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LLL's Image: What Is LLL Philosophy and What Isn't?

from LEAVEN, May-June 1986, pp. 35-6
by Betty Crase

LLL's image and LLL philosophy--one should be a projection of the other, but it seems that's not always the case within LLL today. LLL philosophy, which is based on THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING and summarized in the concepts, is at the very heart of the organization--the "bottom line," as put in popular terminology. LLL's image is how Leaders in particular, as the official representatives of the organization, convey that philosophy to others.

In 1984 when LLLI faced the financial problems which led to the Second Founding, many questions were raised about the future of the organization. The issue of LLL's image began to seem more and more important. LLLI soon recognized the need to clarify its image to its Leaders, its membership, and the general public.

Problems can arise with LLL's image when some interpretations of LLL philosophy are singled out repeatedly over others. The difficulty is further compounded when Leaders dwell on their own experiences, which may have evolved far beyond a new mother's acceptance level, rather than drawing out a variety of alternatives from everyone in the Group. This contributes to the image that there is only one "right way" to incorporate LLL philosophy into one's life. As Edwina Froehlich, founding mother, once pointed out, one of LLL's main objectives is to give the baby back to the mother and revive her own mothering instincts, not give her a set of rules to follow.

It may be interesting to compare what the concepts really say to some of the individual interpretations of LLL philosophy that may adversely affect LLL's image. Explaining the basics of LLL philosophy can help us gain a greater understanding of the wide range of lifestyles that can be encompassed by it.

Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.

This particular aspect of LLL philosophy really summarizes all the rest. All of our philosophy is based on mothering through breastfeeding and meeting babies' needs. This concept stands out because it is positive and strong; LLL is a positive organization--FOR breastfeeding and meeting babies' needs.

Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply.

Early and often are the terms used here rather than setting arbitrary time limits on the need for mother and baby to be together. The condition of the mother or the baby immediately following birth may cause some delays, but those who understand this need make every effort to keep mother and baby together, and nursing, from birth.

In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food.

This concept expresses the need of the baby for a very special, one-to-one relationship with his mother. It is not meant to imply that a mother must never leave a child of any age. The sensitivity to her baby's needs that develops in a nursing mother is the best guide to when a particular child is ready to spend time away from mother. Many little ones are fine with dad or grandma long before they would be happy being cared for by a stranger. Others are not happy without mother until their third birthday.

In some families, sleeping together in the family bed is a natural outgrowth of this concept, but it is by no means the only way to achieve the goal of a satisfying relationship. This concept allows for individual mothers, differences in babies, and family situations.

Breast milk is the superior infant food.

This is a dynamic statement of fact, proven over and over again by medical research. Stating this fact and developing it enables a mother to make an informed choice about feeding her baby. Pointing out the benefits of breastfeeding is not meant as a criticism of bottle-feeding mothers.

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.

In this concept the emphasis is once again on the uniqueness of human milk and the individuality of each baby. Some are ready for solids at five or six months, while others may be closer to a year old before they show signs of readiness. Mothers are encouraged to follow their own baby's lead, not to get into a competition over whose baby started solids at the youngest age or whose baby waited the longest before starting them.

Ideally, the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.

LLL philosophy has nothing to do with the number of months or years each child is nursed, the age at which a child weans himself, or whether or not more than one child is being nursed simultaneously. It is the mother's responsibility to recognize her child's readiness for weaning, encouraging its natural course. This concept begins wisely with the word "ideally." Nursing through pregnancy and tandem nursing may not be ideal for some babies or mothers

Alert active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.

This is another example of the ideal vs. reality of the situation. LLL's goal for every mother is educated childbirth, including an awareness of the wide variety of childbirth options that are available. Home birth and VBACS (vaginal birth after cesarean) are not requirements, but alternatives for mothers to learn about and consider.

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.

LLL emphasizes the importance of the mother-baby-father triad but recognizes the fact that the baby's father may not be the mother's husband. Single mothers and mothers with non-supportive husbands can still mother their children effectively.

Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.

THE WOMANLY ART is quite specific about supporting a basic and simple approach to nutrition awareness. Food co-op participation and maintaining a vegetarian diet may be outgrowths of this basic philosophy for those who decide on their own to do so; there are many different ways to implement this concept.

From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.

LLL has always advocated a gentle style of parenting, based on a parent's understanding of each individual child. Sometimes this concept is interpreted to mean allowing the child total freedom without regard for other people or their property. Allowing freedom without teaching responsibility does the child a grave disservice and doesn't prepare him for the years ahead. Although harsh punishment is not recommended, as caring parents we have the responsibility to set realistic expectations and limits for our children.

There are no hard and fast "rules" for parents who want to follow LLL's philosophy in raising their children. What LLL parents have in common is the sincere desire to do the best they can to recognize and meet the needs of their little ones.

The points made here are not meant to be a complete discussion of LLL philosophy. I only hope it will to be used to start some constructive thinking about the image of LLL in your community. Misinterpretations of LLL philosophy adversely affect our image. Let's keep the true spirit of LLL and spread it to mothers and babies around the world.

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