New Concept Wording: Human milk is the natural food for babies, uniquely meeting their changing needs

Marie Beam, Maryland, USA, and Karin Gausman, Colorado, USA
Adapted from LADders 2015-1 No. 20

In December 2014, the LLLI Board of Directors voted to change the wording of the breast milk concept and the accompanying concept policy statement in the LLLI Policies and Standing Rules Notebook, Appendix 17. (See sidebar for new wording.) 

Human milk is the natural food for babies, uniquely meeting their changing needs.

Human milk is a complete food containing all the nutrients in ideal proportion for optimal human growth. Each mother’s milk is specifically adapted to the needs of her child. Human milk provides more than nutrition. Beginning as colostrum, it works with the infant’s developing immune system to provide protection against a wide array of illnesses and allergens, a benefit that extends well beyond infancy. Human milk is easily digested and eliminated. Furthermore, the psychological effects of breastfeeding are invaluable; frequent opportunities for touching, holding, and eye contact serve as important stimuli for the child’s development. Human milk is the unique and unduplicated food for babies. It is an important factor in the healthy development of babies and young children at all economic levels around the world.

(LLLI Policies and Standing Rules Appendix 17, Apr 94; rev Dec 14)

It is rare that changes are made to LLLI concept statements. Eight concepts summarizing LLL philosophy were adopted in 1972. One of these stated that Breast milk is the superior infant foodThe mother-baby relationship concept was added in 1973. The concept on loving guidance was included in 1975 and the wording changed slightly in 1979. For the past 43 years, we have relied on the same “superior infant food” concept. 

This new change arose from a request to the Board to reconsider the wording of the concept in a way that would present human milk as the “norm” rather than comparing it to formula. Over a dozen Leaders worldwide participated for a year in an online discussion workgroup, dialoguing about nuances of each word in the concept, as well as how words might translate into languages other than English. The final version passed the required votes of approval at two separate Board readings.

The concept now says:

Human milk is the natural food for babies, uniquely meeting their changing needs.

Wow—what a fantastic change in wording! The older wording seemed to imply that out of many appropriate infant foods, human milk was superior. However, human milk doesn’t really belong in a list that rates many feeding options. Human milk is not simply another option—it is the only natural food for babies. This new wording more accurately communicates what we believe.   

With so much emphasis now placed on natural foods, the new wording should strike a chord with many expectant mothers. Indeed, it makes it clear that breastfeeding is more than just one option; it is every baby’s birthright.

Marie Beam lives in Kensington, Maryland, USA, north of Washington, D.C. She and her husband, Eric, have three grown children and one grandson. Marie has been a Leader since 1992 and a member of the Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) since 1996. She served on the Concept Workgroup, organized by the LLLI Board.

Karin Gausman has been a Leader for 40 years and she lives in Loveland, Colorado, USA, with her husband, Jim, and Emmy, an adopted Shih Tzu from the animal shelter. They have three grown children and four grandchildren. Karin joined the LAD 27 years ago serving as LAD Director together with Alison Parkes for five years until 2010.