I attended my first ever La Leche League (LLL) meeting two and a half years ago, when Poppy was less than three months old. It was with the Park Slope/Windsor Terrace chapter and over the next year or so, I attended almost every monthly meeting and, eventually, some toddler meetings on top of that.
P and I had a fairly uneventful breastfeeding relationship from the start, so I didn’t go because I was struggling and needed help. I mostly went because it was reassuring and fun to hang out with other mamas as dedicated to breastfeeding as I was. I went because it was a place where I could comfortably mother without judgement, whether that meant nursing her to sleep or coping with a wild tantrum. Eventually, I started working and the new job conflicted with most of the meetings, so my participation quickly dwindled, which was unfortunate as I had just begun to explore leadership.
When Boo was born, I wanted to reconnect with LLL, but struggled with the logistics — namely that it was winter, we no longer lived in Park Slope and would have to rely on public transit to get there, and I now had two kids to lug along on my own. Mostly I was just being a wuss, but whatever the reason, we never made it back. Then T-Bone got a new job and we suddenly had loads of stressful new things on our plate and I officially gave up on returning to my Brooklyn chapter and promised myself I would reconnect with LLL in Chicagoland.
And today I made true on that promise.
Like the last time, my breastfeeding relationship with Boo is fine. We just passed 6 months as a mother-baby dyad and as evidenced by her size, breastfeeding is going quite well ;) Like the last time, I’m looking to LLL for camaraderie and kinship, but moreso as a place to troll for crunchy friends.
Let’s just say I’m the rare person wearing any sort of sling in these parts ;)
The series meetings are held at a local cloth diaper store (clearly, I’m not as alone as I worried I’d be) and today was the first since we’d settled into our new apartment. I was excited to go, but a little nervous just the same. I mean, LLL philosophies are the same across the board, but Park Slope “crunchy” is like no other, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
In the end, I was both surprised and not-surprised at some of the differences I noted. Granted, I’ve been to all of one meeting here, so my judgements are surface-level and, for all I know, could be totally anomalies to this one meeting. But here are my first impressions, nonetheless:
- At a glance, the mothers here were significantly younger than those in Brooklyn (not surprising);
- At least half the moms at today’s meeting had multiple children. Those with just one seemed to be primarily early first timers, rather than of the “one and done” variety. (Note: the crowded meeting was extra chaotic because of all those silly older kids running amok, mine included.)
- In Park Slope, it sometimes felt like “bring the baby to bed!” was a common suggestion for damn near every issue. Here? Not so much. I offered it as a potential solution once and got some vague maybe-nods in agreement. In Park Slope, it was more like, “Well, you’re bed-sharing, right?” while here it seemed more like, “Any chance you’ve maybe considered bed sharing? Or at least keeping the baby somewhat nearby? Same floor of the house? Maybe?”
- For one question from the mother of a toddler, the leader asked if anyone else had any experience nursing older kids. I was surprised that I seemed to be one of the few with anything to offer (having nursed P until just shy of her second birthday). It was not unusual to see a pre-K tot unabashedly run and leap into his/her mother’s lap in Park Slope. Maybe the big kids just had other things to do today?
- Out-of-the-mainstream ideas were often couched in disclaimers or “to your comfort level!” statements. In Park Slope, mention of cranial-sacral therapy for newborns wouldn’t have turned any heads or required much explanation for most. Here, folks seemed almost nervous mentioning it. Like, “I know I’m a weirdo, but hear me out…” (a disclaimer I myself often use ;))
Overall, the core of the experience was the same. A group of mothers gathered because they want to successfully breastfeed their children and are looking for support from others with the same goals. Because of that, I am grateful that an organization like LLL is international in scope, meaning we had no problem finding a local chapter in our new city.
We had a great time today even though I didn’t manage to catch many names or personal details. It took all I had to listen and chime in with advice or anecdotes, as appropriate, while simultaneously trying to keep Boo happy and Poppy from terrorizing other children, but that’s life with kids, I s’pose. I’m excited to go back next month and connect with these mamas again. Maybe I’ll have an issue I need help with, but more likely I’ll be there just to learn from others and to lend my support and experience to those who need it.
After all, us moms have to look out for each other. And that’s true in NYC and Chicagoland.