Breast is best

By on April 30, 2008
This year sees the 50th anniversary of La Leche League, the international, non-profit, non-sectarian organization dedicated to providing support, encouragement, information, and education to women who want to breastfeed. La Leche League in Asia alone has reached over 20,000 families in the past three years, and LLL groups in Tokyo help more than 1,000 families each year.Human milk is amazing stuff! It offers the exact balance of fats, proteins and other ingredients needed by a baby’s brain and body for optimum growth and development and protection from illness. Nursing also has a positive effect on the mother’s health, reducing her risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, osteoporosis and other illnesses. Yet even though babies are instinctively programmed to breastfeed, mothers aren’t always doing so.

The factors influencing a woman’s decision to breastfeed are complex, and have usually occurred before the baby is born, sometimes even pre-conception. The influence of her community, and her family’s attitudes to breastfeeding, in particular the opinions of her own mother and the baby’s father, play a significant role in a mother’s decision. (Hollywood actress Jennifer Lopez has said she decided not to breastfeed her twins simply because her own mother did not breastfeed her.)

There are many mothers who are quite determined to breastfeed. A survey of pregnant mothers in Tokyo found that 100% of the mother’s expressed the intention to breastfeed. Yet this is not reflected in breastfeeding rates one month after birth. Ask any new mother, and you may hear of breastfeeding heartache. Ask your own mother, and again you could hear stories of woe. Separation of newborn babies from their mothers at the moment of birth impacts on the establishment of a successful nursing relationship. Babies have inborn and necessary pre-breastfeeding behaviors which are interrupted by hospital procedures, which in turn can mean that interventions become necessary to “teach” the baby how to breastfeed.

Even a determined mother can be overwhelmed by the task of helping a baby learn to breastfeed, and a crying hungry baby makes a mother lose confidence and become understandably distressed herself. In such situations, it is important for a mother to receive good emotional support. She needs some practical hints and warm encouragement while seh and her baby overcome their challenges. This is where the League comes in.

Contacting La Leche League, mothers receive the encouragement and information they need to keep going. They can get answers to their questions and gradually learn to trust their instincts through the support of experienced breastfeeding mothers, from all walks of life, who make up the La Leche League groups in 66 countries around the world.

La Leche League in Tokyo have been running English-speaking groups for more than 20 years, with current groups in Shibuya, Tachikawa, and a new French-speaking group. There are also several Japanese-speaking groups. Each group has a library for mothers, and offers free telephone and email help, as well as friendly monthly discussion meetings.

To celebrate 50 great years of support, the League in Tokyo will be hosting the BIG DAY OUT family picnic in Yoyogi Park on Sunday, May 18th. There will be entertainment for the kids, (of any age, including those no longer breastfeeding!) and a silent auction for the adults. Everyone is welcome! IF you would like to support the current work and projects of LLL, whether by contributing items to the silent auction, or by becoming a sponsor for the BIG DAY OUT picnic, please contact LLL at for futher details.

Contacts for La Leche League

About Iona Macnab