Posts Tagged ‘mother-to-mother support’
Traditionally breastfeeding skills and knowledge were acquired and shared through informal network of family and neighbors. When breastfeeding rates were at all-time low in the United States mid-20th century, La Leche League (LLL) started relying on precisely this model to resurrect the art of breastfeeding. There was no reliable medical information on breastfeeding at that time. In fact, medical information and practice damaged breastfeeding. LLL incorporated whatever shreds of authoritative medical knowledge was available into their work, but did not rely on it exclusively. The dominant information exchanged in LLL breastfeeding support meetings was practical maternal experience in breastfeeding. In LLL model, situated maternal knowledge of breastfeeding is evidence.
To this day organization relies on this model of breastfeeding support which is very responsive to local environment and real-time experiences of women. Formal scientific knowledge and innovation often suffers from 50+ years lag, according to Diffusion of Innovations by Everette Rogers. This certainly holds true for breastfeeding advocacy if we look at the Breastfeeding Advocacy Timeline (to be expanded). It is ironic that UNICEF was promoting artificial feeding at the same time when La Leche League was building a strong foundation for breastfeeding support in communities – one woman at a time.
By the time the mainstream medical establishment caught on the importance of breastfeeding, grassroots mother-to-mother movement was well on its way. Indeed, Ivan Illich, a vocal critic of medicalization because of its crippling effect on the ability of people to self-help, and John McKnight, gave high praise to La Leche League model. Marian Tompson, one of La Leche League founders, attended a seminar in Cuernacava, Mexico in 1970 to discuss how to affect change in a community and improve healthcare without spending a lot of money, just using people who live in a community. During the discussion Ivan Illich and John McKnight made it clear that La Leche League was more successful in getting results than any other healthcare system (as discussed in Passionate Journey. My Unexpected Life by Marian Leonard Tompson).
Situated maternal knowledge of breastfeeding spread via traditional grassroots community network delivers concrete practical skills and information that is adapted to the time, place, and circumstances.
- It responds to the needs within the community.
- It does not interfere in the community with commercial, professional, or government agenda.
- It takes into account personal, social, and cultural aspects of women’s lives. Breastfeeding is not an exclusively biological event.
- It spreads knowledge broadly unlike the professional knowledge that is concentrated in the minds and hand of selected few.
- It crosses socioeconomic barriers created by professional expert help.
- It penetrates every aspect of life in a community.
- It fosters ability to self-help.
- It does not cost money.