A Shout-Out to the World

A Shout-Out to the World

Today I received a communique to La Leche League (LLL) Leaders from the La Leche League International’s (LLLI) Board of Directors and Executive Management regarding The Breastfeeding Answer Book, which I co-authored.  It said:

"The Breastfeeding Answer Book continues to be the recommended and dependable resource for LLLI Leaders who need to address more complicated questions regarding breastfeeding…Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple, while an additional excellent resource for PL Administrators, should not replace The Breastfeeding Answer Book for Leaders….The Breastfeeding Answer Book is slated for revision and Executive Management is working to identify authors or persons who can coordinate the new edition….In the meantime, LLLI is preparing an update sheet which will provide references to the 8th edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and online resources to address the most important changes in breastfeeding information since The Breastfeeding Answer Book was published. We expect this Breastfeeding Answer Book supplement to be ready in early 2012 and it will be available on the LLLI website."

As author of both The Breastfeeding Answer Book (BAB) and Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple (BAMS), I'd like to weigh in on this issue.

Although BAB’s copyright is dated 2003, I finished writing its third edition—the book  recommended in this communique--in 2002, exactly 10 years ago.  My co-author Julie Stock and I revised only about one-third of this book at that time.  The same process occurred with the second edition (finished in 1995), which was a revision of the first edition (finished in 1990), which we also wrote.  In other words, much of the information in BAB’s third edition is as old as 1990.

No matter who published the next version of this book, it needed to be entirely rewritten to bring it up to date.  Also, significant information was missing from BAB.  For example, it has no chapter on milk production, which I added to BAMS.  Plus, in the eight years between BAB and BAMS, even the most basic breastfeeding information such as latch and positioning had undergone a huge paradigm shift.  I believed that revising BAB piecemeal, as I had done twice before, would not do it justice.  BAB needed to be completely rewritten, which is how I created BAMS.

It saddens me greatly that LLLI, which was founded to support breastfeeding mothers, seems to care more about money than about its reason for being.  Granted, I am not entirely unbiased, as I do not receive royalties from BAB sales.  As should be true for any author, I do receive the usual royalties for BAMS.  However, my motivation for rewriting this book was not entirely financial.  I spent two years laboring on BAMS primarily because I am committed to giving all breastfeeding supporters access to the latest information.  This passion of mine has not changed.  If anything, it's grown stronger.

The underlying message of today’s statement from LLLI seems to be that the money it earns from sales of BAB, an outdated resource, is more important to its decision-makers than keeping its Leaders current.  LLLI, please be reasonable here.  Note that I said it took me two years to rewrite BAB as BAMS And I had written this book three times before.  The soonest you could hope to have a rewrite ready—assuming you can find someone to take on that gargantuan task—is several years.  Do you really expect your Leaders to continue to use such an out-of-date reference in the meantime?

Please rethink this decision!  By announcing publicly that your Leaders are expected to use a decades-old book to help mothers undermines their effectiveness and in the process breastfeeding itself.  It may also make those outside the organization think twice about referring mothers to LLL Leaders.  And some Leaders may reconsider their commitment to an organization that would make such a questionable decision.  This announcement is like a shout-out to the world that LLL has lost sight of its fundamental purpose.

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