Picture a Leader: Leaders Focus on Accreditation
LLLI Education Campaign Coordinator
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 35 No. 5, October 1999-November 1999, pp. 111-112
LLL Leaders around the world are focused on the importance of their role in the accreditation process. Thanks for sending me the articles you've written, workshops you've developed, translations you've done, as well as your thoughts about the 1998 accreditation policies. Thanks for taking advantage of the opportunities you've had this year to gather and talk with other Leaders in your communities, at the International Conference in Florida and via email. Thanks for accessing ideas shared by Leaders around the world on the EC Web page. Thanks for sharing what you've learned as you've used the 1998 accreditation policies with potential Applicants. This is a great conversation! Here are a few thoughts that Leaders have shared with me that explore the theme expressed in the LLLI Prerequisites to Applying for Leadership-Guidelines for Leaders:
Leaders are a diverse group of women representing a broad spectrum of cultures, bound together by a common philosophy and a mother-to-mother approach to providing breastfeeding help.
Creative Ways Mothers Have Found to Avoid Separation from Their Babies.
We all know Group members who have made tough choices in order to be available to meet their babies' needs. We need to highlight these situations a lot. We have a long-time Group member who is the girl's basketball and volleyball coach for a small-town high school. She brought her son along to practices and games in his sling. There was always a girl not on the court who was more than happy to help entertain him and the mother could take him and nurse him whenever he wanted. I like to use her story as an illustration of how a need to work does not always mean a need to separate from the baby for some mothers who are creative and lucky.
A Leader Who Experienced Separation from a Young Baby
In South Africa, after the birth of my first child, Robbie, who is now five years old, I decided not to go back to my full-time job, but when he was five months old I received the offer of a part-time teaching job that seemed too good to be true. Robbie stayed with a day mother near the school where I taught and I would go and nurse him, as he wasn't interested in bottles of expressed milk. After three months, I decided not to continue working, as Robbie wasn't happy at the day care mother. My Leaders apparently had no hesitation in recommending me for leadership and I was clear in my history about this issue. My co-Leader in South Africa was also accredited even though she had worked one morning a week away from her son since he was about seven months old. At this point in time we are both full-time homeschooling mothers.
When I moved to the US, I met a mother who was interested in leadership, but had worked for a couple of months until she realized that her baby needed her and she then left her job. She was told that she was not a candidate for leadership at this stage because of her work history. When I questioned the Leader who said this, I was told that the LAD worldwide had the same standards, a statement that was not borne out by my experience.
I believe that 99 percent of women who become Leaders will, like my friend and me, grow closer to LLLI philosophy, not away from it. And that goes for the other concepts as well.
A New Experience Brought a New Perspective
I had lived in a bubble of white, middle class stay-at-home mothers the whole time I lived in Illinois. I lived in a primarily white, middle class town of 47,000. We had three active LLL Groups in our town, two of which held daytime meetings. These mothers were not working. In all that time I met one mother who worked. She was a zookeeper who could not go to her baby while she was at work. This was my first example of a baby reverse-cycle feeding. He nursed half the night! There was also a mother whose baby was born while she was finishing nursing school. She took her baby with her to classes as much as possible. She did become a Leader.
Moving transformed me. Now the two small towns and surrounding area had a population of about 20,000. Not only did I begin to meet mothers who regularly planned to go back to work, I met single moms, mothers struggling with significant others who weren't all that significant or who were irresponsible and abusive. Yes, all this in an exclusive rural college town where many rich people have chosen to live staying connected to the big city by computers and fax machines.
I quickly was forced to examine very carefully everything that came out of my mouth. Was it offensive, insulting, uncaring, exclusive? Did it indicate a disregard for others' circumstances? Some things that had become so automatic in Illinois caught me up short. As I tried to present an LLL concept I found myself stumbling over words that I'd said time and again as I began to realize they were excluding some of the mothers at the meeting. Within a year I had honed my brain to be able to say what I needed to say without unintentionally excluding anyone.
