The motto for La Leche League is “Mothering Through Breastfeeding”. La Leche (Spanish for the milk) League was started in the 1940’s in Chicago when a group of mothers were at a church picnic. They discussed the many advantages of breastfeeding and getting that knowledge known to other mothers. At that time breastfeeding was not popular in the United States. Because of LLL with its mother to mother contact that breastfeeding increased and many changes in hospital routines were made. LLL is an international organization, and its extensive information on mothering and breastfeeding can be found on the internet. (See the end of the article for more information on LLL).
From 1978 till 2001 I was part of the La Leche League. My experience in LLL:
I first heard about LLL just after Scott, our son, was born in January 1976. While I was in the hospital, a lady (probably a leader) told me about LLL. I wish I had joined a group then but did not understand how beneficial it would be.
I started feeding Scott solid food at five weeks. My doctor’s wife had not nursed and four weeks was what he advised. I spent so much time pureeing food and Scott has allergies – all could have been avoided with the LLL concept stating that a baby doesn’t need other food until the middle of the first year after birth. Also Scott had a “nursing strike” at nine months, so I quit nursing with uncomfortable engorgement. A nursing strike is a difficulty that LLL helps a nursing mother work through.
The next time I heard about LLL was in Montreal in March 1978 when Jill was two months old. I started attending meetings and found them very helpful. In about a year, one of the leaders approached me and suggested I become a leader. A leader had to agree with the ten concepts of LLL and write a history of her breastfeeding experience dialoging with a leader who would ask questions and give suggestions. I thorough agreed with the concepts. I thought, “how can anyone disagree”, and reasoned that I would be able to function as one of four leaders in our group.
I had just received my leadership status when Jim decided to move to Nova Scotia to cut wood for a living (he was a computer technician and returned to that profession after a few years). Right before we left there was a conference for leaders. I wondered why the Lord had this conference at that time, but reasoned that I could use the extra training.
We moved to Delhaven, a community of just a few houses six miles from Canning which was six miles from Greenwich, near Wolfville, where Jim grew up and his parents still lived. I discovered there was no LLL group. Why did the Lord allow this to happen!
Soon I started getting letters from leaders in Halifax suggesting I start a group in the Annapolis Valley. The Annapolis Valley covered a large area, mostly rural although Kentville, Wolfville and Canning were included. Though I felt incapable, I advertised for a meeting.
The first meeting was at my house. Two intelligent and educations mothers came. I didn’t have much to say, but thankfully I only had to ask a question and they carried on a good discussion. One became librarian and the other treasurer. We had a series of 4 meetings at my house and then moved on to meetings at their homes. Other mothers came.
The only difficulty was that these two mothers began to mention transcendental meditation during the meetings, a New Age concept not part of Christianity. I prayed about what to do. I mentioned in my introduction that LLL is non-sectarian and they understood that LLL meetings was not the place to discuss this.
These two mothers stayed for several series, then moved on to other activities when their children were older. By then meetings were established, and I had other helpers.
We lived in Nova Scotia ten years and LLL was very much a part of my life. I enjoyed organizing meetings and seeing mothers grow in knowledge and confidence. I didn’t receive many phone calls. If I did, I usually called back after researching. Sometimes the meetings were quite large. Only once did I have to take a taxi to a meeting.
At one time I wondered if LLL was really Christian since I couldn’t mention Jesus. The pastor’s wife said that the concepts were Christian. Also, I knew that many leaders were Christians.
As I considered what the pastor’s wife had said, I thought of the LLL concept: “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 baby’s development from early infancy.”
The relationship of the father and mother has a tremendous influence on their children:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:25-33
One reason God hates divorce so much because of what it does to children:
“Has not the Lord made them one?…And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring…I hate divorce,” says the Lord God…” Malachi 2:15-16
It is the tragedy of our time that the family has been so disrupted. LLL helps to make the marriage relationship what it should be.
Or the LLL concept: “From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their needs.”
