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Monday
Jun222009

LLL is too...

Today I'm happy to have one of my fellow Students of Parenting guest posting about LLL. Give Heather a big welcome and show her some love in the comments.

I love La Leche League (LLL). I've been going almost every month since I was 4 months pregnant. I even stopped by LLL headquarters last August for a meeting because I was in town and it was the first day of World Breastfeeding Week- how else would you expect me to celebrate it? The people I've met at LLL have been supportive and some of us go to the same playgroup and it's opened up many new friendships for me. I'm not a leader, but it's something I've thought about for the future.

So when I run into people who don't like LLL, it makes me sad. I've heard some people say that LLL is too pushy, the leaders too judgmental. It seems there are two types of people who say these things: those who have dealt with this personally, and those who have heard about it secondhand. To those of you who have not felt welcomed or felt judged by your local LLL, I'm very sorry. And to both groups, I'd like to share my own experiences with LLL.

I don't know what happens at every meeting every month across the world, but I do know what happens at my LLL each month. I've been there so much, I know the welcome speech by heart:

"Welcome everyone. Before we start, we'd like to give a little background about LLL. LLL was started over 50 years ago by a group of seven women near Chicago who, at a picnic, were discussing their experiences with breastfeeding. They helped each other out, and soon more women were interested and started mailing them questions. The group spread and it is a worldwide organization today."

Then they talk about memberships, but emphasize, "the important thing is that you're here and that you get your questions answered. We encourage you to continue coming even if you don't pay for a membership.

And they always end with, "We are all passionate and opinionated women here and if you hear something that doesn't sound like it'll work for your family, then don't use it. We are all experts on our own babies and families and know what's best for them better than anyone else. Now before we get into our scheduled topic for tonight, did anyone come with questions they'd like addressed first?"

And the meeting commences. I don't know of a meeting that didn't start with that disclaimer. When the meeting ends, they are usually careful to say, "That's the end of the formal meeting. If there are other questions, we'll stay around and answer them," so that it is clear what is LLL opinion and what is the leader's personal opinion. Sometimes someone comes with a request for pediatrician or midwife recommendation. I know the leaders have to be careful not to give the idea that LLL supports particular professionals, so they ask that such a question be discussed after the formal meeting has ended and when discussing it later, add the preface, "This is my opinion as a mother, not my opinion as a leader..." before giving recommendations.

With all those precautions and disclaimers, it's hard for me to see how LLL comes off as "pushy." I think it would be very hard to be an LLL leader and try to make sure you never say anything that could be construed as judgmental.  I came home from a meeting two months ago where nipple shields had been discussed. It sounds like either one of the area hospitals or simply the nurses on a particular shift gave a mom a nipple shield to use without any instruction beforehand. She left with the impression she was supposed to always use the nipple shield and came to LLL with questions about it.The mom was very open to the advice the leaders gave for weaning from the nipple shield, but I can definitely see the possibility of a new post partum mother taking advice roughly. Even the sentence, "Nipple shields can be useful for drawing out a flattened nipple on an engorged breast, but there are other things you can try," could be taken as, "You obviously didn't do enough breastfeeding research beforehand since you didn't know about this..."

I don't say that to get down on recently post partum women- I say that because I remember being the sensitive post partum woman who took things very personally. Our brains just make those jumps sometimes.

Another example comes from this month's meeting. At one point it was mentioned that breastmilk digests faster than formula, so you don't have to worry as much when your baby spits up after a meal if you breastfeed: it's very likely that some of that got digested already. Could that be taken as "formula bashing?" It's possible.

I know that there are other examples, and I know that there are some out there that are more extreme and more "pushy," but I know that's not what LLL wants to be known for. I do know that LLL has helped many moms. If you're looking for free breastfeeding help, please ask them. They really do want to help. If you have been pushed away in the past, try it out again. I know the dynamic in our meetings varies greatly month to month depending on who is there. People move in and out. And the most important thing: people change.

What has your experience with LLL been? Was it positive or negative and why?

