Sarah Quigley, San Francisco, California, USA and Linda Wieser, Nova Scotia, Canada
Equity, diversity and inclusion, also known as EDI, are valued within La Leche League (LLL). Why are equity, diversity and inclusion important?
- They complement our mission: 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.
- They encourage us to think of ways to reach mothers and parents who, in the past, have not sought out LLL support.
- They help us learn new ways to support babies who are being breastfed, chestfed, and human milk fed.
- They broaden our view of whom we can support.
- They help us examine our organization for structural barriers that may be unwelcoming.
It’s important that all potential Applicants understand and value equity, diversity and inclusion. One of the Organizational Experience prerequisites is: “demonstrates an accepting and respectful attitude toward others.” This means that, as Leaders, we don’t pick and choose whom we’ll support. We support all who reach out to us for breastfeeding or lactation support. If a potential or current Applicant is not comfortable supporting all populations, it is important to talk honestly about those feelings. Where are they coming from? Can we share a new perspective? Is there a conflict between the LLL Mission and the potential Applicant’s core beliefs and values? Sharing information on what this topic means in LLL may help them make a decision about whether LLL is the organization they want to volunteer with.
As Leaders, we know that supporting people from different walks of life allows us to grow and learn. We recognize and honor each mother as the expert on her own baby and encourage her to do what she feels is best for herself and her family. We share information rather than give advice. Some families will choose a path that we don’t understand and would not choose for ourselves. Accepting those differences allows us to fully embrace the LLL Mission and philosophy, while also broadening our own perspectives.
We can create a more inclusive and welcoming atmosphere within LLL by listening to the words that people use when they talk about themselves, and we can ask them which words they prefer. Modeling this language for Applicants during meetings and when doing the Preview helps them practice and reflect on the importance of word choice. Here are a few examples. You may hear others from the families you support:
- Partner, husband, spouse
- Mother, father, parent, co-parent
- Breastfeeding, chestfeeding, human milk feeding
- Pronouns: she/her, he/him, they/them
LAD Council has added “equity, diversity and inclusion” to the Checklist of Topics to Discuss in Preparation for LLL Leadership (Checklist). It has been added under the Section: “Helping mothers and parents one-to-one by telephone, by email, or in person” and under the topic: “Importance of respect.”
Leaders discuss the topics on the Checklist with the Applicants they are supporting. Some Leaders may feel comfortable talking about equity, diversity and inclusion. Others may find it an unfamiliar topic and not know where to start. There are some resources on LLLI and Direct Connect Entity (DCE) websites and more will be created over the next few years.
In June 2021, the LLLI Board approved the LLLI Strategic Plan, 2021-2025. One of the goals is to “establish a more welcoming culture for Leaders and breastfeeding/chestfeeding families.” A subgoal of this goal is to “create or make available Leader training resources on equity, diversity, and inclusion.” LLLI has an Inclusivity and Outreach Committee, and some DCEs have Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committees. As you work with Applicants, check the LLLI website or your DCE/Area website to see what new resources have been added.
Here are some suggestions for discussing this topic:
- Think broadly about equity, diversity, and inclusion
- Race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender are types of diversity, as are socio-economic status, physical ability, and family structure
- Inclusion may involve supporting parents with exclusive pumping, as well as breastfeeding
- Equity includes considerations for meeting access, languages spoken, and financial constraints
- Brainstorm populations your Group is not attracting
- Consider doing one of the Bias Exercises with the Applicant
- Bias Exercise A: Respecting Differences
- Bias Exercise B: Conscious and Unconscious Biases
- Check the LLLI and/or your DCE website for resources
- Participate in an EDI session at an Area Workshop
- Join a virtual EDI book club
- Attend a webinar on this topic, if available (see Resources)
LAD representatives can also initiate a dialogue on this topic. Sarah and Linda include the following in their welcome letters to new Applicants.
Increasing one’s understanding about what equity, diversity and inclusion means for LLL Leaders is an important part of the preparation for leadership. As you discuss equity, diversity and inclusion with Applicants and other Leaders, you may identity resources that would be helpful. Contact your DCE EDI Committee or the LLLI Inclusivity and Outreach Committee with your suggestions.
Current resources on the LLLI website:
News from LLLI:
- “Reaching Adolescent Mothers,” April 2021
- “In Pursuit of Equitable Breastfeeding Support,” January 2021
Breastfeeding Info A to Z
LLLI Webinar Library
- Cultural Awareness and Cultural Humility – English
- Cultural Awareness and Cultural Humility – Spanish
Resources on other LLL websites:
LLL Canada lllc.ca
La Leche League GB https://www.laleche.org.uk/
Webinars on other breastfeeding/lactation websites:
- Gold Learning*
- Historical Trauma, Racism and White Privilege: The Barriers to Breastfeeding Success
- Providing Culturally Sensitive Support for Breastfeeding Muslim Families
- Love Makes A Family: Supporting LGBTQIA and Gender Non-Conforming Families
- Check your “Blind” Spot, The Crisis We Are Not Talking About: Transforming Color Blindness to Racial Equity
- Breastfeed LA*
- Michigan Breastfeeding Network *
- Although these webinars are not approved LLL resources they are included for your consideration.
Sarah Quigley lives in San Francisco, California, USA. She and her husband, David, are proud parents to daughters Charlotte (13) and Katherine (10). Sarah became a Leader in 2010 and joined the Leader Accreditation Department in 2013, where she serves as Regional Administrator of Leader Accreditation (RALA) for LLL USA LAD. She works as an IBCLC at a local hospital.
Linda Wieser lives in a rural part of Nova Scotia, Canada with her husband Jim. They have two grown daughters and four grandchildren. Linda has been a Leader since 1984. She worked for many years in the Professional Liaison Department before joining the Leader Accreditation Department in 2008. Linda is currently the LLLI Director of Leader Accreditation Department (DLAD). She is also Contributing Editor for “Preparing for Leadership” in Leader Today and Contributing Editor for “How Would Your Respond?” in LADders. Linda continues to lead local LLL meetings with her co-Leaders in Nova Scotia.
Banner Image: Courtesy Ken Tackett