A child wants to please parents who have treated him with love:
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
We want to learn when we are encouraged and complemented, not berated:
“The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction.” Proverbs 16:21
Patience, not a quick reprimand is usually what is needed raising children:
“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21
Even people who are not Christians, usually understand that a good father encourages, comforts and urges children to live a good moral life:
“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12
My involvement in LLL led tangibly to God’s kingdom at times.
I didn’t know how I would get to the next series of meetings. Then I received a phone call from a mother who wanted to attend the meeting and wondered where they were. I found she was my neighbor! That was a miracle because I lived out in the country and meetings covered a large area. She gave me rides to meetings and I got to know her quite well. I noticed a change in her perspective.
I began weekly studies on the women of the Bible with her. One week when I had to be away, a friend took my place and led her to the Lord.
Another time a mother approached me about becoming a leader. She had attended one series (a requirement for becoming a leader), but I had never considered her as a leader. She had an open mind learned so much in a short time. I was praying that I would get a chance to share the gospel with her.
There was a LLL conference a four hour drive away. I thought I should go mainly to support her. I rode with her and her husband. On the way home they were explaining their beliefs (mostly new age) and so it was easy to explain mine clearly. It was no effort at all. I don’t know if they ever accepted the gospel, but God had certainly answered my prayers, and I believe He puts people in our path.
In the last few years of my time in Nova Scotia, I worked with another leader. Judy lived in Wolfville. She was a Christian and made my job easier.
I felt I was getting out of touch with the concerns of young mothers. Then in 1985 when I was 42, our daughter, Sandra, was born. She had a cleft lip and palate, and I learned first hand what it was like to desperately want to breastfeed, but not be able to. Sandra took a great deal of time, because, along with hospital visits and operations, I would express milk and feed her from a bottle. Scott, our son, milked a goat and goat milk supplemented my milk.
Tragically, Sandra drowned in 1987. My book Sandra is about that experience.
In 1990 we moved to Hay River to become part of the Sub-Artic mission. At that time mission staff would work at regular jobs giving their salary to support the mission stations in the north. They gave us a place to live and a living allowance. Jim worked in the hospital on computers and networking.
LLL was never as popular in Hay River as it had been in Nova Scotia. Meetings covered a much smaller area. I did work with a mother who knew a lot about hands-on techniques and helped mothers in the hospital. I also worked with other mothers, sometimes one-on-one at small meetings. I even helped mothers from other communities.
No one was coming and I felt out of touch with young mothers when I stopped having meetings. Also, by that time the internet was established and mothers could get information easily on line. It took a while to decide to stop because it had been such a part of my life for so long and I felt it was so important, especially in the Native community where they didn’t breastfeed, although most of the mothers I helped were non-Native.
The benefits I received covered much more than breastfeeding. The way LLL approached mothering affected the way I raised my children in every way for their entire lives. For instance, the LLL concept, “Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet in foods as close to their natural state as possible.”
We know how detrimental processed food and chemical additives are to our health. Although, health education can be complicated this LLL concept gives a basic guideline.
Jill, our daughter, wanted me to continue till she had children because she knew the benefit of LLL. I did not do that, but I’m sure my experiences helped her, and she is raising her children with the love and wisdom of LLL.
“La Leche League was founded to give information and encouragement to all mothers who want to breastfeed their babies. While complimenting the care of health care professionals, it recognizes the unique importance of one mother helping another to perceive the needs of her child and to learn the best means of fulfilling those needs.
The League’s purpose is distinct: Good mothering through breastfeeding. This singleness of purpose does not prevent interaction with other organizations with compatible purposes, but La Leche League will carefully guard against allying itself with another cause, however worthwhile that cause may be.
The basic philosophy of La Leche League is summarized in the following concepts:
1. Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding 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. Breast milk is the superior infant food.
5. For the health, full-term baby breast milk is the only food necessary until 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 baby’s development from early infancy.
9. Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet in foods 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 needs.
The ideals and principles of mothering which are the foundation of LLL’s beliefs are further developed in THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, the most comprehensive handbook on breastfeeding and parenting ever published.”