What exactly is this “La Leche League”?
By Donna Marie Martin
Our 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.—La Leche League International
La Leche League International was formed almost 50 years ago by seven women who knew that breastfeeding didn’t always get off to a good start. They realized that a woman’s chance of success increased if she had access to accurate, current information with a support network.
Women often receive conflicting information from well meaning friends, family members and sometimes even health care providers. La Leche League Leaders don’t tell a mother what to do; they merely provide a woman with the information needed to make the best choices for herself and her family. The meetings offered by La Leche League provide a safe, open environment that allows mothers to learn more about themselves.
Who are La Leche League leaders?
There is not a typical La Leche League leader. She might be the mom next door or a teacher at your child’s school. She might be driving the van full of happy soccer players, or she might be having a business lunch at the table next to you in the restaurant. One thing is certain: she has nursed her children and benefited from her involvement with La Leche League. She has the desire to help others as she was once helped, with compassion and without bias.
La Leche League Leaders are trained and accredited by La Leche League International through a standardized process. To be eligible for leadership, a mother must first be in agreement with the breastfeeding and parenting philosophies of La Leche League International. She must also have nursed her baby for at least nine months. Leader applicants work with several support leaders to understand their roles and responsibilities, respect individual breastfeeding and mothering experiences and develop the knowledge and skills necessary to help others.
During this time there are various learning opportunities in which a potential leader develops her information base, skills and knowledge. There are also mentored practice opportunities where the applicant handles helping situations that may arise during meetings or with telephone support using written and verbal discussions to give feedback and support.
Who attends La Leche League meetings?
All types of women attend La Leche League meetings — they are as diverse as the population of the world. Meetings have both young and more mature mothers, mothers with one child and mothers with many. There are mothers who stay home and mothers who work; single mothers and married mothers. Mothers of every color and religion are all welcomed.
Though differences in appearance and lifestyle choices can be significant, there is one thing that these mothers share: the desire to give their children the very best — their own milk!
What happens at meetings?
Every meeting is different, and group discussions are as varied as the women who attend them. The direction a meeting takes is often determined by the needs of those in attendance. Some meetings are large, and if there are toddlers around, may seem loud and chaotic. Some meetings are small and quiet. The one thing that is consistent is the warm, welcoming group of women who are interested in what each other has to say.
Groups meet once a week, usually at a public location but sometimes at the home of a leader or member. Most groups meetings are during the day, in the evenings or on weekends. La Leche League meetings are also held online.
Meeting topics follow a rotating schedule: “The Advantages of Breastfeeding,” “The Family and the Breastfed Baby,” “Overcoming Difficulties” and “Nutrition and Weaning.” Each meeting is led by an accredited La Leche League leader who guides the discussion around the topic. Meetings are not lectures or classes, but rather an opportunity for mothers to come together to ask questions and share their experiences. La Leche League values and appreciates what attendees have to say. The leader facilitating the meeting will make sure that the information provided is the most accurate and up-to-date available.
My baby isn’t here yet. What can a meeting do for me?
The best time to attend a La Leche League meeting is before your baby arrives. Studies have shown that women who are informed and have a support network in place have a higher success rate when it comes to breastfeeding. Attending meetings before your baby arrives gives you the opportunity to get to know your local leader(s). Then, if you need help after delivery, you won’t feel as if you are picking up the phone and calling a stranger.
Attending a meeting before your baby arrives will also give you an opportunity to see nursing mothers in action — something that may be completely new to you. It will also give you an opportunity to interact with other mothers and help you prepare for the wonderful changes that are in store for you.
What are other benefits of La Leche League?
Groups have lending libraries full of books on breastfeeding, parenting, birth and other related topics that have been reviewed experts within the organization. Library usage may be limited to members, so check with local leaders. Many groups also offer breastfeeding-friendly items for sale. These items can consist of books, baby slings and sometimes even breast pumps.
You can also become a member of La Leche League to help support the mission. Membership includes several benefits such as a subscription to the LLL magazine, discount on most catalogue purchases, discounts on registration for conferences and an opportunity to purchase group life insurance.
To learn more about La Leche League, find a leader or group near you, access up-to-date breastfeeding information or to help support the organization, please visit the La Leche League web site at www.lalecheleague.org.
© Donna Martin