A Small Tribute to Edwina Froehlich

I was reading an article in the newspaper today about a study that found that babies who had been breast fed for at least 4 months, as compared to those who were breast fed less than 4 months or bottle fed entirely, developed a better set of functioning lungs into childhood...well, well, well... slowly but surely the news is getting out breastfeeding is good! ha, it's not the 1950's anymore and I don't think anyone needs to hear news like this to say 'ah ha... I should breastfeed' I think that the biggest problem is moms that really want to breastfeed but have problems. Those problems vary and I have heard many theories but I think that la leche league meeting is always the answer. The whole thing reminded me that this year one of the co-founders of la leache league, Edwina Froehlich, had passed away at the age of 93. I meant to write a little something about Edwina Froehlich this past summer... and regretfully, I forgot.

I have written before about my love for la leche league and how much they helped me when I had troubles with our first son. There is just something about sitting around with a bunch of women breastfeeding that just seems to help any problem or issue you may be having, being it big or small! And that is what their entire concept was based on, when you go to a meeting you all just sit around and then just go around the circle and everyone talks about their breastfeeding issues one by one, you can learn so much from each other--issues you may not have right now but can help you and your baby further down the road. It's all so simple, free, and comforting that the la leche league idea spread pretty quickly. I think it was written up in readers digest in 1956 or so and then boom the book took off and so did the meetings!

I was reading in the New York Times tribute to her that the seven founding mothers had 55 children between them! I was also impressed that their early organization anticipated the feminist movement to come. Among many other great things the organization represents, the founders were early advocates for eating natural foods and spending more time with their children at the expense of their 50's roles as housewives presumably. By 1980, more than half of American women were breastfeeding and La Leche League had created about 4,000 groups nationwide - and now the League reaches almost 70 countries, with about 70% of women today in the USA breastfeeding upon leaving the hospital.

The times changed, and women started to go to work. It was one of the few core principles of the League that women should be available to their children as much as possible, even at the expense of work. I was not one of these mothers, since I was working. And I remember showing up at a meeting with my breastpump and when it came to my turn I just asked "how do these things work!?", I went into a full descrption (I'm sure I was in tears) that I tried it and I couldn't get it to pump...on and on...well the room went silent, no one had any answers for this, and they had probably never seen this crazy machine. But finally one of the leaders pulled me aside and helped me to work it out (hhhmmm, I didn't realize you needed to do both breasts at once) after she showed me this she added that she really had never used one but had 'heard' how this worked. At the time I didn't really think anything of it, I just figured these guys didn't need to work (I was at an upper west side of NYC meeting, so... why work?!) So it wasn't until much later that I realized that their core principles of the League that women should be available to their children. I honestly still love the la leche league and how helpful they were to me and my kids, it's so wonderful that this kind of support exists, and honestly, I have heard of friends that have had troubles and don't go to meetings because they think it's going to be a bunch of toddlers breastfeeding, but I think that their information is invaluable, and moms need to reach out to other moms for their answers. Nonetheless, I think that their attitude has changed a bit, and there is now an acknowledgment that many mothers do work today!

I am going to add a bit to this and say that breastfeeding should be a comfortable thing to do anywhere and at any time, the whole point to breastfeeding is that you are carrying around the perfect milk at the perfect temperature ready and waiting. Now some people don't think that a busy restaurant is a place for breastfeeding and if it's loud, it's probably not, but when you are an active parent--out and about--you can't find the perfect place all the time and I can tell you this, a rest room, unless you are at the four seasons and it's like a palace is not the place to breastfeed. It should be a comfortable and intimate thing between baby and mom and where you are doing it shouldn't matter to anyone but your baby and you, just be selfish and worry about the two of you... but I feel another blog coming on and I will save this for later, so back to the tribute...

Thanks, in large part to people like Edwina Froehlich (and the other six founding mothers) breastfeeding your baby is now agreed by many to be the more wholesome approach to feeding your baby or toddler - much different to the attitude that prevailed in those earlier days. I salute Edwina Froehlich and all the others who have worked to support natural parenting!