Thank you, La Leche League

wbw2016-logo-textMary White, Edwina Hearn Froehlich, Mary Anne Cahill, Betty Wagner Spandikow, Viola Brennan Lennon, Mary Ann Kerwin, Marian Leonard Tompson — while these 7 names may not ring a bell, what they did has influenced so many lives all around the world. These 7 ladies founded La Leche League International (LLLI).

It’s because of LLLI that we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week each year!

La Leche League International is an organization that promotes breastfeeding. Its mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.

Elaborating on their mission, LLLI’s philosophy is comprised of 10 statements:

  1. Mother Baby Embrace ClayMothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.
  2. Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply.
  3. In the early years, the baby has an intense need to be with his mother, which is as basic as his need for food.
  4. Human milk is the natural food for babies, uniquely meeting their changing needs.
  5. For the healthy, full-term baby, breast milk is the only food necessary until the baby shows signs of needing solids — about the middle of the first year after birth.
  6. Ideally the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.
  7. Alert and active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.
  8. Breastfeeding is enhanced and the nursing couple sustained by the loving support, help, and companionship of the baby’s father. A father’s unique relationship with his baby is an important element in the child’s development from early infancy.
  9. Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
  10. From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.

With a vision of what breastfeeding could and should be, a mission was created, principles stated, and an organization that would change the world of breastfeeding became: La Leche League.

With a decline in breastfeeding rates, the first La Leche League meeting took place in Franklin Park, Illinois, USA, at the home of cofounder Mary White in October 1956. As the organization began to grow, the founders set a clear purpose, and the first edition of book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was published.

In 1960, the first Canadian Le Leche League was established. Two years later, “chapters” were created with 5 groups in each. By 1963, the second edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding made an appearance. By 1964, the group changed its name to Le Leche League International as the organization has spread to Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand. This year also marked the first LLLI conference. From 1972-1979, more Le Leche League organizations were established throughout Europe, and breastfeeding rates were improving. In 1981, the 25th Anniversary LLLI Conference was held with a record number of attendees, and the third edition — revised and expanded — of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was published. Throughout the 1980s, LLLI published various books. Then, in 1985, the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners — created through help from LLLI — began its certification program, and the first IBCLC exam took place.

Although breastfeeding rates had increased to 61.9% in the early ’80s, by 1990, the rate had dropped to 50%, and in 1991, LLLI and other organizations and individuals came together to create the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. The first World Breastfeeding Week took place in 1992. In 1994, LLLI moved its central office to Schaumburg, Illinois, USA, and the following year, the LLLI website was created. Breastfeeding rates increased to nearly 60%.

During the first decade of the 21st century, LLLI continued to grow, accrediting new leaders in various countries including Bulgaria and Ukraine. In 2006, the 50th Anniversary of LLLI was celebrated, and in 2009, LLLI created a Facebook page. In 2010, the 8th edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was released not only in English but other languages. Since then, LLLI has continued to accredit leaders in countries, helping the organization grow and spread its important mission.

As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, we acknowledge LLLI’s notable contribution to breastfeeding and also recognize the extraordinary women, the founders of LLLI, for their initiative and hard work making LLLI what it is today.

Breastfeeding is everyone’s business

“Thriving communities are built on strong families and a strong workforce. Breastfeeding promotes both. Breastfeeding promotes strong families by giving kids a healthier start in life, less risk of illness and disease. It helps mothers be healthier. There’s less risk of postpartum depression, lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and it supports strong bonds between the family, both emotional and psychological. Breastfeeding also promotes a strong workforce with decreased employee absenteeism to care for ill children, increased employee morale and decreased employee turnover. Breastfeeding benefits communities, so it’s time for communities to support breastfeeding.” ~ Dr. Jenn Anderson, “Breastfeeding is everyone’s business

Editor’s note: “Breastfeeding is everyone’s business” is a TEDx Talk by Jenn Anderson, PhD, Assistant Professor at South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Brookings, South Dakota, USA. Dr. Anderson’s personal breastfeeding experience has influenced her professional interest; among her current projects are Brookings Supports Breastfeeding and expanding Brookings Health System’s prenatal education to the SDSU campus. Dr. Anderson was invited by Attachment Parenting International to share more about her perspective in breastfeeding advocacy:

By Jenn Anderson, PhD, SDSU Assistant Professor of Health Communication

Anderson BF in Spearfish (2)Breastfeeding benefits our communities by improving maternal and infant health. It also boosts our local economies through cost savings for businesses with breastfeeding employees that miss work less often and whose children have lower health care costs.

