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LLLI Visits with Russian Health Care Workers to Promote Breastfeeding

Marian Tompson
LLLI Founder
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 44, No. 3, 2008, p. 13

Heartland International, a nonprofit organization in Chicago, Illinois, USA, creates, develops, and manages international training programs often pertaining to principles of democracy such as rule of law, non-governmental organization leadership training, and education reform. Heartland contacted LLLI about participating in a professional training program funded by the federal government for health care workers from Russia who would be visiting the US to learn about best practices in maternal and child health care. The visitors included nine physicians, a journalist, and a translator. Six of the doctors were women, and five of them had breastfed their children.

I was the representative for LLLI and met with the health care workers on June 8, 2008. Although the group had been in its second week of meeting with various organizations, LLLI was the first organization to present material in Russian, which included a breastfeeding book written by Ellen Shein, LLL Leader and member of the LLLI Board of Directors. They were also provided with information on how to find articles in Russian on the LLLI Web site.

One of the issues discussed was problems encountered by employed mothers. In Russia, it is the law that nursing babies can be brought to their mothers' place of employment every three hours to be breastfed for the first three years of life! Despite this law, few women have someone available to bring their babies to them so they either stay home or breastfeed for just a short time.

We also talked about the effect of childbirth on the initiation of breastfeeding. Epidurals have not yet become as common in Russia as they have in the US. Also, Russian doctors will not allow free packages of formula to be given to new moms in the hospital.

Breastfeeding in public was a topic, as was how to go about initiating a program to educate physicians about breastfeeding. The health care workers also wanted to know about starting a mother-to-mother help program. The translator in attendance, who lives in Chicago, has a five-year-old, and was amazed at what she learned. She never received any of this information at the hospital, she said, nor did anyone suggest that she contact La Leche League International for support and information.

The meeting ended with the exchanging of email addresses and hugs. It was a very enjoyable experience, and I hope that the health care workers will be able to put what they learned in the US to use in Russia.

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