La Leche League (LLL) is a non-profit organization founded in the United States in 1956 with a presence in 65 countries promotes “a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.”
La Leche League does not aim to be a substitute for care from a pediatrician and other health professionals, but for the organization it is crucial “mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.”
According to La Leche League, breastfeeding, with its both physical and psychological advantages, “is best for baby and mother and is the ideal way to initiate good parent-child relationships”.
The role of the father in the care of the baby is likewise important, according to the organization: his aid and support allow the mother to concentrate on caring for the child.
La Leche League believes that “mothering through breastfeeding deepens a mother’s understanding and acceptance of the responsibilities and rewards of her special role in the family”.
Philosophy of La Leche League
The mission statement of this non-profit insists on these values: “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”.
The organization defines its philosophy in 10 points:
- Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.
- Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply.
- In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food.
- Breast milk is the superior infant food.
- 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.
- Ideally the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.
- Alert and active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.
- 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.
- Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
- From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.
La Leche League was founded in 1956 in Franklin Park, Illinois, to offer support and information to women who opted to breastfeed their children.
The founders were seven Illinois women who had breastfed their children and were motivated to help mothers that, for different reasons -social expectations, lack of time, lack of information, commercial pressure by baby formula companies-, had had difficulties and unresolved questions related to the maternal lactation.
Marian Tompson and her friend Mary White initiated a conversation on the advantages and difficulties of maternal lactation. Each one of them had invited other friends; finally, a group of seven women (besides the already mentioned, Mary Ann Cahill, Edwina Froehlich, Mary Ann Kerwin, Viola Lennon, and Betty Wagner), sat down to speak on the topic in August of 1956. This was the beginning of the organization.
Very quickly, La Leche League included contributions from the doctors Herbert Ratner and Gregory White, who advised the organization on medical aspects of breastfeeding and contributed the little available technical literature at that time on the matter.
Where to find and how to contact La Leche League
The fundamental purpose of La Leche League (LLL) is to encourage, to report on and to support the mothers interested in breastfeeding their children through monthly meetings, help by phone and through the Internet and e-mail. From time to time, some members of the organization make visits to homes, hospitals and maternity wards.
The Leaders of La Leche League are volunteers who have breastfed their children and have received specific training to help other mothers during the lactation period.
La Leche League provides, through the organization’s international website, with versions in Spanish, English, Italian, Chinese and Russian, various sections of objective aid for mothers interested in breastfeeding:
- Frequently asked questions and information on lactation.
- Mother-to-mother support forum.
- Breastfeeding and the law (in the US and international).
- Medical associates program.
- Podcasts of La Leche League (RSS publication), with chats and interviews on lactation, maternity, parenting, the role of the mother and the father and other related themes.