Breastfeeding is benefiting our communities; now we need our communities to support mothers who are breastfeeding.

I strongly believe in giving women the freedom and support they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

When social or structural support for breastfeeding is absent, this can create unnecessary barriers to mothers breastfeeding successfully. I want every woman to feel that it is possible to breastfeed her child successfully, and I want to see entire communities work together to support those efforts.

Breastfeeding my premature son has been one of the greatest joys of my life. But I know that not all women have the opportunity to breastfeed at all, or they must stop breastfeeding sooner than they’d like because they don’t have the support they need at work, or from their spouse, or from their friends and family.

I want every woman to have the support she needs to be able to embark on the breastfeeding journey and see it through until she and her baby are ready to stop.

I also want to encourage more women to publicly breastfeed so that our friends and neighbors understand the true nature of breastfeeding — that it is normal, non-sexual and unobtrusive.

Breastfeeding in public is sometimes seen as taboo, but in this presentation, I show how it seamlessly becomes part of life as a mother, as a professional and as a citizen of a small community.

Dear Health Visitor, I Must Confess I Lied …

Posted by Louise, a mother living the United Kingdom. She blogs at mamabeanblog.blogspot.co.uk. “Health Visitors” in the UK health system are community nurses who provide routine developmental checks, care and support to newborns and their parents, including advice on feeding, sleeping and all aspects of newborn care.

Dear Health Visitor,

I must confess, I lied. I didn’t set out to be untruthful, but I felt like I had no other option at the time. I should obviously take full responsibility for my untruth; after all, I had the audacity to be a first-time mum with the sheer cheek to want the very best for my baby girl. You see, I didn’t actually leave my angel to cry. I didn’t really look past her gaze at nighttime to avoid eye contact. I didn’t even offer her a sip of water instead of my breast. She didn’t, in truth, actually sleep for those 8 hours that I told you about.

In fact, she has never slept for 8 hours in a row…not when you take into account all of the snuggling, smiles, little kisses and breastfeeds that naturally occur throughout our night. Yes, Health Visitor, I did say “our night”; my little girl and I sleep side-by-side, drifting in and out of our own special sleep dance, perfectly in tune, feeling warm, safe and happy. I guess that’s something else that I wasn’t exactly truthful about at the time. You can find more info about desert mobile medical.

You see, Health Visitor, I led you to believe that your advice, excuse me, your instructions, were right for us. I led you to believe that your dated and unsafe methods actually “worked”… if “success” is determined by the behavior of a child instead of the feelings. If only I had been honest from the start, perhaps the footprints that you came to leave in the next unsuspecting mother’s life would have been softer. Perhaps, just perhaps, you might have questioned your own methods and goals, seeking evidence-based, research-led data that would broaden and accelerate your understanding of the subject matter you preach daily. Or perhaps not.

903529_65792420For you and your team, my innocent baby was simply a tick in a box, but I didn’t actually ask for “help” if you remember.

It was your colleague who rang me at 10 weeks postpartum, when my iron levels were still so low after I had nearly died of a postpartum hemorrhage that I could easily have been admitted to hospital. “Are you getting out much? I haven’t seen you at the drop-in weight clinic, and 10 weeks is by far enough time to be back to normal.”

It was your colleague who told me at a breastfeeding “support” group at 4 months that any more than one night feed was nothing more than “pure manipulation” on my baby’s part. Funnily enough, there was no mention of growth spurts, sleep regressions, or baby brain maturity rendering my daughter physiologically incapable of “manipulation.”

