La Leche League International

La Leche League International

La Leche League International (LLLI) ("La Leche" is Spanish for "the milk") is an international nonprofit organization that distributes information on and promotes breastfeeding. It was founded in 1956 in Franklin Park, Illinois and has a presence in sixty-five countries.


The founders of La Leche League were seven mothers from Illinois who had breastfed their own children and were motivated to help mothers who, for a variety of different reasons (often related to social expectations and misinformation) had difficulties with and questions about breastfeeding. Marian Tompson and her friend Mary White began with a conversation about the joys and difficulties of breastfeeding while at a local church picnic in August 1956. They each invited other friends to join the discussion; Mary Ann Cahill, Edwina Froehlich, Mary Ann Kerwin, Viola Lennon, and Betty Wagner. These women are considered the Seven Founders of La Leche League. [cite web |url= |title=Founders' Bios |accessdate=2008-09-22 |format=PDF | |publisher=La Leche League International |date=February 1, 2007 ]

Drs. Herbert Ratner and Gregory White were invited to meet with them and advised the group about medical aspects of breastfeeding, providing access to the small amount of medical literature about breastfeeding then available. [cite web | url = | title = Happy mothers, breastfed babies: La Leche League International 2005 Annual Report | publisher = La Leche League International | accessdate = 2008-05-23 ]

By the end of World War II, most women bottle-fed their babies.cite encyclopedia |last=Ember |first=Carol |coauthors=Melvin Ember |encyclopedia=Encyclopedia of medical anthropology: Health and Illness in the World's Cultures |title=Breast-feeding practices in the west |year=2003 |publisher=Springer |isbn=0306477548, 9780306477546 |pages=234 ] At the time of LLLI's founding, the breastfeeding initiation rate in the USA had dropped to 20% of babies. [cite web |url=,0,0 |title=A Brief History of La Leche League International |accessdate=2008-09-22 | |publisher=La Leche League International |date=July 2003]

The first formal La Leche League meeting was held in October, 1956.empty] The seven Leaders originally held meetings in private homes; more recently, hospitals, parenting centres, and other public venues have provided meeting spaces.

In 1957, Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, considered the father of the natural childbirth movement, also came to speak with them.cite journal
author=Stephen Miller
date=June 12, 2008
title=Edwina Froehlich, 93, La Leche League Founder
journal=The New York Sun

The first LLL Group outside of the United States formed in 1960 in Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada. La Leche League became La Leche League International, Inc., in 1964 with Groups in Canada, Mexico and New Zealand. Also in 1964 the first International Conference was held in Chicago with 425 adults and 100 babies in attendance.

In 1981 LLLI was granted consultative status with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).empty] In 1985 LLLI served on the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, established to develop and administer a voluntary certification program for lactation consultants, The first IBLCE exam was administered in July 1985.

Early in the organization's history, local newspapers rejected meeting notices that used the words breastfed and breastfeeding, calling them inappropriate for family publications. The name comes from the Spanish word, "leche" (pronounced leh-cheh) meaning "milk". It was inspired by a shrine in St. Augustine, Florida, dedicated to “Nuestra Señora de la Leche y Buen Parto”, meaning “Our Lady of Happy Delivery and Plentiful Milk”. The name was fitting, since all founders were catholic.empty]

Philosophy and mission

The misson of La Leche League 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." [cite web |url=,0,2 |title=La Leche League Mission |accessdate=2008-09-22 | |publisher=La Leche League International |date=July 19, 2006 ] cite web|url= |title=Child Rights Information Network |accessdate=2008-10-10 ]

The following are statements of La Leche League's philosophy: [cite web |url= |title=La Leche League Philosophy |accessdate=2008-09-22 | |publisher=La Leche League International |date=July 19, 2006 ]
* 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.


The primary purpose of La Leche League (LLL) is to encourage, inform, and support mothers primarily via monthly Series Meetings, telephone help, and online through email and the LLLI website. Some Leaders also do home and/or hospital visits.

