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Many Pictures of LLLI Philosophy

Leslie Del Gigante and Trudy Hartt
Co-Directors
LLLI Leader Accreditation
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 34 No. 6, December 1998 - January 1999, p. 129

Can you describe the ideal family vacation? Certainly, you can say what you would consider the best vacation for your family. Someone else might describe some- thing completely different for her family. Individual members of each of your families might have their own descriptions. So, what's the ideal family vacation? Is there one?

Ideals are perfect, the epitome, the apex, that which cannot be improved. To be perfect is to be complete in itself the best it can be, not to be changed without losing the perfection. There can only be one perfect anything; there can only be one ideal anything.

Can you describe the ideal baby? Would you want to measure your baby against this description? Can you describe the perfect way to give birth, to start breastfeeding, introduce solids?

If we look at the concepts as descriptions of ideals, there can be only one perfect "picture" of each: one perfect picture of breastfeeding early and often, of learning about and responding to a baby's needs, of giving birth, providing loving guidance and good nutrition...one perfect picture of LLLI philosophy.

However, we know that there are many ways of initiating breastfeeding early and often, of learning about and responding to a baby's needs - ways that are defined by and appropriate to specific situations and people. Even within the same family, we see that breastfeeding and mothering can be different because the people are different. We see that babies nurse the same in some ways and in some ways differently. And we know that the differences are as important and wonderful as the similarities in making the experience special.

How We View LLLI Philosophy Affects Our Work as Leaders

Respect for individuals - for their intelligence, experience, devotion to their habits - is central to the way we work. What does that mean? It means that we recognize and honor what each mother brings to the relationship with her baby. We learn from seeing how that comes together to form yet another picture of mothering through breastfeeding. We do not limit our recognition of and respect for individuals and their experience by considering women's experiences and choices only in comparison to perfect pictures of each concept.

For example, over the years, we've seen many different ways mothers can nurse early and often to establish their milk supply and breastfeeding relationship. The mother of the full-term baby does this differently from the mother of the premature healthy infant and both do it differently from the mother of the infant who is born with a physical problem that limits his or her ability to nurse Mothers have managed, in one way or another, to be with their babies "early and often" whether they've given birth at home, in a birthing center or in a hospital that is not as conductive to breastfeeding - and whether their newborns "cooperate" or not. Each of these mothers gives us a different picture of being with baby early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply. Our philosophy is enriched by what they show us.

When we understand our philosophy as a set of principles that individual mothers put to use in their unique family situations, we can look for and recognize the new and exciting pictures they show us. When a mother applies for LLL leadership, rather than starting with a single ideal picture and searching the mother's experience to find only that, we start with what the mother presents to us and we are free to watch as the shapes of our philosophy evolve.

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