WBW 2015: Who is the woman in pink?

by Rita Brhel on August 3, 2015

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martha with viola from LLL and baby stephenWhen this photograph was taken, 26 years ago, there was no such thing as the Internet. Cameras were film only. There were no cell phones or laptops. If you wanted to make a phone call while on the road, you had to first find a pay phone booth. And if you wanted to make a phone call at home, you had to stretch the cord connecting you to the wall around the corner to get any privacy. Mainstream parenting advice wasn’t particularly warm, fueled by a widespread fear of spoiling children, but parents who wanted another perspective could get it through a print subscription of Mothering magazine.

And while more mothers were breastfeeding back then than a couple decades before, lactation consulting was still gaining a foothold in medical practice. The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, which certifies lactation consultants, was still in its infancy, having been founded in 1985. Really, the only reliable source of breastfeeding education and support anywhere was La Leche League (LLL) with its expansive network of mother-to-mother support groups, many in small and rural communities.

This image was captured in 1989 at a LLL conference in Anaheim, California, USA. The young woman in this photograph — do you recognize her? (Keep reading to find out who this mystery mom is!) — was breastfeeding Stephen, the baby in the arms of Viola Lennon, one of LLL’s seven cofounders and coauthor of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

The world said a sad goodbye to Viola in 2010 when she passed away at the age of 86. She was the mother of 10 children and had learned how to breastfeed from her own mother before attending the founding meeting for LLL in 1956. She went on to serve LLL in many ways, including Board chairman and Development Director. LLL quotes Viola saying:

“Breastfeeding…led me to self-discovery and to a greater appreciation of the full humanity of the babies who were entrusted to me. Each woman needs to trust her own instincts, her own feelings and her own sense of what will work for her with each baby. Women in the 1950s had forgotten the wisdom of previous generations in relation to breastfeeding. Mothers who tried to breastfeed on their own were almost always destined to fail. The neighbors sent their children to watch me breastfeed, because they knew the children would not see it anywhere else!”

LLL, from the beginning, nudged parents toward a gentler, more biological way of relating to their children. Breastfeeding itself is rooted in a secure parent-child attachment bond; breastfeeding cannot be successful in any other way. No doubt, the very beginnings of the Attachment Parenting movement are rooted in LLL. Very significantly,  Attachment Parenting International (API) credits LLL as part of our foundation. API’s cofounders Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson were LLL Leaders before they conceived the idea of API in 1994, most influenced by a speaker they heard at an LLL conference about the importance of secure attachment on child development: Dr. Elliott Barker of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children explained how every violent criminal he had encountered had a history of extreme separation and insecure attachment as a child. As LLL continued to focus primarily on breastfeeding as its mission, API was able to take up Attachment Parenting as its mission.

LLL influenced others apart from Lysa and Barbara to educate and support parents in Attachment Parenting, many who soon joined in encouraging API’s growth and development. Among them is pediatrician and API Advisory Board member Dr. William Sears and his wife, API Board of Directors member Martha Sears, a nurse and mother to their eight children. Bill and Martha Sears had first published The Baby Book — considered a parenting bible by families around the world — in 1992, and would go on to become two of the most recognized names in parenting.

MSears159Three years before, in 1989, a young Martha was sitting on a couch with Viola as they admired Stephen. I wonder if Martha had any idea at that point what her future would hold?

Thank you, Martha, for breastfeeding your babies…for becoming a LLL Leader…for coauthoring parenting books that questioned the status quo…and for going on to encourage mothers worldwide to reclaim the wisdom of previous generations in both breastfeeding and parenting in a sensitive, wbw2015-logo-mnurturing, gentle, attachment-minded way. You have made a difference in the world! And we recognize you this World Breastfeeding Week!

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WBW 2015: The Big Latch On

by Rita Brhel on August 1, 2015

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wbw2015-logo-mWorld Breastfeeding Week is an exciting time for me every year. Not only do I greatly enjoy joining in the annual celebration through Attachment Parenting International‘s week-long observance on the APtly Said blog, but I also get to partake in fun, local events through my job as a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor. Today, I kicked off World Breastfeeding Week by helping with a local Big Latch On event.

The Big Latch On originated in New Zealand, started by the Women’s Health Action as part of the 2005 World Breastfeeding Week. It is an organized opportunity to support breastfeeding families and promote breastfeeding by inviting breastfeeding women from the local community to come together and latch on their babies and toddlers at a set time. It’s similar to the Great Cloth Diaper Change, if you’ve ever been part of that.

PrintThe Big Latch On event I helped with was in Kearney, Nebraska, USA, and hosted by the Kearney Community Breastfeeding Initiative, Breastfeeding USA of Kearney, Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska and Nebraska WIC Nutrition Program. Breastfeeding moms and their children began coming in to get signed up, settled in and comfortable at 10 a.m. Then, at 10:20 a.m., we announced that it was time to prepare to latch. At 10:30 a.m., every mom was supposed to latch and stay latched until at least 10:31 a.m. Accountability was provided by witnesses, like me, who assured the count was accurate. After 10:31 a.m., participants could leave whenever they wanted. We did have a drawing for breastfeeding T-shirts and a chance for moms to share why they chose breastfeeding, and most moms stayed to chat for an hour, as their babies finished breastfeeding. Then, the coordinator of the program tallied the number of attendees and number of moms who latched and submitted these statistics to the Global Big Latch On.

Big Latch On events have been going on July 31 and August 1 globally, and there is also a count through August 2 of selfies of moms with their babies and children latched on. So the total isn’t in yet, but as of 9 pm Central Time, there have been 13,000 latches. That’s a lot of moms and babies!

