La Leche (pronounced la LAY-chay) League International (LLLI) is an organization of mothers helping mothers to breastfeed. Mostly through small and locally-organized groups, LLLI provides support, information, and education and promotes understanding of the role of breastfeeding in the health of mothers and children.
LLLI was founded in 1956 by seven mothers in Chicago, Illinois. Breastfeeding support was sorely needed; only about 20 percent of U.S. mothers were breastfeeding at that time. The founders sought to change this through group meetings, educational events, and publications. In less than a decade, the organization had established groups in more than four nations worldwide. Now, more than 50 years after that first meeting, La Leche League is an international organization recognized by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, National Healthy Mothers/Healthy Babies Coalition, American Medical Association, and many other leading health groups. With active groups in about 60 countries worldwide, LLLI reaches more than 100,000 mothers each month.
At its heart, LLLI continues to be a mothers’ group offering breastfeeding support and information in a variety of ways. Groups are organized through Leaders, who are experienced mothers accredited by LLLI to help mothers and expectant parents with all aspects of breastfeeding. LLLI provides:
- Monthly discussion groups. Moderated by LLLI Leaders, these groups are opportunities for mothers to discuss questions and concerns about breastfeeding. Each meeting also has a planned topic covering practical, physical, and/or psychological aspects of breastfeeding. Babies and other children are welcome at meetings.
- One-on-one help by LLLI leaders. Leaders are available at monthly meetings and, for problems that need immediate help in between meetings, by phone.
- Online discussion forums. Mothers can participate in online forums to discuss breastfeeding and parenting topics anytime.
- Books. Two years after LLLI was founded, the first edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was published. It has been updated and reprinted many times since then, but the book remains a favorite among breastfeeding mothers. This and other publications about breastfeeding, childbirth, parenting, and nutrition are available for purchase or through LLLI group lending libraries.
- Other publications. LLLI produces an online magazine, Breastfeeding Today, that contains both educational information and personal stories from parents. In addition, many of the group’s information sheets are available through its website.
- Special events. From seminars on parenting to continuing education opportunities for health care providers, many LLLI groups organize conferences on a variety of themes and special topics.