Heather Farley blogs as TopHat at http://itsallaboutthehat.blogspot.com.  She is a "student in parenting" and a lactivist, AP mom of a young toddler. She is most well-known for organizing the nurse-in at Facebook Headquarters last December.
« Book Review: Slow Death by Rubber Duck (by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie) | Main | Nursing in Public Breastfeeding Carnival »

Reader Comments (33)

Thank you, Heather! It is wonderful to read your blog on LLL. As someone who loved the organization for over 40 yrs (certified as a leader 40 yrs ago this month) it has always saddened me to hear those comments. As this is a "public" forum I will save my thoughts on why some women feel the way they do or say what they say about LLL for a more private dialogue. It does warm my heart, however, that you have received support and continue to do so.

My best in LLLove,

"NurturingNana Joan"
twitter id: GeminiJoanLANY

June 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoan Durham

My experience with LLL has been, well, nonexistant. I was one of those moms given a nipple shield and no other help after a nurse insisted I pump when my sleept baby wouldn't latch. I tried calling the local leader, leaving messages & emails, but to no avail. I couldn't even get a confirmation on meeting times. I gave up on LLL and focused on weaning off the shield, which we finally did at three & a half months. My baby is a year old now, and I plan on nursing as long as she likes, but I do wish I could find support locally.

June 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkara

My sister was a member of LLL when I was a teen, so I had a very positive impression of the organization even before I was ready to have my own child.

One of the reasons that we chose the doula that we hired was that she is a local La Leche League leader.

As it turned out, when my daughter was born 4 weeks early, under 5 pounds, and had trouble nursing, then became nipple confused after been essentially forced to give her bottles before she was discharged from the hospital, her support and advice was invaluable.

I can't begin to count the hours I spent on the phone with her in the first few weeks, often in tears. She had lot of advice and suggestions, but mostly she reassured me that we could do it, and that my daughter would eventually learn to breastfeed.

After six loooooong weeks of pumping and bottle feeding, my daughter finally caught on (with the help of a nipple shield, but I'm glad I waited until my supply was well-established) and never looked back.

She's now 8 months old, and we've started solids, but continue to breastfeed as much as ever, and plan to for as long as she wants.

Our LLL meetings are much smaller and more informal than the meetings described in this post, but I look forward to them every month, as an opportunity to spend time with other breastfeeding moms, to get advice, and to share our experiences.

I have had nothing but positive experiences with LLL, and am even considering looking into training to be a leader when my daughter is older, so that I can help other women as much as LLL has helped me.

June 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWhozat

I go to LLL meetings on a regular basis, and have for well over a year now. My experience is very similar to yours. It's a laid back environment where all opinions are welcome and the disclaimer to take what works and leave what does not is always made. There is never a push for membership purchases either.

June 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I keep meaning to attend LLL meetings and never make it for various reasons. I could have used their support in the first few weeks. I have a warm spot in my heart for LLL, though, because of one brief email exchange. In a literally desperate move in the middle of the night, I sent a message to a local leader that I located online. Our son was sick and uncomfortable and getting worse, and his pediatricians were failing to help him or trust my instincts that something was wrong. I got a very long, extremely personal reply to my email that detailed his systems. It gave me the courage to see a specialist and to (eventually) make him better. (he had multiple food allergies). I love that they listened, and answered, when I really needed someone to. (We're still nursing strong at 19 months and really hope to make a LLL meeting for extended breastfeeders soon to start getting some ideas for gentle night weaning).

June 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

I love LLL! You should TOTALLY become a leader! You rock! Get started now as the process will take a good solid year! *You really can't say you are becoming a leader, etc. as you will find out when going through the process.

June 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstrwberryjoy

I am a LLL leader, so you know I love LLL! :)

I think that it's very hard for a vast organization, with many groups, leaders, and members to always maintain a positive face. We do our best to be helpful and supportive, but we're all human. And everyone interprets LLL meetings through the lens of their own experience. Any one of us can say something to a group of a couple dozen people, and we'll get a couple dozen different interpretations.

