As I become more active online and join multiple message boards or read my twitter stream I am shocked and a bit dismayed at the public perception of La Leche League.
In fact, I have to admit that until I actually went to my first meeting I had no idea what to expect and was a bit nervous. I was afraid that it was a meeting where all the mothers sat in rocking chairs and nursed their babies all at the same time and I was not sure how comfortable I’d be with all those boobs and nipples in plain view.
Other misconceptions I have come across: Leche League mamas are crazy hippy lunatics that will burn you at the stake if you tell a mom that formula is just as good or better than breastfeeding.
Or take this tweet I received when I asked what people thought of LLL:
judgmental angry woman with unshaven armpits.
Then I got a few others that did not shock me in the least, but they did make me very concerned for how people are affecting how the public perceives a very helpful organization:
The members I knew IRL seemed upset that I cover while NIP
I think LLL is an awesome idea. But many of it’s members think that ALL moms can nurse – SO not true. I couldn’t.
I know that all organizations will get stereotyped by the loudest, most obnoxious members of the group. La Leche League is no different. I want to write a quick post to give a clear image of what they are, and I will be honest. There are some real stinkers in the bunch.
La Leche League is a breastfeeding support group. According to their website their mission is “to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.”
So moms that have experienced the joys and hardships of breastfeeding go through vigorous and thorough training and education to be able to help other moms. The entire goal of setting it up like this was to provide a safe place where friendships can be made with other moms and education can be given at the same time. A La Leche League Leader ought to be knowledgeable, compassionate and ready to help in whatever way she can.
When you attend a meeting, this is more than likely what you will see: a group of moms sitting in a room talking. Some with children, some without. They are all talking, chit chatting, “how is your baby sleeping at night? Emma wakes up 3 times!” and so forth. Then a leader will start the meeting with some helpful info about, for example, how to tell if your baby is getting enough milk in the early months. She will leave it open for discussion or ask if anyone has any personal experiences or questions they would like to share. Someone might offer an opinion that does not coincide with LLL philosophy and the leader will pipe in to say, “Thank you for sharing that. It is not LLL philosophy…” and redirect to another question. Mothers leave with questions answered, and if not, there is a library of books they can borrow from or they set up another meeting with a leader to further discuss the issue.
Those crazy hippies!
So it isn’t what goes on during the meetings that gets people’s all annoyed with them. It is obviously what happens outside. When you are a member or leader of an organization what you say affects the public’s image of it. I was told this when I was in high school. So if a LLL member is chatting with a table full of gal pals and says, “I am so annoyed with moms using the excuse ‘I don’t product enough milk’ so they give up and choose formula too fast,” that horrible statement reflects back on LLL.
I just want to set the record straight. La Leche League has a majority of caring, fun, and accepting moms. They are not lactivists – it is against LLL philosophy to get involved with policy making in any form – they do not even endorse nurse ins. They are only there to help moms who ask for it. Period.