It was your colleague who told me repeatedly, again at the breastfeeding support group, that my baby fed too frequently and to offer her water instead of the breast. Funnily enough, there was no check for tongue-tie, which was totally missed until 18 months. Or allergy, which was missed until a major type 1 reaction occurred on the introduction of solids. It seems that the ‘Health’ in ‘Health Visitor’ is there for no more than decoration.

It was your colleague who told me at my daughter’s 9-month check that children who aren’t put in their cots at 7 p.m. and left there without contact for the proceeding 12 hours will turn into “teenagers who sleep with their parents.”

But it was you, dear Health Visitor, who quietly watched, gently checked-in and slowly nodded. It was you who chip, chip, chipped away at my motherly instincts and confidence. If only I hadn’t answered truthfully in the postnatal depression test; if only my results hadn’t flagged me as borderline so that I was placed on monthly drop-ins for an “innocent chat.”

I was honest here, Health Visitor. I was telling the truth when I said I was happy, that I had never felt more content and fulfilled than when my darling daughter gazed lovingly into my eyes at the breast. I was being honest when I said that the only reason I scored highly on the “anxiety” section was because I couldn’t shake the memory of crashing during childbirth–the memory of my wonderful husband holding our baby with nothing but terror in his eyes while a team of doctors worked on me, as all the while the world grew fuzzy-white and I fought to stay awake. You see, Health Visitor, my “problem” wasn’t with being a mother, it was with the memory of almost NOT being a mother…of almost missing out on every single second of pure joy that my child brings me. It was with a slow, unapologetic nod and change of subject that you met this truth.

You are the expert after all. You know sleep deprivation when you see it. In fairness, you were quite right; I was tired, but the difference between you and I is that I don’t see tiredness as a bad thing. Being tired was a crucial part of my new mum experience. It allowed me to switch off the world outside and focus on the only thing that mattered: my baby.

It was you, Health Visitor, who instructed me on every single drop-in visit to leave my daughter to cry in her cot, alone, “for as long as it takes, even if she is sick.” It was you who instructed me on every single visit, to “keep it up for as many days or weeks as is necessary, and if you need to change the sheets to remove the vomit, don’t look her in the eye.” It was you who told me that “every mum has a breaking point.” You were determined to reach mine, weren’t you, dear Health Visitor?

I simply must confess to you that I lied. I did not follow your orders. I did not leave my daughter alone in her cot to cry and puke and learn helplessness. Instead, I cuddled, cradled, snuggled and breastfed my baby girl so that she can learn what it is to be human. Because isn’t that what we are missing in all of this? Isn’t it eye contact, innate communication, respect, kindness and love that define us as human? It is with nothing but pure love that I treat my daughter.

I see your instructions as nothing more than neglect, and it is because of this that I am sorry. I am sorry that I led you to believe that I had taken your advice; in explanation, I simply wanted your visits to stop. I am truly sorry to all of the other mums who had to endure your mantra. I am so very sorry to all of the other babies that had to endure the consequences of your orders. I hope that now, with hindsight and with my admission, you will understand that your role is not just a day job. You are on the front line, so to speak. You have the access to truly make a difference in the lives of hundreds of families. Let’s turn away from learned helplessness and perhaps in so doing you will learn helpfulness … we can but hope.

Sincerely,

Mama Bean

Urge President-Elect Obama to support breastfeeding!

President-Elect Obama has affirmed his commitment to tackling the health care crisis, and the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) is ready to tell him one great way to do so: support breastfeeding!

Citing the numerous studies on the benefits of breastfeeding, USBC states:

Excess health care costs totaling more than $4 billion must be paid by the U.S. health care system each year to treat otitis media, gastroenteritis, and necrotizing enterocolitis–childhood diseases and conditions preventable or reduced by breastfeeding. When prevention of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic conditions is factored in, the potential economic benefits of breastfeeding are significantly greater.

They go on to urge the President-Elect to take the following steps during his administration: Continue reading “Urge President-Elect Obama to support breastfeeding!”

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