Picture: La Leche League Portlaoise
The La Leche League breastfeeding support group in Portlaoise is celebrating 30 years of voluntarily supporting women by hosting a reunion summer party this July.
La Leche League is an international voluntary organisation dedicated to providing education, information, support and encouragement to women who want to breastfeed and their families.
It was originally set up in 1966 and made it to Ireland by 1976. It slowly spread throughout the country and Portlaoise is now celebrating 30 years of this voluntary support work for women and healthcare professionals.
Heather Rice has been a leader in la Leche Portlaoise for over 23 years. She first attended a breastfeeding support meeting 25 years ago and never looked back.
The group runs a voluntary 24/7 helpline and Heather says she has answered queries while on holiday and at all hours of the morning. She said it is rewarding to use her experience after breastfeeding five of her own children and years of training.
The group holds conferences and training for leaders every year and leaders must have one year of breastfeeding experience themselves.
“We are a vibrant group. People attend meetings for a while and leave again and come back with their next baby. Their children grow up and you meet them years later and people remember the help you gave them when they needed it. We are trying to get all those generations of families together for this reunion party.
“When I had my first child I had breastfeeding problems and my doctor didn’t know what to do. This was before the internet, I wasn’t a meetings person but I went along and met genuine people with a similar philosophy and a lovely group. I got into it and had five kids with varying breastfeeding experiences.
“It is not hard to help people when you are happy to do it. A five-minute call can make all the difference to someone to help them change and carry on their breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding is such a wonderful thing, the bond you get, it can be difficult in the early days but worth it once it gets going. It is so healthy, environmentally friendly, new and magical things are being discovered about it all the time and it is what we are made to do as the next stage of pregnancy,” she said.
La Leche also provides information and support to healthcare professionals who Heather says get little or no training in breastfeeding and often have to give advice based on their own experiences.
“At a conference, there was a medical professional who said in seven years of medical training she had less than one hour of training in breastfeeding. If a healthcare professional comes from a bottle-feeding culture they won’t have the answers or the training. We have hundreds of hours of training and lactation consultant hours are slowly increasing at Portlaoise hospital,” she said.
The reunion party is set to take place on Sunday, July 28 from 2 - 5 pm in the former Brigidine Convent in Mountrath which is now a community centre.
There will be entertainment for kids, a raffle on the day and refreshments. Anyone who has ever used the La Leche services is encouraged to attend and all newcomers are also welcome.
La Leche League Portlaoise is one of over 40 groups in Ireland. They hold monthly meetings, on the first Tuesday of each month, in Treo Nua Resource Centre, Harpers Lane, Portlaoise, at 10am. All are welcome to attend.