La Leche League GB regrets to announce the death of Mary White, one of the seven Founders of La Leche League. Mary was born on April 3, 1923 and died on June 2, 2016. She was married for 59 years to Dr Gregory White, who passed away in 2003. They had eleven children, 61 grandchildren and 73 great grandchildren.
When Mary had her first baby in the 1940s, there was very little support for breastfeeding in the US and, with her husband away in the Army, her attempt to breastfeed was short-lived. Luckily, when their second baby arrived Greg was able to give Mary the support she needed and the rest of their children were happily breastfed.
Many other mothers did not get the help and information that can make all the difference to breastfeeding. In 1956, babies were routinely separated from their mothers following birth for as long as 24 hours, and solids were routinely introduced between one and three months.
Mary was one of seven women who realised that the support system for breastfeeding had broken down and decided to get together to form a group offering mother-to-mother support for local women.
LLL believed that mothers needed to be together for early nursing and uninterrupted bonding. They challenged the beliefs of the day, and many of the things they spoke out about are accepted today as optimal practice. LLL helped to give breastfeeding back to mothers.
From this small beginning, La Leche League grew into an international organisation with groups in over 70 countries. It is recognised as an authority on breastfeeding and is respected by health professionals throughout the world. Its influence has been immeasurable and has had a direct bearing on many of the changes that have occurred in infant-care practices since LLL’s beginning.
Most importantly, however, LLL has enriched the lives of thousands of mothers, babies and families. Seven mothers from Chicago set out to help a few local women and ended up changing things for the better throughout the world.
“The revolution required risks. It demanded courage. It called for a single-minded determination to wrestle the baby out from under the authority of the ‘experts’ and back into the arms of its mother”1
Each generation of women has to adapt to the needs and challenges of the day, but babies and mothers continue to look for support with breastfeeding and mothering, and thanks to the seven Founders, LLL is there to provide it.
Our sincere condolences to Mary’s family and friends and eternal thanks for your dedication to LLL.
Written by Anna Burbidge, June 2016
1 The Revolutionaries Wore Pearls, Kaye Lowman, LLL-USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 4, July-August 2007
Tribute to LLLI Co-Founder Mary White