Mostly, though, I hope that people who need support will find it from LLL. That's why the organization exists - to support moms. Kara's experience sounds very, very disappointing.

June 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to Heather for this guest post.

For me personally, I have had both positive and negative experiences with LLL.

On the negative side, I have found it difficult to get a word in edgewise sometimes. If I don't have a specific question or concern, I sometimes leave frustrated and wonder why I bothered to take an evening out of my busy life to go there in order to make one or maybe two comments over the course of a 2 hour meeting when the leader gave lengthy replies to each question or comment and monopolized the conversation. I also had one horrible experience where a mom was asking for advice on which pump to buy and the leader went into a long anti-pump tirade. Not really useful to the mom and insulting to me as a mom who has been an exclusive pumper and a working and pumping mom. I think she could have made her point by simply saying that not all moms need a pump, but if you do want one some brands to look at are...

On the positive side, the leaders and members have always been very welcoming. They do always make sure that anyone that has a question or a concern gets the answers that they need. Locally, there are also extra meetings and enrichment meetings on specific topics and I found those to be really useful both in terms of the topics covered and also to give us another nursing-friendly play group to go to (because the kids play while the moms talk!).

On the whole, my experience has been positive, but I do think there is some room for improvement!

June 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Hi, just wanted to throw in my two cents. I've only been to LLL once, and it was a very positive experience. I've been wanting to go back but we moved, baby doesn't travel well, and there isn't a chapter near by.

I've heard that they can be pushy, but that didn't stop me from going. Why give up free breastfeeding help? I'm surprised how many mothers are unaware of LLL. All you have to do is open up a book about breastfeeding...they all mention the organization.

Anyway, I'm rambling...

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa C

I have not been to a LLL meeting, but have had long conversations with leaders & non-leaders. Personally, I found that there is so much energy wasted in discussing misconceptions that sometimes I wonder if they really hear what is being said or if they immediately leap to their perception of your misconception.

Overall, I believe that LLL needs to be a lot more accepting of all the different kinds of breastfeeding and to be sensitive to the fact that some of the people who work hardest at breastfeeding still need to use formula and work at clearing away the negativity surrounding it.

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGayle

I had a very positive experience of my local LLL - very supportive although I had few breastfeeding dilemmas, mine were more about what normal development was like in the first year ( i will always be very grateful to all the mums who came to meetings who reassured me).
but I do have misgivings about the extremely militant attitude given off in some meetings - unless you were co-sleeping, breastfeeding into the teens, knitting your own compost, granola-crunching organic earth mommas you really weren't doing your best for your child .... and it was off-putting. Never expected to find parenting-oneupmanship at LLL

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterebbandflo aka pomomama

I think the pumping issue is hard, at least in our LLL, because many of the leaders don't have experience with pumping. A few months ago, someone came with pump questions and there was a little silence before someone jumped in. The silence could have been interpreted as, "This is a subject we don't approve of/like to talk about" but knowing the women there, it was simply, "I don't know what to say because I have no experience with that." We have evening meetings so that working mothers have a chance to come, but we still don't get many. We have one leader who's pumped for over a year, but not because of work and she's not there all the time, so her experience is missed. I do have a friend who works full time and pumped at work- now that her daughter is 20 months old she has just recently stopped pumping at work. I've "grilled" her about pumping so that if someone asks about pumping I can say, "I have a friend who works full time and she used ____ pump and pumped ____ often, etc." I wish there was more pumping experience in our group, but there isn't. Maybe it's because moms who pump and work full time don't have time to devote to LLL. I'm sure they'd rather spend their evenings with their children.

