Thursday, August 2, 2007

La Leche League - 50th Anniversary

Happy World Breastfeeding Week! My first gift to you is a video on the history of this organization that I am proud to be a part of. La Leche League is often seen as a "white woman's group" probably because it was started by 7 suburban White housewives. However, I really believe they want to support all mothers interested in breastfeeding. La Leche League is not perfect and has a lot of work and growing to do but they, we are working on it. I believe in La Leche League and am personally doing what I can to make it an organization for ALL women.

Notice the Mocha mama with the righteous Afro about half-way through the video. So apparently we have been going to LLL meetings since at least the 70s.


Fat Lady said...

Thanks for this video, it was enlightening. Before I had kids, even when my daughter was an infant, I had such a negative perception of LLL. I thought they were extremists who would lecture you on how you must nurse your child for years on end.

I even remember telling someone who asked me how long I was going to nurse that I wasn't going to "be like those crazy, La Leche-types who never know when to stop." I cringe, every time I remember that came out of my mouth.

Of course, I didn't turn into one of those people who never know when to stop. I nursed my oldest until she was 3 and my 2 year old is still going strong.

But, I have to admit, that I did find La Leche, when I went, to not be a particularly friendly environment for either working mothers or mothers of color. Now, I only have experience with one group, at one meeting, but it was negative enough to deter me from going back.

I went when my oldest was 18 months looking for some support because no one I knew had nursed that long and everyone in my life was giving me a hard time for it.

I was the only woman of color at the meeting I went to on the Upper West Side of Manhattan which is an extremely diverse neighborhood. There was only one other working mother there - she quietly skipped out of work to make it uptown to make the 11am meeting and couldn't stay long because she had to get back before anyone noticed her missing.

Other than the leader, the other women were markedly unfriendly to both the working mother (I worked also, but didn't mention it, so they didn't know) and I. They talked to each other and made little response to the comments either the working mother or I made.

Then one of the other children there began yelling at my toddler, telling her she couldn't play with the other kids. The mother of the child, and some other mothers, suggested that maybe I give my daughter some toys to play with away from the other kids. It was clear that neither my child, nor I was welcome at the meeting.

As the meeting came to a close, I was getting my daughter ready to leave and a toddler came running past, heading for an open door that had a flight of stairs immediately on the other side. Instinctively, I rushed over and grabbed the toddler up. I turned to see where her mother was, and another woman was right there, looking at me with a sour expression. She snatched the toddler from my arms, marched with her across the room, and handed her to her mother, who was looking at me as though I had tried to beat her child.

These people would have preferred to see that baby take a tumble down the steps rather than have me touch her.

I left there, shaking. I had never felt so out of place, so unwelcomed. I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood in the 1960s. I was maybe one of 10 children of color in an elementary school of about 400 kids. And I'd never experienced anything like this.

I haven't written LLLI off. I am willing to consider that it's possible that this one group was a bit of an anomaly. I actually have fantasies about becoming a leader and starting a group in Harlem or the South Bronx, where support for breastfeeding is sorely needed.

I loved seeing this video. Loved seeing how this group started and grew. It shows me that where there is a need for something, it will thrive and grow.

Anonymous said...

i loved the screaming children/babies in the background when princess grace was speaking... some things never change.