LLL Leader Francesca Parisi applied for a Mini-Grant to undertake an LLL “Breastfeeding Tour of Southern Italy” in order to expand LLL reach in an underserved part of the country. She shares this report of the tour:
The tour of the south is divided into three parts:
- a day in Melfi (Potenza) Basilicata
- a tour that included Rome (Lazio) and Matera (Basilicata)
- a tour of Sicily that touched five cities.
Then you will find the reports of the leaders who lived this experience.
Melfi, by Patrizia Lombari
Scientific conference “Dietary models of early childhood, breastfeeding in the development of intestinal microbiota and for the prevention of chronic degenerative diseases in adults”.
The Leche League took part in the scientific conference “Dietary models of early childhood, breastfeeding in the development of intestinal microbiota and for the prevention of chronic degenerative diseases in adults”. The audience was mostly composed of students since the conference was organized mainly by the local hotel institute, the conference focused on nutrition and how important breastfeeding was to prevent obesity and chronic degenerative diseases, we had 10 minutes.
As the audience is composed mainly of students and therefore of people aged between 15 and 19 years, we thought to involve them by basing the discussion on how important is the support of the whole community to ensure that breastfeeding can work.
I prepared a presentation made only of images so as to capture the attention and keep the audience involved. I showed the presentation to a 20-year-old cousin of mine to see if the presentation had achieved my goal. The impression of my cousin was positive and she also told me that even if there was no comment, the slides were very easy to understand just by looking at the images (my purpose had been achieved!).
To prepare the slides I took advantage of the presentations available in the group yahoo Italian Leaders as well as a couple of other images taken from the web.
The chairwoman gave a beautiful presentation of La Leche League and our history, this allowed me not to dwell too much on the first slides (in presenting them I was very excited I heard my voice shaking a bit ‘, luckily everything passed when I started to enter into the topic of the intervention) and to dwell on the importance of contact and support to mothers.
We had 10 minutes and it seemed like very few minutes. I was a bit dissatisfied, I wanted to open the dialogue with the last slide so as to understand how much of my speech had been understood and also for any questions from the audience, but unfortunately the time was tight and the intervention was closed without it being possible to open a dialogue.
During my speech I noticed 2 things: the guys present seemed to appreciate my speech and I saw them quite attentive and interested while older people showed different attitudes, some more interested others less. In particular, it seemed to me that some adult women (probably professors) showed assent when I talked about contact, expectations and support to be given to mothers, while I thought they were rather skeptical when I talked about false myths.
In essence, I think that this experience has helped me to have a clearer idea of how to deal with the issue of breastfeeding with adolescents and how to capture their attention.
Rome and Matera by Carla Scarsi
Monday, May 6, my journey to Matera began for two important events. On Tuesday 7th of May in the morning I was in Rome at the Ministry of Health together with Chiara Toti, another LLL Leader, who sits in the breastfeeding commission coordinated by the ministry. Chiara and I had discussed with the Board in the previous weeks what to ask the Minister during this appointment. We focused on 6 requests but not all of them could be formalized because the time reserved for us was very short, and it was also increased by a quarter of an hour during the meeting.
The first request was to keep a representative of the mothers’ associations inside the commission. It will reach the conclusion of its second three-year term in June and is likely to be re-established probably with different components. In this respect, Minister Grillo assured us that the role of the NGO representative will be maintained.
The second point concerned the protection of breastfeeding through the introduction of more in-depth courses during the university programmes.
On this request, the Minister said she had to talk with the Minister of Education. Then we talked about an application that the Ministry would release a few days later and that was the subject of an immediately subsequent meeting with her staff, lasting more than an hour.
In the afternoon, I went to Matera, about 500 km south of Rome, where I arrived around 8:00 in the evening. the morning after I had a meeting with mothers at the hospital in the city participated also by with Professor Davanzo, head of the neonatology department and current chairman of the TAS, the above-mentioned breastfeeding commission.
The meeting was also attended by Valentina Losacco, a LLL Leader from Bari and Giulia, a Leader Applicant from Matera. My astonishment was great when I saw the number of mothers attending the meeting. There were over 50 mothers, no fathers, two grandmothers, 5 children within 6 months, and a couple of neonatologists and midwife operators. Since a special meeting was planned for them in the afternoon the presence of operators in the morning was very limited.
