Your Body, Choices, and Support

Rebecca H. McCormick, Fairfax, Oakton, VA, USA

Originally published August 2016

Unwittingly, the author of the opinion post “My Body, My Choice” paraphrased the mission of La Leche League: “Every woman who wants to breastfeed should be able to do so, with full medical, legal and social support.”

Many mothers come to La Leche League meetings with some variation on the same story. They wanted to breastfeed their child, but circumstances including incomplete medical care, family pressure to stop, or a return to work with inadequate accommodation or flexibility led to a failure to reach their personal goal.

Did these mothers choose to stop breastfeeding or did an incomplete system of support fail them?

The mission of La Leche League 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.” It does so through peer-to-peer, parent-to-parent support. Like the second-wave feminists who would come on the heels of LLL’s founding in 1956, mothers found that support for each other and the ability to collectively problem-solve were pivotal to reaching their breastfeeding goals.

La Leche League continues this model today in peer-to-peer groups where parents can find information and support for feeding at the breast, feeding breast milk with a bottle, combination feeding of formula and breast milk, and feeding formula at the breast through various nursing systems.

I, and other La Leche League Leaders, look forward to a society that provides every parent with adequate support to meet their personal breastfeeding goals. The stigma attached to breastfeeding promotion and a real fear of instigating maternal guilt shift the focus from the problems mothers encounter, including a lack of medical and social support, to mothers’ individual feeding decisions.

Ms Curzer creates a false dichotomy where women must stay at home and breastfeed or work and feed with formula. As women’s share in the workforce increases, more and more mothers are making a career and breastfeeding work for them. La Leche League is proud to support parents working inside or outside of the home. Hirkani’s Daughters, a book published by La Leche League International on breastfeeding and working, illustrates that motherhood is compatible with maintaining a career and contains many examples of how mothers from different cultures and countries have found ways to combine the two.

No woman should be forced or coerced to breastfeed. No woman should be made to feel that pain during nursing is normal or should be tolerated. No woman should be given incorrect medical advice from a health care provider with little or no training in breastfeeding management. No woman should be shamed or pressured by family, friends, or employers to quit before she and her child are ready.

All women should be entitled to receive: the clear message that breastfeeding is worthwhile, sufficient help and information to ensure that breastfeeding is successful, and national policies that support working mothers’ rights to breastfeed.

La Leche League, as a secular, nonsectarian, trans-inclusive organization, wishes to do just that.

LLL Philosophy & Inclusivity Statement