The count isn’t a Guinness Record Attempt, but rather a comparison to past years. The idea is beat last year’s record. Here are the records for the past five years:

  • 2010 – 2 countries – 147 local events – 2,045 latches
  • 2011 – 5 countries – 412 local events – 5,687 latches
  • 2012 – 22 countries – 626 local events – 8,862 latches
  • 2013 – 28 countries – 845 local events – 14,536 latches
  • 2014 – 31 countries – 826 local events – 13,798 latches

If you have participated in the Great Cloth Diaper Change, you know that this event is a Guinness Record Attempt. And Guinness World Records can certainly increase awareness, both during the attempt as well as in total numbers. So why is the Big Latch On different?

According to the organizers, the Big Latch On is designed to reflect reality in order to show how culture is changing. This means including communities where there aren’t large groups of breastfeeding women. To be a Guinness Record Attempt, each local event would have to have a minimum of 25 participants to be counted. Many of the Big Latch On events are in smaller communities where there aren’t 25 or more mother-child pairs to be had. At the Kearney event I helped with, we didn’t have 25 breastfeeding mothers. But the moms who came did — and should — count!

By the way, the Guinness World Record for simultaneous breastfeeding is 3,738 mothers at one location, and for multiple locations: 15,128 mothers across 295 sites. Both are held by the Philippines, and both are great awareness tools for breastfeeding. But this just isn’t the Big Latch On style.

Another not-so-obvious, but very good, reason why the Big Latch On is not a Guinness Record Attempt is that what the Big Latch On counts as a latch happens not only during the act of breastfeeding — of both singletons and multiples and tandem-nursings (each baby’s latch counts separately!) — but also active pumping by an exclusively pumping mom.

As I like to say when working with WIC clients, any amount of breastmilk is good. So moms don’t have to be exclusively breastfeeding to be included. One mom who attended the Big Latch On event at Kearney had 2-month-old twins, whom she breastfeeds but also gives pump-expressed milk and supplements with formula. Breastfeeding multiples is hard work, and kudos to her for sticking with it and continuing to work on boosting her milk supply.

Another mom is pump-dependent and actively working on latching her baby, but wasn’t successful at latching that day at 10:30 a.m. No problem, because breastfeeding mothers who are unable to latch are now recognized in their own count. It can be hard to hold off a feeding for a newborn baby who would otherwise be breastfeed on demand, whether at 10:30 a.m. or not.

161052_1659Probably the most impressionable conversation of the event was one I had with a grandmother who came to the Kearney event in support of breastfeeding. She was a breastfeeding mom 30 years ago and talked about how fortunate women today when there are so many opportunities for qualified support, whether from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or another breastfeeding specialist, La Leche League or another local support group, or the Big Latch On or another awareness-raising activity.

This grandmother, who had been formula-fed only herself like so many others in her generation, decided to breastfeed her own children with literally no local breastfeeding support and of course the Internet didn’t exist back then. She remembered going to her doctor for a diagnosis of mastitis and even her doctor didn’t know what to say or how to help. All she could do was continue breastfeeding, despite severe pain, and hope it would get better. What a strong woman! She now has a daughter who is breastfeeding her third time and is an active breastfeeding advocate.

Thirty years can seem like eons ago, but at the same time, it really wasn’t that long ago when women who chose to breastfeed didn’t have any real options if they came upon a challenge, like poor latch, engorgement or low milk supply. Some communities had La Leche League groups, but the organization was still growing then. So many breastfeeding moms 30 years ago, especially in rural areas, who encountered a problem had only one option fully supported by the medical community and culture at the time: to wean to formula. And so many did.

For all the breastfeeding challenges we still have to face and overcome in our culture, we are very fortunate to be mothers at this time in history.

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Ready for World Breastfeeding Week 2015?

July 31, 2015
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Attachment Parenting International (API) is pleased to announce that we are taking part in World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7. Check for daily posts about how women are making breastfeeding work for them and supporting others in their motherhood journeys. The 2015 theme of World Breastfeeding Week is “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make It Work!” This […]

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How else does Attachment Parenting look like in your home?

July 27, 2015
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Editor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) advocates for a parenting approach rooted solidly in research, and continuing research further validates and builds upon API’s foundation. In June, you were asked to help tell your story through a survey created by Southern Methodist University (SMU) researchers in collaboration with API. We are thrilled to report that […]

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There’s a monster under the bed

July 27, 2015
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When I was a little girl, I was certain there was a monster hiding under my bed, waiting to grab my feet and drag me under the bed! To fool him, I would take a running leap onto my bed at night. Sometimes I thought that I jumped too close to the bed, so I […]

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The sunrise of balance

July 24, 2015
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It was a Tuesday morning, years ago. And like many other mornings, I awoke and started into my day. Awaiting me was housework to be completed, emails to be answered, errands to be accomplished and deadlines to be met. If not for my then 6-year-old son, I likely would have stayed in this state of […]

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Diaper nostalgia

July 20, 2015
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I thought I kept my car clean and tidy…until my husband walked in the door, waved a diaper in the air and said, “Hey, look what I found in the trunk!” It was quite a surprise — with our kids being 10 and 7 years old, the diaper era is long gone for us. I […]

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What does your family’s attachment look like?

July 18, 2015
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Editor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) advocates for a parenting approach rooted solidly in research, and continuing research further validates and builds upon API’s foundation. Please complete a brief, anonymous survey (access using your API Forum login) regarding your experiences with family members and relationships. It is hoped that the information gathered will help move […]

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