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Our Greatest Strength

Maggie Heeger
Madison, Alabama, USA
From: LEAVEN, November-December-January 1995-1996, p. 104

What makes La Leche League so unique? LLLI, like many other organizations, promotes breastfeeding. We provide information and do all we can to encourage mothers to choose breastfeeding. But there are some aspects of LLL that set us apart from other breastfeeding groups. It's important for Leaders to understand and support these differences. Our approach to breastfeeding, our special curriculum, our unequalled support system are the essence of LLL leadership. It is important that Leaders present this entire package, not merely the aspects that appeal to them.

Our Philosophy

LLL philosophy is perhaps the single most important factor separating Leaders from other breastfeeding counselors. At our meetings we don't just tell mothers how to feed their babies; we share a philosophy of parenting. We believe that the art of breastfeeding hinges on the art of mothering...or is it the other way around?

Every statement that comprises LLL philosophy makes Leaders what they are, makes Series Meetings what they are. We stress the relationship that is formed, not just the feeding method. We believe that breastfeeding is far more than the nourishment: we believe that a baby needs his mother's presence every bit as much as he needs her milk. These ideas are sometimes new to mothers, even controversial. Often, we are the only voice stating them.

Every statement of philosophy influences a Leader's discussion format and the manner in which she helps women. Leaders believe in these principles and present an example of LLL philosophy in action.

We work our philosophy into our meetings in a gentle, non-threatening way. While we strongly support LLL's philosophy we just as strongly respect those with different views. Many Leaders feel that this is one of the most challenging responsibilities of leadership. We provide support and information to mothers who ask about separation and early weaning, for example. We respect these choices and have confidence that our unspoken example may provide insight into other options, perhaps planting seeds for future parenting choices.

A Leader's Expertise Is Her Mothering

Leaders portray themselves as professional and knowledgeable but first and foremost, as experienced mothers. It is clearly stated in all LLL material that we are mothers offering support to other mothers. We have experienced "the normal course of breastfeeding," we have breastfed on a day-in, day-out basis. We've been through the challenging yet rewarding experience of mothering a breastfed baby. A doctor or a lactation consultant hasn't necessarily breastfed. LLL Leaders have all nursed for at least a year and can offer the support that comes from a combination of personal sharing and factual information.

Guidelines Ensure Credibility

Leadership candidates are sometimes surprised to learn that the accreditation process involves more than paying a fee and filling out an application. During leadership preparation, candidates learn the scope of their responsibilities, the importance of their mothering and breastfeeding experience, the need for Group management and communication skills. The crucial cornerstone of it all is LLL philosophy.

Accredited Leaders follow guidelines that impact on the content of their meetings and the source of support they provide. Leaders cannot promote other causes, no matter how worthy or helpful, while representing LLL. To encourage mothers to support or boycott certain doctors, allow religious discussion at meetings, promote a home business, bring politics into the meeting--these all constitute mixing causes and are specifically addressed in THE LEADER'S HANDBOOK. We do all we can to keep our cause singular--breastfeeding.

It's with great pride that you and I can say: we are La Leche League Leaders.

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