I’m on a roll with breastfeeding-related posts during World Breastfeeding Week. Why stop now? This essay is an older story that was previously published in Leaven, LLL’s publication for Leaders.
In 2006 I was in the post office — 24 weeks pregnant and holding my sleepy two-year-old, three packages, and my purse. An older woman in front of me offered to hold my packages so that I could hold Lann better. We chatted for a minute about how crowded the post office was. She glanced at my necklace then and said, “I like your necklace. Is that La Leche League?” (I was wearing my logo pendant.) I told her it was, and she said, “LLL saved me about 32 years ago.” She proceeded to tell me her story.
Her baby had weighed seven pounds, 13 ounces at birth. At his two-week checkup, he weighed seven pounds, three ounces. The doctor watched her nurse, weighed the baby, and then decreed that she wasn’t making enough milk for him. He “ordered” her to give the baby formula. She said she is someone who always follows orders. He had previously ordered that she feed the baby only every four hours and never wake him when he was sleeping. Wanting to nurse before it was “time,” her baby had been crying himself to sleep; she wouldn’t wake him to nurse when the prescribed four hours had passed because she had been ordered not to wake him. So, he was “starving to death.” She went to the store, got all she needed for formula feeding, and went home crying.
When her husband came home, the woman was still crying. He had seen a poster for La Leche League and told her, “Before you give him that stuff, call that La Leche person.” She called, and the Leader encouraged her to nurse the baby as often and long as he wanted; so she did. The baby started to perk up and gain weight, and they had no more problems. When she went back to the doctor, he said it looked like his plan was working. She said, “No, I know what really works!” and told him that she was nursing the baby anytime he wanted and that everything was going great. (The doctor then told her that his office could no longer help her and she would need to find a new doctor.) “He never did have a drop of formula!” she reported with obvious happiness. Then she told me that her daughter-in-law is expecting a baby and is going to breastfeed and that she had told her about LLL.
One of the things that stood out to me about this story is that the woman had never gone to any LLL meetings, met the Leader she talked to, nor had any further contact with LLL…and yet she still recognized the logo and felt so positively about her experience that she wanted to tell me about it 32 years later. These seemingly little contacts we make with mothers matter. They have a lifelong impact. As birth advocates and breastfeeding helpers, we may never know the potent impact of our words on a woman’s life, but someday, perhaps 32 years in the future, someone may be sharing the legacy of our own words to another stranger in the post office. Choose carefully, choose consciously, and make a difference!