Winter Garden resident Yazmina Blythe has three boys: Ethan, 11; Bryan, 6; and Cowan, 3. She chose to breastfeed each one, calling the experience a joy and a bonding experience like no other. “Besides being the perfect source of nutrition for your baby, breastfeeding gives you this connection that study after study has found can last a lifetime,” she says.
Many new moms are hoping for that life-affirming experience, but not all moms start out knowing how to breastfeed. Some babies don’t get it right away either. That’s where La Leche League (LLL) comes in.
Blythe calls LLL a community of like-minded moms and families with the goal of breastfeeding their children. While Blythe may no longer be breastfeeding her sons, she remains committed to helping moms connect with their children, their families and each other through their passion for breastfeeding.
In 1956, LLL began as a mother-to-mother support group for nursing moms in Illinois. Back then only about 20 percent of American babies were breastfed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Breastfeeding Report Card for 2013, 77 percent of infants in the United States are breastfed for at least some part of their lives. Today, there are approximately 3,000 LLL groups in 67 countries.
There are LLL groups all over Central Florida, including one in Winter Garden, which meets on the second Tuesday of the month at 10 a.m. at the Zion New Life Lutheran Church. Blythe is one of the leaders of that group. “Most of our members are new, first-time moms who have a lot of questions,” she says. “The most common questions are, ‘Am I doing it right?’ ‘Will I make enough milk?’ ‘Is my baby getting enough to eat?’”
According to Blythe and another LLL leader from the College Park area, Anna Weil, sometimes they have to educate people on what the group is not. “We don’t propose laws or get involved in politics,” Weil says. “We are not interested in creating controversy, and we are not medical professionals. Our members offer their own experience and support for moms who want to breastfeed.”
For more in-depth information, moms are encouraged to read the LLL book titled “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” and to find an international board-certified lactation consultant, which many hospitals now offer. Recently, Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies became Central Florida’s newest site for an LLL monthly meeting.
The debate on extended breastfeeding has put breastfeeding supporters in the news. LLL and many members encourage the use of more neutral terms such as “full-term breastfeeding.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 12 months of breastfeeding but also supports breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby. Blythe says LLL is there to support a family’s goal for breastfeeding, however long that may be.
“We are not here to make breastfeeding a problem,” Blythe says. “Quite the opposite. We want to normalize breastfeeding and support moms and families.”