I discovered LLL a month ago, 18 months into my feeding journey with twins, four and a half years after I started feeding my eldest. And it’s become an absolute highlight of my calendar. For me it’s an empowering, supportive space that makes the tough bits of breastfeeding feel easier, the great bits feel celebrated, and I’ve met people that I suspect might become friends for a long time to come.
So what took me so long? I had completely the wrong idea about LLL – so I thought I’d share my misconceptions in case there are other people out there who’d enjoy it as much as I now do.
- I don’t know how to pronounce it – and “League” sounds a bit intimidating!
It’s “La Lay-chay” – but we all just call it “LLL”. No Spanish accent required! The subtitle could be “a bunch of super friendly breastfeeding mummies”.
- It started as a church group didn’t it? Isn’t there even a “bible”? I’m not religious so I’m not sure it’s for me.
[Editor’s note: While LLL did start at a church picnic it has never been a religious organisation.]
LLL doesn’t mind what you believe in as long as it includes a desire to breastfeed your child. And there is a book[i], but you don’t have to read it! And if you choose to, it’s just a good, sensible read about breastfeeding. (Disclaimer: I’ve not read it. I’ve barely finished the back of the cereal box since I had twins. But it’s on my wishlist.) Everyone is welcome.
- But I actively stopped feeding my eldest at 13 months. Won’t that be frowned upon?
LLL is there for you whether you choose to feed for a day, a week, a month, a year or more. Nobody minds or judges! It is supportive of you doing what is right for you and your family.
- I have friends who are mixed feeding and I don’t want to go to a group they are excluded from.
They’re welcome too! LLL is not the formula police. If you are doing / have done some breastfeeding, and you want some support or to give some support back, it’s there for you.
- But actually breastfeeding is going just fine. I don’t need support.
You don’t need to be struggling to be welcome. You might just have a gem of wisdom that would help someone else. Plus, things don’t need to be going badly for some time chatting with other breastfeeding mums to be a positive thing.
- I’m not very good at baby groups. Especially not small talk with other mums. It’s impossible to finish a sentence whilst trying to tend to a tiny human.
LLL meetings include guided discussion, but there is no pressure to contribute, just listening (or half listening whilst distracted by little ones) is just fine. And you’re not the only one who can’t finish a sentence – it’s quite liberating hanging out with other people having that struggle too!
- Ok, maybe I might need some support but I’m entirely uncomfortable asking for it! It’s all I can manage to breastfeed my child discreetly out and about; I’m never going to be okay about meeting a stranger and letting them gawp at me whilst I try to feed, and then have them criticising my efforts.
If you want some one-to-one input, there are breastfeeding counsellors on tap (LLL Leaders) to help you outside the main group discussions. But it’s not compulsory. You don’t have to breastfeed while you’re at the group unless you want to. And there really isn’t any gawping. Or criticising. Just lots of mums who have first-hand experience and some with fab training that means they might be able to offer helpful information.
- The flyer says, “bring a healthy snack to share”. My breastfeeding journey is entirely powered by cake. And I fed my kids macaroni cheese out of a can last night. I’m not sure I’m wholesome enough for LLL. Most days it’s also a challenge to get out the house with just the absolute essentials – when on earth will I find time to source a healthy snack?
They suggest bringing something healthy as generally they already have cake covered! Actually, I think it was a flapjack, but it tasted far too good to be healthy. And whilst they promote healthy nutrition, you won’t be thrown out over tinned macaroni. As long as you aspire to be healthy, you’ll fit right in. And you can rock up empty handed and be greeted with nothing but warmth, an offer of a cuppa and quite possibly cake.
- Okay, I’m sold. But the thought of going to a new place, full of new people is just making me far too anxious. I even messaged them once saying I was coming but then I wimped out.
Send them another message. They are lovely. And mummying is hard! There is probably someone who’ll meet you in the carpark, so you don’t have to go in on your own.
- See you there!
by Trish Barker-Barrett, LLL Cambridge