Marija Smits discovers what makes Anna Burbidge, of La Leche League, tick and how she juggles her time between working for the international breastfeeding charity and family life.
A Day in the Life of Anna Burbidge, Chair of La Leche League GB Council of Directors and PR and Media Spokesperson
Anna’s day starts at 6.50 a.m. with the sound of the radio. The Teasmade has already been hard at work and so Anna and her husband enjoy a cup of tea in bed. If a news story about breastfeeding is mentioned on the radio, Anna’s ears prick up – no doubt she’ll be writing a press statement later on.
If it is to be an ordinary day, then like any other mother she’ll begin to do household chores. Anna is something of a night owl, happy to work in the wee hours, so she tends to only turn her computer on in the afternoon. After lunch, she goes to her ‘office’ – a little study – which is packed full of La Leche League information and begins to read and respond to the many emails that fill her inbox. The requests that she gets on behalf of LLLGB are many and varied; there are the usual invitations to attend charity fairs and conferences, and requests for the recruitment of breastfeeding mothers for all manner of projects, be they scientific, artistic or political. There are also enquiries from the public to deal with – which in the main are from women who want to share information and ideas, or to let off steam after they’ve experienced a difficult breastfeeding-related situation.
The Department of Health, and other organisations such as NICE ask for regular input from LLLGB, so Anna duly responds to their requests. She also answers queries from within the worldwide organisation that is La Leche League, and of course there are the requests for information from those in the media.
Anna’s day is punctuated by the phone ringing. One of her main responsibilities as a La Leche League leader is to take local calls from breastfeeding mothers who need help. She listens to the mother, checks that she’s understood what the problem is, and listens again. Sometimes, that’s all a mother wants – a listening ear. At other times, a mother may need specific breastfeeding information and Anna provides her with this, underlying the fact that she supports the mother in her choices. And that’s what makes La Leche League so special; Anna – just like all the other leader volunteers scattered around the globe – has experienced the realities and rewards of breastfeeding a child beyond the age of 12 months. She has truly ‘been there’ and can empathise with the very real, and common concerns of the mothers who phone her.
When the call is over Anna will take a breather by having a cup of coffee or texting one of her children. For no matter how important her role within the charity, it’s always a case of ‘family first’, and although her six children are no longer little, family matters still take priority.
Early in the evening she prepares dinner. The family eat together and talk about the day’s news. Then depending on the day of the week, she’ll be off to take part in one of the many active hobbies she has – be it belly or zumba dancing, aqua aerobics or pilates. On her return home she’ll watch some television – Anna’s a fan of The Apprentice – and then when most of us are going to bed, she continues with her LLL liaising.
But if this isn’t an ordinary day, Anna may find herself phoning one of her children from a train on the way to London, where she is to rub shoulders with MPs, academics and journalists at an event organised to promote breastfeeding. Or she might be on the way to chair a meeting of the LLLGB Council of Directors (which are unlike any other since babies and toddlers are welcome!).
It’s all a far cry from the days when she was undertaking her leader accreditation. On average, it takes a mother 18 months to complete the necessary training to become a certified La Leche League leader but Anna took 7 years over it – mainly because of her expanding family, but also because her nerves prevented her from having the confidence to speak to a room full of mothers. Now, her role within the charity requires her to speak at the annual LLLGB conference, and she has often found herself addressing an audience of around 150 people! She still gets nervous about public speaking but clearly her anxieties are no barrier to making her voice heard.
Anna is passionate about what she does, and her dedication to supporting mothers in their desire to breastfeed shines through her words, be they written or spoken. If her nineteen-year-old self – a tired new mother, worried about her milk supply – could have met her as she is today, there’s no doubt she would have come away refreshed after their conversation, happy to have spoken to someone who was willing to listen and help.