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTopHat/Heather

LLL has been a part of my life since I was born - My mother became a leader after I was born so LLL has always been a part of my life. When I got pregnant with my DD I started going to meetings and haven't stopped- she is 20 months old now and I am toying with becoming a leader. My experiences with the leaders at my meetings have been fantastic. I think the wide variety of experiences in the meetings are due to the wide variety of experiences of personalities. Just like in any field or profession there are those who are better at it than others. I think the leaders at my meetings are phenomenal about not being judgmental and very welcoming of a whole range of mothers and are very good about not "taking over " and always being the ones to talk- it is mother to mother support after all. The other thing is it is important to keep the conversation during the meetings to topics concerning breastfeeding. Apparently the founding mothers had different opinions on a whole bunch of things but found that if they stuck to breastfeeding which they all felt strongly about then it was more helpful. There should def not be "oneupwomanship" however I can see how that could happen because unfortunately I think mothers in general to tend to judge other mothers for doing things differently than they do and in this case it happens in this forum- it's sad but true.

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmi

I've only been to one meeting, and I found it very welcoming. But I was a bit disappointed that there was only one other new mother besides me at the meeting. I'm planning to go to another meeting next month and I hope there are more moms this time.

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

@TopHat/Heather:

I think it is great that you have done a bit of research to try to have more info on pumping to share with moms. There are great working and pumping message boards on kellymom and ivillage too that moms can check out.

I think the reality with regards to pumping here is a bit different than in the US. In Canada a lot of moms don't pump because they take 1 year maternity leave and then either wean or partially wean to go back to work. Almost all of the LLL meetings here are in the evenings (maybe even all of them) so that both working and non-working moms are able to attend and so that moms can attend without having to bring all of their kids along with them if their partner is at home in the evening.

I wouldn't have a problem with a leader saying "I don't really know a lot about pumps", but this one went on a tirade about pumps. In any case, I haven't been back to that particular meeting but thankfully there are numerous groups here and I can pick and choose one that has the environment I want.

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I went to 2 meetings before my daughter was born and one after. The meetings before were a large part of the reason that I was able to refuse the pressure from the neo-natal nurses to give formula in a bottle to my daughter, who might have (but didn't) develop an infection when she passed meconium before birth. I had acquired confidence to insist of cup or tube feeding. The meeting afterward was nice enough but I just wasn't organized enough to get to others. I joined because membership got me the New Beginnings magazine and I loved reading it!

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterM0m on the Go

I have a couple friends that are LLL leaders and go on and off to meetings. Some of the complaints about our local group is that it is too 'crunchy' but that is not a fair assumption and even if it were totally true no one would be judgemental about anyone's mainstream leanings. We know 'you' (a new person at a meeting) came for help with breastfeeding not enviromental ideas or to talk about how we don't own a TV. I also was the new person at a LLL meeting once. That first meeting was a little uncomfortable, but ALL first meetings are new and awkward in a sense and take a little faith in everyone's positive intentions.

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi

Like Kara, I had a bad experience with LLL when trying to get help with my breastfeeding issues with my son. I kept calling my local leader and leaving messages and she wasn't returning them. Finally I emailed someone from the website and my local leader finally called me back, with a nasty attitude, to tell me when the local meetings were and to come if I "really want[ed] to." Um, no thanks. Combine that with the fact that a friend in NYC had a horrible experience at a local meeting where there was some pretty blatant racism going on, I've pretty much written off LLL. I can't think of one mom of color I know who is active in LLL in any capacity.

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElita @ Blacktating

@Elita- I am sorry you had such bad experience - and yes I agree LLL has a lot of work to do in engaging mothers of color. I am Hispanic and I do know one mother of color here in Nashville, TN who is a leader. I went to the 50th Anniversary International Conference and although there was a tremendous international presence from all over the world, the US contingent was mostly white - so I do know what you are talking about. Are you familiar with mochamoms.com? That might be a place you can find some support. I am not that familiar with it, but it might be work checking out. Once again I am sorry.

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmi

@Elita: That is frustrating. Especially give the additional challenges moms of colour face with regards to breastfeeding that you have spoken about before.

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I have never been. I have meant to go many times, but not made it. I recommended a friend call for advice and she said they were too pushy and non-helpful which was my first "negative" encounter. I have several other friends who are active in local groups and they love the groups . I guess I am lucky to have had good support from my mom when I was a 1st time mom and lots of dear friends when I had trouble at first with my 3rd. It is still on my to-do list as I want to be around more toddler nursers as that is a goal of mine this time around.