La Leche League Leaders are accedited volunteers who have breastfed their own babies and been specially trained to help mothers with breastfeeding. They facilitate meetings in the morning, afternoon, or evening once a month. Some Leaders develop expertise with particular breastfeeding situations such as breastfeeding an adopted child, special medical or physical situations of the mother or baby, family challenges such as divorce, and many others. In order to be most effective, Leaders keep up-to-date through continued training and study of the most current medical research on breastfeeding.

Most meetings are designed for pregnant and breastfeeding women to provide breastfeeding information, support, and encouragement. In some areas there are specialized meetings for couples, working mothers, teen mothers, or mothers of multiples (twins, triplets or more). Online meetings are available through the La Leche League International (LLLI) website [ [] ] . While the Leader represents La Leche League at Series Meetings, mothers are encouraged to share their own experiences with other mothers. A common theme repeated by Leaders at a La Leche League meeting is "take what you need and leave the rest", acknowledging that every mother-baby dyad is unique and each mother knows her own baby best. All meetings are free of charge. A one year membership to LLL can be purchased for $40.00.

In some places, there is a centralized phone number (for an entire country or a US state, for example) where mothers can either receive help directly or be referred to a Leader in her area. In other areas, these Leaders directly advertise their telephone numbers, and sometimes email, via the LLLI Web site, telephone books and posters in parenting centres, libraries, doctors' and midwives' offices, health centres and other places where pregnant women and new parents might seek information. Mothers may also submit questions or concerns through online Help Forms available on the LLLI website.cite book |title=Nursing Mother, Working Mother: The Essential Guide to Breastfeeding Your Baby Before and After You Return to Work |last=Pryor |first=Gale |coauthors=Kathleen Huggins |year=2007 |publisher=Harvard Common Press |isbn=1558323317, 9781558323315 |pages=40,41 ]

Today, La Leche League has grown to help women in more than 60 countries.empty] It publishes a bimonthly breastfeeding and parenting journal, "New Beginnings", sent to those who become La Leche League members. Anyone may become a La Leche League member for an annual fee. La Leche League also publishes and sells a variety of books and media for mothers, families, and medical professionals.

The most recent LLLI International Conference was in July 2007 in Chicago, Illinois, and included a seminar for health care professionals. In addition, there are Area parenting and breastfeeding conferences held in many parts of the world every year. Some Areas also offer continuing education seminars for health care professionals as well as ongoing training for Leaders.


The La Leche League has been criticized for letting political-correctness undermine the scientific basis for its breastfeeding advice.Fact|date=June 2008 The Weston A. Price Foundation has criticized "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding", published by LLL, as providing nutritional advice that may undermine some of the benefits of breastfeeding. [cite web | url = | publisher = The Weston A. Price Foundation | last = Fallon | first = Sally | title = All Thumbs Book Reviews: The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding Review | accessdate = 2008-06-02 | date = 2002-03-30] The book has also been reviewed as easy to read, comprehensive and reliable, though unapologetically pro-breastfeeding. [cite web | url = | accessdate = 2008-06-02 | publisher = | last = Harkavy | first = Susan | title = Book review: "The Womanly Art of Breastfeedingby La Leche League International" ]

A study of LLL's philosophies and practices suggested a series of paradoxes - while promoting a sense of maternal competence, resistance to authority and the reclaimation of their bodies, LLL also promotes a conception of what it is to be a "good mother" that is biologically deterministic and socially prescribed. [cite journal | url = | last = Bobel | first = CG | title = Bounded Liberation: A focused study of La Leche League International | journal = Gender & Society | volume = 15 | issue = 1 | pages = 130–151 | year = 2001 | accessdate = 2008-06-02 | doi = 10.1177/089124301015001007]

ee also

*Attachment parenting
*List of breastfeeding activists


External links

* [ La Leche League International]

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