I knew all about accepting mothers where they were and thought I had been good at it. All I had become good at was accepting the individual differences of some stay-at-home mothers. Now I have come face-to-face with many other circumstances and have had to accept all kinds and manners of breastfeeding. Over and over again in the beginning of my time here I had to remind myself of the difference between what was expected of Leaders versus what many mothers were experiencing.
I have come to know many mothers who are very attached to their babies and their babies to them. None of that means I would want to go back and change the way I mothered my children when they were young.
I don't think the concept of "the baby's need for the mother is as intense as his need for food" is going to change. That stands for something very real. But I do think we've ignored how significant other people can be in the baby's life and how attached the baby can be to others. Burton White found that the baby's grandparents are also capable of investing tremendous love in a grandchild. My third-born child has very strong attachments and preferences for his brother or sister doing particular things in his life, and rejects my doing these things with/for him! As our family grew I had to adapt to the fact that others in my baby's life were very dear to him and fulfilled some of his needs.
Some mothers in my Group worked twelve-hour shifts and did have their babies at a caretaker's. But they spent a good bit of time when not at work nursing to bring up their milk supplies and reveling in their relationship with their babies. I guess I'm trying to say that unless some Leaders have experienced what I have and seen how attached these mother-baby couples can be, they may not be aware that mothers and babies can have separations and still thrive emotionally.
New Hampshire USA
An Unexpected Benefit from LLL's 1999 Focus on Accreditation
Today I met a woman, for the second time, who will probably become my future co-Leader. I am thrilled at the prospect but disappointed in myself for not recognizing this possibility nine months ago when we first met! She attended my Group meeting last year; she was pregnant and had a three-year-old. I have not seen her since then, until today, when she arrived with her six-month-old and now four-year-old and asked, "Just what is involved in becoming a Leader?" It seems she has lived in two different states and been involved with LLL each time. Both of her previous Leaders had approached her about leadership just as she was about to move. She visited my Group when she first moved to town but then stayed away for nine months!
What a difference it would have made if I had called her after that first meeting and gotten to know her better! Instead of tearing my hair out all these months, I could have been enjoying a new friend and a Group Librarian! You can bet I am going to call every newcomer who attends my meetings from now on. As I watch this mother interact with other mothers and share her enjoyment of mothering with the Group and her baby, I am so grateful for this second chance to "picture a Leader." I wonder how many potential Leaders have "gotten away" because I did not take the time to get to know them better?
North Carolina USA
About LLLI Philosophy
LLLI philosophy states, "Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby" and "In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food." It is this philosophy of mothering through breastfeeding that defines La Leche League. Mothering through breastfeeding requires mother's availability to her baby to meet his needs for food and comfort, as well as time to learn how to mother her unique baby. It requires an understanding of the development of her baby and a respect for that developmental process. Our philosophy does not mandate full-time, at-home mothering as the only way to meet baby's needs, but it does suggest some flexibility in a mother's work situation as well as an intense desire on the part of the mother to respond to her baby's needs not fit the baby's needs into the pattern of her day.
We also recognize that babies grow and develop at different rates and that their needs change over time. We know that baby's need for mother lessens in intensity during the early years and that "loving others" can meet some of the baby's needs as he moves past those tender early months. The ability to separate from mother is a necessary part of growing up which develops at different times in different babies.
People often say La Leche League is an advocate for the baby. To me it is more important and respectful for La Leche League to be the advocate for mothering through breastfeeding. We help a mother breastfeed and learn about her baby and his needs, so she can develop an understanding of her child as only a mother can and then make decisions based on that knowledge, not society's expectations of her.
When considering a mother for leadership, if that mother has experienced separation from her baby, consider this mother's experience in the context of LLLI philosophy. Consider the respect she demonstrates for the natural progression of the baby's ability to separate from mother. Look at the choices she has made and how she has progressed as a mother learning to meet the needs of her baby. This is how we can identify mothers who, as Leaders, will transmit the philosophy of the organization to the next generation of mothers.
Cindy Smith, Chairman
LLLI Board of Directors
COMMUNIQUE #8 June, 1999