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterduffnstuff

I've had a great experience with LLL, and my times they have saved my sanity. I have become friends with many of the leaders, so that is an added bonus!

Elita-- My MIL (black) was active in LLL for a while. I do not think she was a leader (I don't remember her mentioning that anyway), but when we first visited her after having The Boy, she pointed out how great it was (is) that I nurse The Boy and discussed how LLL was helpful to her. Also, the regular evening meeting often times has women of various ethnicities in Tulsa and at the toddler meeting, we've discussed how to reach out to all groups of women, especially in North Tulsa where there is a high density of poor and black (some combination of those two) women. All that to say, you don't know my MIL, but she is a woman of color (formerly) involved with LLL. :)

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

@Emi, yes I have heard of Mocha Moms. Most of the Mocha Moms are breastfeeding mothers and there probably would be a lot of support there as well. I have a few issues with that group as well. Mocha Moms is touted as a group for stay-at-home moms and don't seem to be particularly welcoming of moms who work out of the home, like I do.
I know there are some women of color who love LLL (and I wanted to be one of them!) like Maria's MIL, Mickey from Mocha Milk, etc. It would be nice if the organization as a whole was working harder to engage women of color, particularly those who work out of the home, often out of necessity. It's really difficult to continue nursing when you have to go back to work at 6 weeks post partum at a fast-food joint. These women need help and support to make it work and the issues surrounding low breastfeeding rates affect us all as they are public health issues, not just personal choice.

June 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElita @ Blacktating

I'll be brutally honest here: at the LLL meeting I attended when my son was 6 weeks old (I brought him with me) I got lots of pushy advice and the members kept trying to sell me things I already had. So I never went back. Let me give you the specifics.

During the meeting my son started to fuss. I had just fed him not 30 minutes before the meeting started, so I knew he wasn't hungry. He had been fussy his whole life so far, so I just walked around with him upright like I always had, which seemed to help. What I didn't know at that time was that he had severe GERD and every time he ate he spit up stuff partway and then swallowed it back down, getting a double dose of acid each time. So, shortly after a feeding he was particularly fussy. They STOPPED the meeting to give me a lecture on how important feeding on demand was. I was so embarrassed. When I explained that he had just been fed they told me that I didn't feed him enough and they wanted me to feed him right there at the meeting. I didn't feel comfortable with that so I declined. Throughout the rest of the meeting the leader kept stopping to ask if I would please feed my son. I felt very judged but stayed until the end.

After the meeting I asked if anyone could help me with the various types of carriers and slings I had been given as gifts. Not a single person offered to help me with what I had, but three people tried to sell me carriers that they personally made and one woman insisted that I buy her collection of cloth diapers and associated stuff.

I love what LLL does and I realize that not all groups are like my local one. I do wish it had gone better because I really needed LLL at that time in my life. I still breastfed my children and I still encourage others to do so if they ask me. I even suggest they attend an LLL meeting if they feel up to it. But I'll never go back myself.

June 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPatti

My step-sis tried to bf her 1st born. She went to a LLL meeting, in which the woman there tried to help her and her babe latch on. She said they were all "pushy" and "judgemental" and chose to bottle feed both her babies since then. In reality, they were trying to be helpful, kind and sympathetic but she was exhausted and emotional. A similar thing happened with another sis. Nothing anyone could have done could have made it any better. It was their perception and their solution was to "simplify" things with a bottle. People can - and do - walk on eggshells but sometimes it just doesn't matter.

Personally, I think the best thing that any person can do for a new mom (or new to breastfeeding mom) is to invite her to a meeting *before* she has the baby, so she can make friends, ask questions, and get information and support *before* she's emotionally, physically and mentally wiped out.

