Introducing La Leche League14 March 2023 | Before Your Baby is Born | By Lisa H
Today, we’re speaking with Katerina Koukaki from La Leche League (La Leche Liga in Germany), which is a worldwide educational, non–sectarian, non-profit, volunteer-based organization. La Leche League provides breastfeeding information and support to those who want to breastfeed their babies.
Katerina is a mother of two, and a volunteer leader for La Leche League International. Originally from Greece, she is now based in Berlin.
Tell us a little bit about La Leche League. When and where did it start? What was the reason for creating the organization?
La Leche League was started in 1956 in the USA, Illinois, by a group of seven women who wanted to provide breastfeeding help and support to interested women. Two mothers, Mary White and Marian Tompson, were breastfeeding their children at a church picnic and many other women expressed interest, or told them how they had wanted to breastfeed but failed.
At the time, breastfeeding was not supported and encouraged by the medical community, so not many mothers were nursing their babies. Realizing mothers needed information and support, Mary and Marian enlisted the help of five of their friends and acquaintances and the seven women began to hold meetings. The founders of La Leche League International were Mary Ann Cahill, Edwina Froehlich, Mary Ann Kerwin, Viola Lennon, Marian Tompson, Betty Wagner, and Mary White.
Over the years, La Leche League grew from a local, to a national and then an international organization that has been helping thousands of mothers and babies all over the world for more than 60 years. There has been a LLL presence in Berlin since 1971!
We, the Leaders of La Leche League, are mothers who have breastfed our own babies and had our training within the organization, so that we can provide breastfeeding support in our communities. And the spirit still remains the same, mother to mother, peer to peer support. Our meetings are more like a group of moms sharing experiences and information than seminars, where one talks and the others listen.
How and when can new or expecting parents learn more? What type of support does La Leche League offer?
The information about our meetings is announced on our German website www.lalecheliga.de but we also have a mailing list where we inform mothers about our upcoming meetings. Additionally, we advertise them on social media, usually in groups for international families.
I would also like to mention that we are available for individual support by phone, email or video call (if necessary). So, if a mother is facing a challenge these days for example but our next meeting is in 20 days, we strongly encourage her to contact us individually. Our emails and our phone numbers, as well as the languages we speak, are all on our website.
Anyone who is interested in breastfeeding and wants support, can join our meetings.
I have seen fathers, partners, grandmothers in our meetings and this is so important, since the two most important things for a mother who wants to successfully breastfeed her baby: the right information and support. So pregnant moms are welcome, moms with newborns are welcome but also moms nursing toddlers are welcome, as they often share their experience and that is so precious.
We support all people, no matter what their nationality, religion, gender identity, race, age, family, financial, social or mental status is. No matter where they come from, what they believe in.
How do you approach the topic of nursing?
There are two things I would like to mention here. The first one is that we consider that although breastfeeding is natural, it is not natural like breathing, which is automatic, but natural like walking, which is something that we have to learn.
The second one is that every mother-baby dyad is different and unique and that every mother is the expert for her own baby. We are there to provide information, support and to give ideas but it is the mother who knows their baby best. For example, we will not tell mothers how long they should breastfeed their babies, that’s their decision. We are there for all the moms!
All the information we are providing is not just something that we believe. It is based on the latest scientific research, as many scientists from various scientific fields are cooperating with La Leche League, and recommendations do change over time.
What is La Leche League’s vision and mission?
La Leche League’s vision is to realize, deepen and share the love and wisdom found in the breastfeeding relationship. And its mission is 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.
Tell us a little bit about the La Leche League events you organize, especially those for international families (to-be) in Berlin?
While our meetings used to be mostly in person, during the pandemic we started meeting online and that made our meetings accessible to more people who didn’t have a team close to them. So, at the moment we continue meeting online, hoping that later in the spring (of 2023) we can start our in person meetings again.
We are meeting online once per month and we have a topic which we want to cover. However, we try to adjust the conversation according to the needs of the group every time. We also try to answer all the questions, even the ones that are not relevant with the meeting’s topic. Still, if the time is not enough to cover all aspects of a challenge one mom is facing, we are always available for an individual phone call.
What sort of topics are discussed at LLL meetings?
Everything that has to do with breastfeeding. The first days with the baby, common challenges that mothers are facing, the myths and the truth about breastfeeding. And then we all cover topics such as introducing solids, going back to work, weaning and sleeping.
Is there anything else families should know or that you would like to share?
Participation in our meetings and all the support we are providing are free. We are volunteers and we love what we do! We do welcome donations and membership; we are a registered non-profit organization and donations are tax deductible.
We always encourage all the moms to reach out for support as soon as they face the first challenge with breastfeeding. The sooner a problem is addressed, the easier it is to find a solution.
There is no perfect parent, most of us do the best we can according to the information we have at that specific time of our lives.
Lastly, I would like to add that although La Leche League has grown into an international organization, the primary focus has remained on the personal one-to-one sharing of information and encouragement that provides a new parent with the confidence they need to breastfeed their baby.
Learn more about La Leche League at https://llli.org/ (in English) or www.lalecheliga.de (in German).
Thank you, Katerina!
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