La Leche League International (LLLI) is an organization focused on helping mothers breast-feed and is open to moms who are breast-feeding or considering breast-feeding. LLLI boasts groups in over 75 countries around the world and is free of religious or cultural ties.
Seven women came together in 1956 in Franklin Park, Illinois with an idea, knowledge and compassion. These women started La Leche League (LLL) with intentions of providing new moms in the area support and resources to help make breast-feeding more common and successful. This focused group operates under one premise: that breast-feeding is vital to infant growth and family bonds. LLLI seeks to offer education, resources and support to all moms and dads with new babies.
LLL provides a variety of services to breast-feeding moms including group meetings, counsel on breast-feeding issues, information and even conferences. Although most groups have membership fees, services are provided for free to moms who can't afford the membership fee through the generous donations of LLL supporters.
Group formats range from weekly meetings to monthly meetings and can be in the mornings or the evenings. Scheduling is dictated by the group leader and the needs of the community. Meetings can be held in private homes, hospitals, churches or other meeting halls. Meetings are centered on discussions about specific topics related to nursing, but always favor personal questions from members as the focus of discussion. Potential topics of discussion include:
- Breast-feeding advantages
- Coping skills for new moms
- Getting past roadblocks
- Healthy nursing diet for mom
Individual Visits and Phone Calls
LLL prides itself on being an organization that helps nursing moms at any time they need help. This includes the option for moms to call on their fellow group members or leaders in a moment of need rather than waiting for the next meeting. Group leaders may visit new moms in their home or even at the hospital right after birth.
Online Meetings and Forums
If you can't find a group nearby or aren't able to attend in-person meetings, you can join LLLI's online Breast-feeding Support Group. Members of this forum can post questions, words of support, and learn about topics related to breast-feeding. This new platform started late in 2017 to better accommodate all the mothers using the forums on the organization's website. LLL also hosts a private Facebook group where members can chat, share and network.
Individual groups have libraries of books, magazines and informational brochures members can check out and read at home. These valuable resources are available to every mother, especially those who can't afford to purchase a copy.
Each region or area hosts annual conferences about parenting topics including breast-feeding. Events like this give mothers and fathers a chance to network with a larger group of like-minded parents and learn about the latest research on child-rearing practices. Experts from around the world offer presentations and workshops over the course of a few days at conferences giving parents access to direct sources of information.
Since LLLI aims to provide information to all moms, they publish magazines, books, podcasts and handouts that can be accessed outside of groups and meetings.
- The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding features stories from other moms, scientific data, strategies and advice on breast-feeding for women from all walks of life.
- Breastfeeding Today is a magazine full of information for nursing families.
- New Beginnings is a blog where moms can share different experiences as a way to help others.
They also publish a variety of quick fact sheets featuring simple statistics and research findings to help parents understand the advantages and challenges of breast-feeding.
At the top levels, the organization is headed up by several boards who help with research and development.
- Board of Directors - Made up of about 12 members, the Board features people from all around the world.
- Legal Advisory Council - Five legal experts stay abreast of laws that affect breast-feeding.
- Management Advisory Council - Marketing, business management, and IT professionals make recommendations for organizational structure.
Group leaders are moms who have nursed their children for at least one year and received LLI accredited training. To become a leader, women go through an application process that can take up to six months. These women keep up with current research, host meetings and keep open communication with group members outside of meetings. Any group can have more than one leader.
Criteria for becoming a La Leche League Leader include:
- At least nine months successful breast-feeding of her own child
- Exclusively breast-fed her baby for the first six months or until other food was needed
- Adheres to a parenting style where she is respectful of baby's needs
- Is recommended by another LLL leader
- Paid membership
Cost and Funding
About 75 percent of LLL's funding comes from donations while only about 15 percent comes from membership fees. There is no membership fee to LLLI, but each LLL group offers a paid membership for those who can afford it. For example, the Capital Region LLL groups offer memberships starting at $35 per year while the Kentucky-Tennessee group charges $25 for an annual membership. An annual membership helps pay for the meeting location, books, trainings and resources for less fortunate moms. Membership is not required to join the group.
Support for Breast-Feeding Moms
Support from mom's who have been through breast-feeding an infant is an integral part of successful nursing for new moms. Use the search tool on LLL International's website to choose a country then state or territory or call 1-877-4-LA-LECHE to find a group near you. Contact a local group leader to find out how you can join this support group as a way to help yourself and others.