Forgot Your LLLID? or Create Your LLLID Here
La Leche League International
To Find local support:  Or: Use the Map

More on Cooperative Action

From: LEAVEN, Vol. 34 No. 6, December 1998 - January 1999, p. 122-23

Dear LLLI,

I do not feel that my concerns about the connection between LLLI and other groups have been adequately addressed, I feel compelled to bring it up again.

One of the things I have appreciated about LLL has been the fact that it is perhaps the only non-Catholic organization that discusses Natural Family Planning respectfully. I do not, of course, expect LLL to promote religious views; it is a nonsectarian organization and we want to help all breastfeeding women, regardless of religious belief. I am happy that these LLL values are compatible with my own.

Recently, however, I have had doubts, arising from the association of LLLI with such groups as UNICEF and Greenpeace which, in my opinion, aggressively promote contraception and abortion. I do understand that this association does not mean that LLLI endorses the mission or goals of these organizations.

I am not suggesting that LLLI make statements on abortion, contraception or related issues. Instead, I would like to ask those in positions of responsibility to examine the effect of these alliances. At the very least, LLLI could consider some equally public alliances with organizations such as Birthright, which work to aid women in crisis pregnancies. Such aid certainly includes breastfeeding help.

Patricia Dixon
Moorestown, New Jersey, USA

Dear Patricia,

Thank you for taking the time to write. All members of the LLLI Board of Directors are Leaders. We each know how important it is that Leader concerns be addressed. I am pleased to respond to your letter and will endeavor to clarify where LLLI stands on the issues you raise.

LLLI is committed to maintaining a clear focus on our Mission Statement:

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.

This focus requires that we resist aligning ourselves with any cause that might detract from that mission. Mothers throughout the world are drawn to LLL for the help they receive with breastfeeding. Through Series Meetings, we promote breastfeeding and mothering in ways that encourage all women to feel comfortable with their choices. We maintain an atmosphere in which women can learn about breastfeeding and recognize their valuable role as mothers.

There are women who do not come to LLL because they perceive our information as slanted or our view on the role of women as outdated. Others are influenced by cultural, personal or negative attitudes about breastfeeding held by family, health care providers or friends. It has always been the dearest wish of the Founders that the growth of LLLI would change professional and community attitudes toward breastfeeding throughout the world. Those who have been in LLL for many years see that changing attitudes is a challenging, multifaceted and often multigenerational task. Success may not be seen until our babies are parents. Anything we, as an organization, can do today to make this supportive environment a reality for tomorrow is within our mission.

You ask specifically about our association with UNICEF and Greenpeace. In both Washington and Geneva, LLL Leaders are networking with policy makers to bring breastfeeding information, research and expertise to the attention of heads of state and international health officials. These Leaders have the experience and diplomacy necessary to present the value of breast milk and breastfeeding as one with global significance, providing maximum nutrition and health potential for the world's children.

UNICEF has been able to open international doors and demand changes through the "Ten Steps" and the "Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative." In developed countries, LLL Leaders and committed health workers have been instrumental in working alongside hospitals and communities as they work to establish breastfeeding protocols. In developing countries, UNICEF and other agencies have provided financial resources to support the work of LLL Leaders and Peer Counselors in clinics and hospitals and help establish mother-to-mother support groups in isolated areas.

The role of LLLI in these situations has a breastfeeding focus. We provide mothers and health care workers with a simple, yet lifesaving, message: breastfeeding is the best start for the world's children and mother-to-mother support empowers women to continue to breastfeed as long as they wish to do so. And we know how to set up mother-to- mother support groups; in fact, we're experts at that! The cooperation between LLLI and UNICEF starts and finishes there.

During 1997, LLLI became aware that Greenpeace was making some damaging claims about human milk. We had two options. One was to say nothing and watch women choose not to breastfeed because of claims about dangerous chemicals and residues in human milk. The other was to initiate discussions with Greenpeace and provide their Executive Director with well-researched and current information. By establishing friendly communications and encouraging Greenpeace to use LLL as a resource in our area of expertise, we were able to convince Greenpeace to change their message so that it is now supportive of breastfeeding.

I understand that you may continue to see these as undesirable associations. After careful thought and consultation with local LLL representatives, we have come to realize that these are important steps in establishing information links to help more mothers breastfeed. As a Board, we feel it is imperative that all women have access to accurate breastfeeding information so that they can make truly informed decisions. We champion the right of every baby to be breastfed. We will work in cooperation with any organization to provide accurate and current breastfeeding information. This is part of our mission.

