BECOMING PREGNANT with her son, Ivan, 2 1/2 years ago, Owen Brown resident Kerry Ose "had a fairly typical American attitude" about breastfeeding, she says. "I always thought it was the best thing for the baby."
But when she noticed women breast-feeding in public, Ose wondered: "Can't she do that in private? She must be trying to make a point."
Soon after she gave birth, Ose joined La Leche League, an international education and support group for women who want to know more about breast-feeding. Now that she is a breast-feeding mother, she thinks differently.
"During my son's early infancy, I realized that I would have to get some plan and learn to discreetly nurse in public places," she said. "I discovered that it's not such a bad thing to do it in a restaurant or in church or whatever."
La Leche meetings are not instructional lectures, says Jen Murphy, co-leader of La Leche League of Columbia I, which meets monthly at Christ Episcopal Church on Oakland Mills Road.
"It's mother-to-mother to support," she explained. "Most of the information is given from the moms themselves. The whole experience of breast-feeding is very much a learned activity. It's not just something that you instinctively know how to do."
Murphy says La Leche meetings are informative, relaxed discussions for mothers and expectant mothers. Those who attend discuss the "myths vs. facts" of breast-feeding or ask questions, she said.
The women might split up into smaller discussion groups or play a lighthearted version of the game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire."
Participants learn about breast-feeding positions, nutrition and weaning.
Ose, who is a member of the Columbia I chapter, says that studies - including those noted by the American Academy of Pediatrics - indicate that breast-feeding reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and bacterial infections in infants. Additional research indicates that breast-feeding may reduce a woman's risk of breast and ovarian cancer, Ose said.
On Sept. 16, the Columbia I chapter joined forces with the Columbia II chapter, which meets at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, to sponsor a World Walk for Breastfeeding event at Lake Elkhorn. About 100 adults and children took part. A silent auction raised more than $300 for La Leche. Each chapter also raised funds through pledges. The Columbia I chapter raised about $800.
Ose began attending La Leche meetings while living in Minnesota. In July 1999, she moved to Columbia.
"That was one of the very first ways that I connected with people," she said. "For me, La Leche League has primarily been a source for support and friendship. For a lot of us, it's akin to a mom's club or play group or whatever. It's a way of building community."
Information about La Leche League of Columbia I: Jen Murphy, 410-4614229.
Spaghetti at school
The Scorpion Boosters Club of Oakland Mills High School, a parent-run group that supports school activities, will sponsor a spaghetti dinner from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 5 in the school cafeteria
The dinner, which is part of the school's Homecoming Week celebration, will feature performances by the school band and cheerleaders.
Those who attend will have the opportunity to see hallways decorated by students.
The group also will sponsor a tailgate picnic at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 7 before the Homecoming game.
The club will sell sandwiches, chips, sodas and other snacks.
The day's activities will begin with a parade at noon from Oakland Mills Village Center to the school.
Tickets to the dinner are $5 in advance; $6 at the door.
Information: Peg Dear, the club's president-elect, 410-381-8379.
Proceeds will help pay for school activities, including drama, music and language programs, athletics, the Student Government Administration and the Black Student Achievement Program, Dear said.
The Boosters Club is run by president Bill Deming, vice president Carl Pastor, secretary Lindsay Wilson and treasurer Rick Spranklin.
A jury of peers
The Columbia Art Center is sponsoring a monthly workshop for professional visual artists this month through December.
Coordinated by Long Reach resident Ann Aves Martin, who works in oil pastels, the sessions aim to provide artists with constructive criticism by their peers.
Participants are asked to bring two or three pieces of artwork, in-progress or finished. Fellow artists will critique the work.
The meetings will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday and Oct. 20, Nov. 17 and Dec. 8 at the center, 6100 Foreland Garth in Long Reach Village Center.
The cost is $80 for Columbia residents; $90 for nonresidents. The group is limited to 10 artists. Participants must register in advance.