There are women who, for decades before us, continually advocated for lactation support and education. Rosemary Peterson was one of those women. I met Rosemary in 2000 when she came to our first BirthReady (independent childbirth education and support) event. It interested her to see what we, the next generation, were offering and she encouraged us in our endeavors.
Rosemary Peterson recently passed away at the age of 91. Fellow MLCA member Lucia Jenkins knew her well and shared these remembrances.
Memories of Rosemary Peterson from Lucia Jenkins, RN, IBCLC.
Her life was full and rewarding, and she made a huge difference to the world in many ways. Notably, she was instrumental in founding the first version of MLCA several years ago. She also started the lactation program at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital.
I met Rosemary in 1980 when my first child was four months old, at a La Leche League (LLL) meeting that my neighbor dragged me to. I then became a steady regular at her meetings. Before I knew it, Rosemary had guided me to become a LLL Leader in 1984 and supported me to run a group for over 20 years.
My kids and I were frequent hangers at her house. We still see her youngest child, Joel, who works at Shaws in Melrose. Rosemary wrote the LLL pamphlet “Breastfeeding a Baby With Down Syndrome” after successfully exclusively nursing Joel.
Rosemary was full of child-raising wisdom that she shared easily and gently with others. She was one of those rare individuals who miraculously convinces you to become involved – willingly and with sense of purpose. She ensured that local professionals became breastfeeding “savvy” and exposed us all to the idea of a Baby Friendly hospital.
Rosemary artfully “volunteered” some of us to be nursing mother “demos” at the Melrose Wakefield Hospital breastfeeding prenatal class. This somehow led to me teaching the class and soon after, I was being urged to become an IBCLC. Rosemary made this seem an easy and logical path- I am so grateful for her presence in my life.
Some of the following are things I remember most about her:
Rosemary was always generous, warm, and welcoming to everyone, especially children. She was a mother to eight children, joyfully and fully present in all their lives.
She and her family lived in South America without modern conveniences for over a year. They were on a humanitarian mission.
Her husband Len was fun and friendly. He was an engineer and an inventor. He and Rosemary were devoted to each other and it showed.
Rosemary and Len owned a house at the curve of Ell Pond on Lake Street. They had a wooden paddle boat with swan sides at the lake edge that Len had built. They let visiting kids ride in it.
We adopted their pet bunny, ‘Volkswagen’ when she needed a home. That was the beginning of a succession of bunnies in our family.
Frequent healthy snacks and fascinating toy corners abounded in the home. Rosemary delighted in introducing children to toys her own children had loved. She introduced me to the family bed and slings long before it was common. She set an example for me to follow my parenting instincts, and not rules.
Rosemary taught me how to counsel and support breastfeeding mothers, as she counseled and supported me and many others. I would guess that thousands of babies today are breastfed because of her.