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Similarities and Differences

Nan Vollette
Hampton VA USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 38 No. 3, June-July 2002 p. 58.

Is La Leche League contemplating change? Has the world changed or the needs of the mothers or babies changed? As we organize our monthly Group meetings and help mothers in the same way we have for years, perhaps you may have asked yourself these and similar questions.

I have been thinking about the way we help mothers and have wondered if time has changed the needs of mothers who come to us for information and support. I thought about the Founders and what kind of support they provided to mothers in the 1950s. How have we evolved in the last 46 years? Have the dynamics of Group meetings changed over these same years? What I found is a combination of similarities and differences that have affected La Leche League in many ways.

As our organization has grown, we have revised our Leader materials, published three versions of the Leader’s Handbook, revised the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding six times, and even reworded some of our concepts. As Leaders, we are no longer approved or certified but are accredited.

Human Relations Enrichment (HRE) sessions went from 15 hours to nine and some HRE programs in the Eastern US Division have recently changed their name to the Communication Skills Department. They are revising their program materials as well.

La Leche League also played a major role in developing the lactation consultant program to create a Board-certified health care provider to disseminate accurate breastfeeding information professionally. We have recognized that many working women have a desire to breastfeed their babies and we have made every attempt to give them the support they need.

Of course, we have grown as an organization and growth brings with it a certain amount of inevitable change. New countries, new languages, cultural customs have all brought about an increased awareness of our human differences as well as our similarities. As we manage local Groups, what seems to unite us all, everywhere, are those similarities.

Change is useful and necessary and will continue to aid in the development of our mission, but we will thrive on our common ground. Mothers all over the world come to Group meetings to feel good about the choices they have made for their babies and families. I always feel so connected when I think about women across the world gathering at a meeting and sharing their passion, support, and curiosity with each other in just the same way we do at our Group meetings here in Virginia USA. When I travel to another country and talk to another LLL Leader about her Group, I find she encounters the same questions and concerns mothers in my local Group have.

We are all mothers first and have the same needs and insecurities about what we are doing. Babies do not come with instruction manuals and more often than not, women do not study how to be a mother before they have children. We gather from others how we are doing. Are our instincts on target?

Like the mothers who call us for help, Leaders need to know we are doing okay. Leaders may remember their first LLL meeting and how they felt every time they attended or led a Group meeting. What were we looking for from this organization? How can we provide that same feeling to the mothers who come to us now?

Regardless of the changes that occur within LLLI, our mission remains and our role in the helping relationship does not change. Mothers reach out for help and support and we provide information, as well as that personal connection with the mothers in our communities.

So how can we be a part of the discussion of changes LLLI is pursuing? Ask questions! Connect with your District Advisor/Coordinator or Area Coor-dinator of Leaders to find out more. But most importantly, focus on mothers and babies and meeting their needs. That is how we can best help mothers because that is what we are all about.

Nan Vollette is Administrator for Communication Skills Development (CSD) for LLLI’s International Division (ID) and is currently serving on the Grievance Commission. She has been a Leader since 1980 and has six children and three grandchildren. Submissions for the "Helping Mothers" column may be sent to Nan at: 132 Powhatan Pkwy, Hampton, VA 23661 USA vollette at (email).

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