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The Real Reason for World Breastfeeding Week

From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 3, June-July 2005, p. 66.

When you ponder World Breastfeeding Week, do you immediately think of raising awareness about the importance of breastfeeding and raising money for LLL? For many US Leaders, World Breastfeeding Week is just that -- a time to celebrate breastfeeding by raising funds and awareness for La Leche League and breastfeeding. Traditionally, awareness weeks are used to raise public awareness of a given cause and as a major fundraiser for the organization. Nonetheless, events and funds are not the only reason for World Breastfeeding Week.

Central to the core of World Breastfeeding Week -- and the celebrations for it -- are people. Breastfeeding improves both infant and maternal health, improves infant nutrition, and benefits society. The LLLI mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.

Fundraising and awareness-raising are also about people. John Silva, a professional fundraiser and one of the founding Board Members of the nonprofit organization Venture for Fundraising, wrote in 1997, "Fundraising is not about money. It's about a human need that has to be met and the ability of an organization to make a contribution to the alleviation of that need." There is no doubt that breastfeeding is the optimal feeding method for infants and that it needs support, protection, and promotion. There can be no doubt that for almost 50 years LLLI has worked to address this need. The LLLI mission statement articulates the need. Asking others to financially support LLLI requires us to clearly articulate what it is that we do as LLL Leaders and why it is important. Being able to answer those two questions makes it easier to state the case for LLLI funding needs.

Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is important to each community because it meets a need. Awareness campaigns such as WBW serve at least two purposes: they celebrate the progress made in making each community breastfeeding-friendly and underscore the needs that still exist. The WBW celebration is a form of marketing our cause and our organization.

Celebrations are most successful when they use a variety of communication methods. The LLL in the USA Web site (www.lllusa.org/lllusa/wbw.html) provides a variety of tools for Leaders to customize to meet their unique needs. This includes flyers, postcards, posters, email messages, as well as professionally created public service announcements. Leaders might also find adaptable ideas from the recent US government and Ad Council Breastfeeding Awareness campaign. Those materials can be found at www.adcouncil.org/issues/breastfeeding,

As Appendix 10 of the Policies and Standing Rules Notebook states, Leaders can also use cooperative action. This means that Leaders may form partnerships with others who are involved in promoting and protecting breastfeeding, such as the local health department, WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Office, and health care providers, as well as early childhood educators. Again, the LLL in the USA Web site has a variety of ideas for events. Some are as simple as a picnic together while others are more complex, such as a health fair. Having a joint celebration can strengthen your working relationship with other organizations and can be an opportunity to thank others for their hard work during the past year. Social gatherings may be another way to celebrate the successes of breastfeeding advocates in the community.

There is no requirement that every celebration generate money although fundraising is one of the purposes of the celebration. There is no requirement that every celebration be community-wide or elaborate. The goals for celebrating World Breastfeeding Week in the USA are to raise public awareness about breastfeeding, to raise funds for LLL, and to enjoy the event. Finding joy in the celebration will make the celebration a happy memory.

However you decide to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week in your community, remember that people are at the center of this celebration. This year's World Breastfeeding Week theme for 2005 is Breastfeeding and Family Foods: Loving and Healthy. People are a key component of the theme.

Jane Tuttle, accredited in 1986, leads a local Group. She and her husband, Herb, have two sons, ages 17 and 21. Jane has been Coordinator of Leader Accreditation, Area Coordinator of Leaders, Area Treasurer, Assistant Area Conference Supervisor, District Advisor, served on the LLLI Grievance Commission, is trained as a Communication Skills Instructor (HRE-I), and is Secretary and member of the LLLI BOD. In addition to her LLL work, Jane works at the University of Kansas. While LLL is her main volunteer activity, she is involved in other community organizations that usually center around her sons.

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