The meeting was exhilarating, because after being a bit chilly and ‘lecturing’ at first, I managed to quickly establish the warm atmosphere of a typical LLL meeting, even though the relationship was overwhelming, since I was standing with a Powerpoint and the mothers all sitting in position as learners. In the second half of the morning, however, the meeting started well, with many stories, many interventions, a lot of sharing of experiences and even interventions of grandmothers and mothers with newborns. Unfortunately I brought very few books because I didn’t want to overload myself excessively and also because I come from a region where mothers don’t usually buy books at meetings. If I could have brought 50 Wab… I would have sold them all. but Valentina collected several orders. Now we will see how many we will sell really, to understand also the economic result of the meeting. I said few times that the objective of the meeting was to promote the knowledge of LLL within the Region and to encourage mothers to become Leaders. We will see if this invitation will turn into real interest.
Then it happened that, when I was closing the PowerPoint in the computer folder, some sanitary professionals saw that there was a power point dedicated to the milk edema, and they insisted so much for me to hold also that presentation, that I did it and the meeting ended over an hour after the scheduled time.
In the afternoon there was a meeting with operators from different departments. There were indeed some midwives, some nurses, some other nursery workers, the head gynecology department, Professor Davanzo, head of neonatology department, two pediatricias and some other figures I did not identify. The first hour unfortunately went ‘lost’, because the all professionals started to discuss – even animatedly – in order to try to find a way of collaboration between themselves, while they all tend (or at least this was my feeling) to grab the “child and mother couple”, each of them thinking that it’s their product/their customer/theirs… However, the discussion was very useful to the whole department, so after more than an hour I found myself in front of warmer professionals, willing to listen more carefully during the remaining part of the afternoon. Honestly it was hard not to intervene asking to leave me more space, but I understood that those people needed this occasion of discussion. Other professionals arrived later and in the end they were around 25 people. I presented the traditional PowerPoint on La Leche League and the beauty and usefulness of networking; I planned three more presentations, because I had 3 and a half hours to talk. However, since an hour and a half had been ‘lost’ I had no time to do anything else and I quickly ran the PowerPoint on drug compatibility and breastfeeding with all the relevant information.
In the end the afternoon was very rewarding, because people had different skills, more various than I had expected, but they hadn’t seen until then possibility of collaborating, which is instead offered in La Leche League presentations.
Tour of Sicily by Ludmilla Wolf
Sicily is the Italian region with the worst statistics regarding breastfeeding. Only one in four women breastfeeds and the average time is only 3 and a half months. The ministry of health has requested years ago to the hospitals to put in place a plan that would increase the numbers but the calls we receive from there prove that there is still a lot of work to do.
We only have one leader in eastern Sicily. LLL Italy invested last year to send a leader to speak to both health professionals and mothers in western Sicily setting the ground for further collaboration and educational activities, considering that we have an applicant in the area, but only thanks to the Alumni help we managed to make a second trip this year which was extremely fruitful.
The leader that went did 5 meetings in 3 days, covering 700 km to meet with a total of 50 between mothers and children and 15 health professionals. On top of that she also devoted time with the applicant live.
As a fruit of this trip over 30 books have been given and there are 4 prospect new applicants that seem interested in becoming a leader, which in itself is an incredible success. LLL’s reputation is starting to spread even in Sicily, tail light of Italy in regards to breastfeeding statistics. Women tend to deliver in private clinics because they believe it’s better, so they are willing to pay but clinics don’t follow breastfeeding enhancing protocols so the delivery practices are far away for being breastfeeding friendly. There is still very little common knowledge of the basic principles of breastfeeding so creating more groups is essential.
Having met the mothers live enabled us to establish further networking and set the ground for a new project for meetings online that will start in the fall. Moreover the collaboration with MAMI and IBFAN has been further strengthened.
Two episodes were extremely meaningful in this trip.
In the meeting in Palermo, hosted by the municipality in one of the most prestigious and historic palaces of the city, a mom came making a trip of over 130km just to be meet with the leader, because she attended last year meeting and now that she had a baby with some difficulties latching she knew she could get qualified help from LLL. At that meeting there were many health professionals and they were all sitting in a circle, according to LLLstyle, and it was very inspiring to see them sharing with the moms.
Another moving event happened in Caltanisetta. There were two moms who attended the previous meeting while they were in pregnancy and both had a preterm delivery and thanks to that meeting, together with the help of the local family counseling that was hosting us and remote support of LLL, both of them managed to breastfeed against all obstacles and were both still breastfeeding after the introduction of solids. Their gratitude and witness to the other moms of how important is to have the right information was truly touching and compensated for all the effort put in making this trip happen.