~Tara

June 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheOrganicSister

I agree with the previous comment that suggests women start meetings while pregnant! I did that during my second pregnancy, we lived in a new area and I had a terrible experience trying to breastfeed my older son so I wanted to make sure I had support lined up ahead of time and a level of comfort with the leaders and group.
I think groups vary a lot, but I have had a great experience with my local group. My daughter quit nursing due to illness suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 9.5 mos. I couldn't go to meetings for a while afterward because of my own emotions but was contacted several times by one of the leaders to make sure that I realized I would still always be welcome at a meeting either just for the social aspect or to be a support to other women who might be going through some similar issues.

June 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKrista

To Maria, who seems to live in Tulsa!!! I would love to connect with you as I started the LLL chapter there 40 yrs ago (was certified by LLL exactly this month in 1969....!!)

Please look me up on facebook or email: joand42@yahoo.com

LLLove,
Joa n

June 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoan Durham

I had a very good experience with the local LLL Leader, but a very poor experience with LLL's book on tandem nursing, which, I think, speaks more to the LLL's Official Agenda) than the various personal experiences with various individual leaders.

The LLL-endorsed tandem nursing book is FULL of veiled and not-so-veiled subliminal messages about tandem nursing (if you do you're a superhero, as evidenced by the drawing of "supermom" on the front. If you don't you're a failure. If you really love your oldest child you'll tandem, if you don't, you're rejecting your oldest in favor of the new baby - start saving for therapy now, 'cause she's gonna need it!). The damn book had me in tears, more than once. I would quote chapter and verse but I literally threw it away before I finished it (the breaking point was when it suggested that I give my kid sticks of FROZEN LIVER when she asked to nurse in the middle of the night). I called my mom (who was a LLL Leader in the 1970s, and who agrees that the entire organization has gone off the rails) and she said, "Honey, pitch the book, it's insane."

In order to remain relevant in an increasingly pro-breastfeeding world, the LLL has had to become more and more militant over time. It's a shame, because there are a lot of shades of gray in between "nurse exclusively for two years or you FAIL" and "formula feed exclusively" that work for a lot of families, but no one is talking about those options.

Maybe I'll write a book - "Mainstream Breastfeeding for a Modern World" sounds like a good title. But LLL? Not for me. Not anymore. Even though I credit my local leader with saving my first child. And since the group simply referred me to the LLL's books when I was struggling with tandem nursing? Well, they blew it, and they lost me.

These days, when I hear of someone who is planning to tandem nurse, I tell her, "It's the hardest thing I have ever done, and there is virtually NO understanding or support out there for those who do it, so be prepared to go it alone and make it up as you go along." Of course, these girls have all drank the LLL Koolaid, so they fire back the party lines - "Tandem nursing isn't for everyone," (translation - I'm a better mother than YOU are), and "I'm going to give my baby the best, and put her needs before my own," (translation - excuse me while I martyr myself - which you would do, too, if you weren't a crap mother).

July 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

@Amy: I haven't read the LLL tandem nursing book. If you are looking for balanced info on tandem nursing, you might want to look at the information on kellymom, both the http://www.kellymom.com/bf/tandem/index.html" rel="nofollow">main website and the http://forum.kellymom.net/forumdisplay.php?f=50" rel="nofollow">message board.

July 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

As a follow-up to the discussions on pumping and how/if LLL supports it, I thought I would share the message about a regular "special" meeting that takes place where I live. Perhaps LLL should strive to do this type of thing in other places too:


A special meeting entitled "When You and Your Baby are Apart: Breastfeeding Can Continue" will be held on Friday July 31st, from 10:00am to 11:30am.

This meeting will be led by LLLC leader Christina. Its purpose is to provide information and support to mothers who will be separated from their babies (i.e., for return to work and/or school or other separation experiences).

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] LLL is too… [...]

I have had one experience with LLL and it was a negative one. I do appreciate Amber's comments though and agree completely that my perception of the group as a whole is based on my encounter with one individual.