As LLLI works alongside international organizations providing expertise on breastfeeding and mother-to-mother support, it is important that we acknowledge the many Leaders who collaborate with local organizations to promote breastfeeding. When Leaders share information with like-minded community representatives, strong local spirit is built. It is through this respectful sharing that both LLL and its mission are extended.

You may have read that LLLI is working closely with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on the breastfeeding component of a LINKAGES program which includes breastfeeding through an emphasis on LAM (Lactational Amenorrhea Method) natural family planning. In the latest LINKAGES report, there is an account of two global activities. One is a new "in-reach" module to orient facility service providers to breastfeeding. Another is the introduction of LAM counseling about breastfeeding and micronutrients for women through a comprehensive postpartum program in the Dominican Republic. This same program is being carried to many other countries in Latin America, the Indian sub-continent, Africa and Asia.

Each of us is passionate about one or more issues in our lives not related to LLL. We find time to fight several good fights! However as Leaders and Board members, we share a common responsibility to not allow other causes to interfere with how we relate to women and their families. To do so would destroy our credibility, might deter women from becoming Leaders and discourage mothers from becoming involved with our organization. The Founders considered this so important that from the beginning, potential Leaders were required to avoid mixing causes.

At the same time, we are fortunate that the Founders support the collaborative opportunities we have undertaken to extend the benefits of breastfeeding, by mother-to-mother support, into countries and populations LLL would not be able to reach alone. We have not adopted, nor are we promoting, either UNICEF or Greenpeace. We are using their programs to enhance our ability to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding! If other organizations adopt the promotion of breastfeeding as one of their program goals, they certainly could propose a collaborative effort with LLLI. We're in the business of breastfeeding - not the environmental movement, not the crisis pregnancy movement, nor any other.

The cornerstone of our organization, Patricia, is a Leader like you. You have made and will continue to make a significant difference in the lives of the women who come to your meetings. Like all Leaders, you are able to respect and accept a woman for who she is, not who you would like her to be. While this is not a perfect world, LLLI can pride itself on the almost 7000 Leaders who are working to make the world a better place for countless mothers and babies.


Anne Devereux
2nd Vice Chairman
LLLI Board of Directors
Dunedin, New Zealand

Clarifying the Distinction Between Mixing Causes and Cooperative Action

Helping mothers worldwide to breastfeed, so that they can learn mothering through breastfeeding, is the focus of La Leche League as defined by the LLLI Mission Statement (see article) and LLLI Bylaws Article II-Purpose:

The purpose for which the corporation is formed is charitable arid educational and solely in furtherance thereof:

To help a mother learn to breastfeed her baby;

To encourage good mothering through breastfeeding thereby stimulating the optimal physical and emotional growth of the child and the development of close family relationships;

To promote a better understanding of the values of breastfeeding, parenting, childbirth, and related subjects;

To offer discussion meetings and conduct lectures on the purposes stated above and on related subjects for such educational purposes as are herein expressed.

See LEAVEN Jun/Jul 1998, page 50, and LLLI Publication No. 1.

Mixing Causes

Leaders have made a formal commitment to the purpose and philosophy of LLLI. Therefore the LLL Group is not to be used as a forum for a Leader's non-LLL interests or to do the work of organizations other than LLL. Leaders may not use their Leader status to promote causes outside of LLL.

See Policies and Standing Rules Notebook, Appendix 10; LEADER'S HANDBOOK (1998 edition) pages 5-6, 65, 80, 297; LEAVEN Oct/Nov 1997, pages 99-101.

Cooperative Action

LLLI and all its representatives have the option of working with other individuals, local community groups or national and international organizations which include the promotion, support and protection of breastfeeding within their goals, provided that these organizations are able to cooperate with LLL within established guidelines. Such cooperation does not constitute LLLI endorsement of an individual or an organization.

Limits of Cooperation: LLL Expertise An LLL Leader representing LLL/LLLI on a board, panel, task force, committee or other similar group is authorized to speak for LLL only on subjects within the scope of LLLI expertise which includes providing mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding and helping mothers worldwide to breastfeed so that they can learn mothering through breastfeeding.

See Policies and Standing Rules Notebook. Appendix 10; LEADER'S HANDBOOK (1998 edition) pages 283-84, 297-300; LEAVEN Oct/Nov 1997, page 116; Nov/Dec/Jan 1995-96, page 96; Jul/Aug 1995, page 52.

In short, when a Leader works with another organization to support breastfeeding, it is cooperative action. When a Leader uses LLL meetings or her Leader status to promote personal interests outside of La Leche League, it is mixing causes.

Page last edited .

Bookmark and Share