strength and empathy since I was a parent attending my first La Leche League meeting. I questioned whether I would feel comfortable as a queer, genderqueer person in a highly-gendered space. At times I do feel that I’ve been unintentionally excluded from conversation or that my identity has been somewhat erased upon entering the space of the group, but I’m glad to have solid allies in La Leche League both here in Minneapolis and across the continent.
I think my role as a Leader and my connection to my children as a breastfeeding parent has empowered me to seek a higher quality of life for my family and to heal trauma that was uncovered through the process of becoming a parent. The intersection of breastfeeding, queer feminism, healing, community building, and empathic parenting is the place that feels like the person I’m meant to be, and the intense work that it takes to carve out that space and make an impact for others in that space is of the utmost importance to me. The process is healing in itself.
It doesn’t take a perfect mother to breastfeed, and it isn’t usually a perfect process. What breastfeeding does require is a huge amount of support, especially with the barriers that often face low-income parents, working parents, and single parents. I have enough privilege, in health, identity, and resources, to have accessed that support, and that has surely changed who I am and who my children are becoming.
LLL USA is celebrating mothers, fathers, and parents
from May through June!
Thank you to Lonna Ellsworth for sponsoring this week’s blog.
We begin our celebration with Mother’s Day (May 8 – 15).
Inspired by an idea from the US Breastfeeding Committee, May 16th begins the La Leche League USA Parents’ Month celebration. We will be sharing stories of different families and their nursing journeys each Tuesday. We hope to hear from you about the types of community support that you received for your parenting and in meeting your breastfeeding/chestfeeding goals as we celebrate the special support people in our lives and all our nursing parents.
Our celebration is capped by celebrating Father’s Day running June 11 – 18.
In addition to sharing stories, you can also make a donation (https://lll-usa.networkforgood.com/) to LLL USA on behalf of a mother, father, parent, or support person who has been an inspiration or help in meeting your nursing goals. Your donation keeps our volunteer organization running and is used for training, materials, and community outreach.
Send your submission, story ideas or questions to Amy at [email protected].