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Wellstart Donates Research Collection to LLLI's Center for Breastfeeding Information

Gwen Gotsch

from Breastfeeding Abstracts, August 2002, Volume 21, Number 4, pp. 26-27.

La Leche League International's Center for Breastfeedig Information (CBI) doubled the size of its collection this spring thanks to a gift from Wellstart International of San Diego, California.

Wellstart International was established by Audrey Naylor, MD, DrPH, FAAP, and Ruth Wester, RN, CPNP, to provide clinical services to breastfeeding mothers and education about breastfeeding and lactation management to health care providers. Wellstart has provided training in breastfeeding promotion, support, and management to health professionals in developing countries around the world. Its Web site offers publications on the establishment of community-based breastfeeding promotion programs and on breastfeeding's role in optimal maternal and child health, as well as teaching materials in Spanish, Russian, French, and English. Case studies on Wellstart projects around the world are a valuable resource for health care providers and public health officials seeking to increase breastfeeding rates in their hospitals, communities, and countries.

In December of 2001, Wellstart reorganized its programs and moved out of the San Diego offices it had used since 1985. Wellstart continues to offer clinical services, assistance with lactation management education for health care professionals, and consultation regarding perinatal services that support breastfeeding success. Clinical services are now provided as home visits, and education and consulting projects will be planned and carried out at the site of the project. More information about Wellstart is available on its Web site,

With Wellstart no longer maintaining a central office, CEO and President Audrey Naylor offered its research collection to La Leche League International. LLLI's Medical Associates, under the direction of Arnold Tanis, MD, provided financial support for transporting the materials from California to Illinois and many volunteers assisted with dismantling, packing, unpacking, and reshelving the collection. Wellstart also donated its collection of international breastfeeding artwork to LLLI, and these items are now on display in the Schaumburg office.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 1, 2001, marked the opening of the CBI's enhanced research collection. Dr. Naylor, who is a member of LLLI's Health Advisory Council, commented, "We know that we made the right decision when we decided to share [the research collection] with LLLI. I look forward to many Wellstart/LLLI collaborative adventures which will contribute to improving the lives of the world's mothers and children."

The CBI, housed at La Leche League International's offices in Schaumburg, Illinois, serves health care providers, researchers, and lactation consultants, as well as La Leche League Leaders and LLL staff and departments. The CBI's research collection currently contains some 38,000 journal articles, 3,000 books, scientific monographs, and other materials on breastfeeding and human milk—the most extensive collection of breastfeeding information in the world. The database listing CBI holdings can be searched online at

LLLI’s Center for Breastfeeding Information offers clinicians and researchers a unique vantage point from which to survey the vast medical and lay literature on breastfeeding and human milk. Material in the CBI covers over 50 years of lactation research and focuses on the why and how of breastfeeding.

The CBI can trace its origins to the early years of La Leche League, which began in 1956. LLL’s approach to breastfeeding management has always been based on both mothers’ practical experience and the available scientific research, tempered with common sense. The organization’s Founders and early physician supporters collected information from the medical literature on the advantages of breastfeeding and on how to make it possible for mothers to succeed at breastfeeding. LLLI’s first medical advisors, Herbert Ratner, MD, and Gregory White, MD, reviewed published articles on breastfeeding and assisted the Founders and early staff members in using medical research to boost LLL’s credibility.

Useful information about breastfeeding was scarce in the 1950s and 1960s, but collecting published resources helped LLLI to build a network of physicians and others with an interest in natural infant feeding. The Reference Library, as it was known, became an important resource for the preparation of the various editions of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING and LLL’s pioneering publications on breastfeeding in special circumstances. It also provided reference material for regular updates of Breastfeeding and Drugs in Human Milk, the “drug list” published by LLLI in the 1970s and early 1980s which provided literature-based information for physicians on the use of specific drugs in nursing mothers.

Research on human milk and breastfeeding increased during the 1970s, particularly in the area of immunology. Scientific support for the unique benefits of breastfeeding helped to increase health care professionals’ support for breastfeeding, both in developed areas of the world and in developing nations. Managing the reference library and answering medical reference questions became a full-time staff job at La Leche League International.

The Reference Library became the Center for Breastfeeding Information in 1989 and was dedicated to Dr. Michael Newton and Dr. James Good. Cataloging the collection and computerizing the catalog have made the resources of the Center for Breastfeeding Information widely available and user-friendly. Reference Librarian Carol Huotari, IBCLC, currently manages the CBI, with assistance from Chris Barber, who maintains the database, and Katy Lebbing, IBCLC, who assists with filing and cataloging.

CBI online searches can be done using the search engine on the site or by referring to a listing of keywords used in cataloging. A keyword search enables the user to zero in quickly on a particular subtopic, whether it is WABA, weaning, or wet nurses. Keywords include nutritional components of human milk, common breastfeeding management issues, and infant and maternal health topics, such as jaundice, kangaroo care, or hormonal contraception, that may impact breastfeeding decisions. Keywords also include medications, and these links quickly provide citations for information on using these particular drugs in nursing mothers.

The keyword system is based on long years of user experience with the CBI research collection. The implications for breastfeeding of such keywords as guilt, fatigue, pacifiers, and prelacteal feeds may not be readily apparent to someone outside the field of lactation, but breastfeeding advocates can use these links to find research studies on practical obstacles to breastfeeding with which they are all too familiar. Topics not easily searched in more general medical databases can be found in La Leche League’s CBI—for example, tandem nursing or onesided nursing. The CBI Web site also features selected bibliographies on many breastfeeding topics, an “article of the month” featuring current research, and links to related Web sites. Use of the online database is free, but requires users to register. CBI staff is available by phone or email for consultation and assistance with more specialized research. There is a fee for this service. CBI subscriptions, offering regular research updates and reference assistance, are available for individuals and institutions. For more information, go to the Web site, email the Center for Breastfeeding Information at CBI at, or call to request a free brochure.

Gwen Gotsch is the Associate Editor of BREASTFEEDING ABSTRACTS, the author of BREASTFEEDING PURE AND SIMPLE, and a former LLLI Reference Librarian.

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