La Leche League – getting Mothers’ milk ‘into the water supply’ – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (25)

The boldest, grandest and most desirable objective for people who want to change the world is to get their principles, ideas, approaches, solutions into the 'water supply.'  By that I mean their social or environmental innovation becomes so common place, so accepted, so prevalent, so 'institutionalized', so obvious it seems, well, simply natural.  Achieving such an objective is not easy. We have been on a similar quest with PLAN for over a decade and we are still working on it.

One of our role models is La Leche League.  Seven mothers started La Leche League in 1956 in Chicago. They started out helping their friends breast feed.  At the time infant formula was being fed to 80 per cent of babies born in the US.   Their mother to mother approach expanded exponentially and over the decades the womanly art of breast feeding has gotten back into the water supply.

Today 71 per cent of babies born in the US are breast fed and they have over 3000 chapters in 67 countries.  Not bad for an organization without staff, corporate support and big budgets.  An inspirational example of what heart and passion can accomplish.

Their accomplishments shouldn't distract us from appreciating how intentional, strategic and tactical they had to be.  Arrayed against them were prevailing attitudes in the general population; a belief that science could prepare better food than breast milk; and discrimination (they weren't allowed to use the word 'breast' in their material when they started out which is why they chose La Leche, Spanish for milk).  Also in active opposition were companies who made a profit from infant formula, the medical profession and hospitals.

Here is a link to a television interview with some of La Leche League founders who are still active in the organization.  Putting aside the irony that something as natural as breast feeding has to be identified as an innovation, I think we can all appreciate the intentionality, tenacity, and strategy required to launch an international revolution and change attitudes toward breast feeding. We have a lot to learn from these unlikely revolutionaries.

NOTE: My thanks to John McKnight co-author Abundant Community, for passing this link my way.  John is friends with Marian Thomson one of La Leche League's founders.


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One Comment

  1. John

    Another great post – thanks. Sitting in pubs in the UK listening to advocates of conspicuous consumption, eugenics and other dead ends for our “civil” society, wondering what anyone has learned these past 3 or 4 years…….it was a good dose of sanity to receive your blog.

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