Mothers Making a Difference: Marian Leonard Tompson and La Leche

Want proof that following your heart leads to a most interesting and fulfilling life?

Spend time with Marian Leonard Tompson or read her book, “Passionate Journey – My Unexpected Life.”

Tompson of Evanston, was a shy mother of seven who never intended to start an international movement that promoted better health for mothers and babies around the world, but she did all that and more when she founded La Leche League. Much to her surprise, her journey has also included fighting corporate giants, persuading celebrities and royalty to help, appearing on international television with stars of the era, filing “Amicus Curiae” briefs for breastfeeding mothers, and more. All that happened because she kept doing what seemed to be the next right thing.

Tompson was a 1950s stay-at-home mother in Franklin Park who believed that nursing babies had to be better for them than feeding them formula. With the support of two doctors, Tompson and six other women founded the La Leche League. The other women voted her president and spokesperson. The League’s efforts have been so successful that nursing is now considered the best practice in over 70 countries where volunteers from La Leche provide information and support to breastfeeding mothers.

Tompson also founded AnotherLook, a nonprofit that persuaded the World Health Organization and other international thought leaders to study how to minimize morbidity and mortality in babies when a mother is HIV positive. In 2010, WHO reversed their recommendations and now encourage exclusive breastfeeding for six months by HIV positive mothers with breastfeeding continuing as supplementary foods are added.

An energetic 82-year-old, with bright blue eyes that twinkle in her open round face, Tompson declared durig our interview, “I feel something else is coming too, I’m just not sure what it is.”  Whatever it is though, it is sure be meaningful.