The years seemed to fly by in an instant. I became a La Leche League leader in 1982. During the first decade I led meetings and helped mothers, about 50% to 60% breastfed after birth. Breastfeeding to ayear was unusual. La Leche League and other mother-support meetings were the only place you could count on seeing other nursing mothers and getting breastfeeding help and support.
Make no mistake, we still have a long way to go, but in the last 28 years the changes have been amazing. Now about 75% of U.S. mothers start breastfeeding after birth and 22% are breastfeeding at one year. The U.S. has more than 90 Baby Friendly hospitals. In the Chicago suburb where I lead my LLL meetings, new mothers attend hospital mother-support groups, Attachment Parenting groups, baby-wearing groups, Baby Cafes, and many more. When I started my new LLL group four years ago, one mom told me that she went to all of these groups’ meetings (at least one per week) for her first few months postpartum because she needed the emotional support as she made the transition from working woman to at-home mom.
When I was a new mother, I described my LLL meetings as a parallel universe where breastfeeding was the norm. Experiencing that for one evening each month was the antidote I needed to combat the social pressures of the time. It gave me confidence to continue breastfeeding despite the naysayers. Now breastfeeding mothers can find support in many places, and thank goodness for that. I’m thrilled to be “one of many” for the moms and dads who attend my monthly meetings. Breastfeeding is much easier when mothers have many people to turn to and they can connect with them more often.
I’ve always been a “glass-half-full” kind of person. So as I lead my LLL group meeting tomorrow night, I encourage you to celebrate with me the strides we’ve made. There is still much to do, but let’s spend a few minutes this week to appreciate what we’ve accomplished. Happy World Breastfeeding Week!
Photo: This 1989 image was taken of me and my two younger sons by a newspaper photographer to show an LLL leader at work and later appeared on the cover of Leaven (an LLLI publication for leaders). As one LLL leader wrote to me later: "How typical, a leader talking calmly to a mother on the phone with her happy toddler on one hip and her older child contentedly drawing...in a CLEAN kitchen" LOL!