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How Far Would You Walk to Change the World?

By Mary Hurt
LLLI Public Relations Associate
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 9, July-August, p. 148

Breastfed babies and mothers experience many health benefits while they are a nursing duo. These benefits often continue far into the future. Breastfed children are smarter and keep their IQ advantage into adulthood. For the infant, long-term effects of breastfeeding include reduced risk of celiac disease, diabetes, obesity, some childhood cancers, Crohn's disease, urinary tract infections, atopic disease, and reduced endometriosis in female infants later in life. For the breastfeeding mother, there is reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis.

Breastfeeding is also the most ecologically friendly way to feed an infant. It is a natural and renewable resource and requires no resources for packaging, shipping, or disposal; wastes no energy in producing artificial baby milk and related products; does not require that lands be deforested for pasture or crop production; does not create pollution from the manufacture of human milk substitutes; and helps space babies by suppressing fertility in the mother.

It seems obvious that if more children were breastfed and for longer lengths of time, the world would be changed in a dynamic and positive way. There are many reasons why this is not the case. Some mothers and health care professionals are not aware of the importance of breastfeeding. Because of the aggressive marketing techniques of formula manufacturers, most new mothers in the United States go home from the hospital with samples of formula. The message to them is that they will not be able to breastfeed successfully. Other mothers begin breastfeeding but become discouraged because they do not have the information or support they need to continue breastfeeding so they wean their babies prematurely. Those of us who are breastfeeding advocates may not have the financial power of formula companies to get our message to the new mothers, but we need to recognize the importance of our work and continue to find new methods for spreading the great news about breastfeeding to the world.

Ask yourself one question-how far would you Walk to increase the incidence and duration of breastfeeding? To help mothers and babies? To continue the support LLL gives to mothers around the world every day?

One of the ways to affect change and to continue the good we do is by participating in La Leche League International's World Walk for Breastfeeding. In addition to making communities aware of the importance of breastfeeding for the mothers and children of the world, Walkers are expected to raise money to help LLLI to fulfill its mission of giving mother-to-mother support, education, and encouragement. The Walk benefits all parts of our organization-Groups, Areas, Divisions, and International.

La Leche League works on many levels to help inform mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding and to support and encourage mothers who want to breastfeed their babies. At the local level, La Leche League Leaders help mothers to breastfeed their babies through Group meetings and mother-to-mother support. The Areas and Divisions offer valuable support and information to these Leaders. La Leche League International provides the publications, the health care provider education, the public relations and marketing support, and serves as the central location for referral to breastfeeding information.

Thousands of breastfeeding families, their supporters, and health care professionals will participate in the 11th annual La Leche League World Walk for Breastfeeding, being held at locations around the globe from May 15 through September 15, 2002.

Many walks are held in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week. August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week as proclaimed by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action in conjunction with the World Health Organization. This year's theme is Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies. If every child were breastfed, mothers and babies would be healthier and both would receive health benefits that last a lifetime.

Recently, a scientific study found what we in La Leche League have known for a long time. Mother-to-mother, or peer support, is the most effective way of increasing the incidence and duration of breastfeeding.

La Leche League is the premier mother-to-mother support organization. If you want to support breastfeeding and change the world, please help La Leche League by participating in The World Walk for Breastfeeding. To find a Walk in your area contact your local La Leche League Leader, check our Web site at www.lalecheleague.org, or call LLLI's Public Relations Department at 847-519-7730, ext. 233, 271, or 286. Lace up your Walking shoes and Walk to change the world-one breastfed baby at a time.

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