The problem I had is very similar to what Annie experienced, in regards to working mothers/pumping. This was while I was pregnant and taking a childbirth class. The final session was devoted to a discussion with the representative from LLL. She touched on the topic of working mothers and said that she felt that mothers who worked away from home caused permanent emotional distress to their children. Shortly after this, there was a bathroom break. The woman's mother was in attendance observing her class so when we reconvened she said "My mother brought it to my attention that I sounded very judgmental just now." She shrugged "Sorry. That's just how I feel about it. Don't let that stop you from calling LLL-you might not even get me on the phone. Ok, moving on...." Over a year later, I still struggle to make sense of my reaction in that moment, especially now that I have been a working mother for almost 8 months. There was a small part of me that appreciated her candor, and her unwillingness to concede on a point she felt passionately about. I am not a proponent of the "All choices are valid" argument per se....but what exactly are LLL's goals? I am a working mother. I will not delve into all of the reasons behind that choice here, for the sake of brevity, but I'll say it was not an easy decision for me to come to, nor has it been one I'm happy with. But I was there in earnest. Wanting to learn. Wanting support and education so I could create that connection through breastfeeding and maintain it. So, I couldn't help wondering if LLL wants to provide support only to the choir, and not all the shades in between? By choosing not to have any kind of discourse on the topic, this woman just made LLL seem like a sponsor in the "Mommy Wars" to me.

@Tara: I have to admit, I resent your implication that people perceive LLL in a particular way because of their fragile, post-partum emotional state, as this glosses over the very real socio-economic challenges that many mothers face and the valid need for LLL to calibrate their tone in order to reach out to those women. Again, that is if LLL's goal is to get more women to breastfeed. This didn't really have much of an effect on me (although when my son was first born I really could've used some support, but I got through it and kept breastfeeding), but I have a co-worker who did attempt to breastfeed and had a very bad experience with aggressive, ineffective lactation consultants at the hospital (NOT LLL, in that case). Not only did this woman have zero family support but she was surrounded by sabotage at every turn. I did my best to provide her information and did recommend contacting LLL and gave her their website. At that point, her confidence was already destroyed. And I wish I could say I believed whole heartedly that LLL could have changed that for her, but after my experience I honestly don't know. I don't think we need to walk on eggshells, but I think you can't change minds with hammers either and if LLL truly wants to create discernible change there is no getting around the fact that tone is a factor.

Annie, thank you for providing the information about the special meeting. I'll have to take a look to see if there is anything similar where I am. If nothing else that certainly raises my opinion of LLL, and will make me more likely to refer someone.

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Here are two of the 10 tenets of LLL philosophy:

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.

So basically if you go to work you are starving your baby, according to the above. I am a Leader, and I enjoy being a Leader, but I do think that LLL is missing out on a HUGE part of the breastfeeding mom population by excluding working mothers. I did evening meetings for a while and was so thankful to have a mom that came with pumping experience. I did pump for two of my babies who were in the NICU, but I never pumped to go back to work.

However. When I was thinking about staying home with my preemie first baby, LLL was the ONLY organization that supported a mother's need to be with her child. There is no other organization, that I have found anyway, that supports and stands up for a baby's need for her mother. Even the U.S. government thinks that 12 weeks is a substantial amount of time to be with your baby. Sorry, but that's not even close, and you end up going back to work during a growth spurt.

On the other hand, I am now home with my third child, and we are scraping by. There is an old LLL book from the 1980's called The Heart Has Its Own Reasons, which basically advocates staying home until you are broke. I'm sorry but I don't ascribe to that philosophy. I have worked a few part time jobs since I have been a Leader, and have been "allowed" to continue leading. The other Leaders in the area freaked out when they thought that I was going to be working full time.

So... I think that LLL desperately needs to get with the times. But I also believe that babies need to be raised by their own mothers, or at the very least by someone who loves them just as much as mommy does. Group care is inappropriate for infants. And I think until the U.S. government and other entities catch on that mothers need ADEQUATE PAID MATERNITY LEAVE, LLL will be the only organization advocating for mothers to be at home, nursing their children.

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

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