Interview with Marie Courdent, LLL France

The Légion of Honneur, or National Order of the Legion of Honor, is the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits. The order is divided into five degrees of increasing distinction. French Leader Marie Courdent was awarded the highest category (chevalier class) of the French Légion dHonneur for her work with La Leche League (LLL) in a special ceremony in 2017. In an interview with Marie we learn more about the special award.

LLLI 2How did you find out you were going to be honored?

At the end of one particular Series Meeting that I had led, I noticed other LLL Leaders arriving along with Véronique, a young mother I had supported. Véronique announced that the mothers of my Group had nominated me to receive a National Order of Merit medal. It was very moving to receive this recognition from the mothers. To receive this medal, one has to either write to the Prefect (administrative commissioner) or obtain 50 supporting signatures. I learned that 230 signatures had been collected from parents and health professionals, the first 50 within two hours! Véronique gave a short speech of thanks.

A few days later, there was a request for nominations for female volunteers to receive the Legion of Honor. Mr. Michel LaLande, the Prefect (Commissioner) for the North of France, therefore proposed my candidacy so that I would receive not the National Order of Merit but the Legion of Honor. I learned about this nomination on 14th July 2016, our National Day (known outside France as Bastille Day), and could hardly believe it!

How do you feel about this award?

I accept this medal in the name of all the Leaders in the organization. For me the honor reflects on the whole of La Leche League. I am happy that our work bringing support and information to breastfeeding mothers is valued. I do not accept it only for myself because I could not be a Leader alone. We are a team. I am happy to get this medal and I know my co-Leaders are happy too. It is a real recognition for us all.

What made you want to be part of La Leche League?

When I first knew of LLL, I was working as a paediatric nurse in a maternity unit and mothers were having a lot of breastfeeding difficulties. I tried to help them but I didn’t know if the information I gave them was useful or relevant when they left the hospital. I met with mothers from La Leche League to learn about the difficulties women might encounter after leaving the hospital with a new baby. I discovered that LLL had (and still has!) an impressive wealth of information. I had a strong desire through my work to protect breastfeeding in France and, by extension, in developing countries. LLL meetings changed my professional practice.

After that, I attended LLL meetings as a mother for the first time and later became a Leader. I think that a couple who decides to breastfeed their baby has a right to quality support and if I can help them, I do it willingly. For the same reason, I have been involved with training other professionals.

If you could thank anyone for all those years ….

My family! My husband and my children. Helping breastfeeding mothers is a commitment which is very absorbing and my family have respected my voluntary commitment to help mothers in need. Sometimes I received calls in an evening when I was taking care of my own children or when we were eating dinner. It is not always easy to manage and I can’t thank my family enough. I also want to thank all the Leaders who have become friends and all the parents who have brought me so much.

The ceremony was held on Friday 30th June in Lille. The Leaders attending the medal ceremony were proud to sing the LLL anthem written by Valérie Thibert to honor the 60th LLL anniversary for the Founders.

Marie Courdent has been Area Professional Liaison and a trainer of health care providers with LLL France’s breastfeeding training programme “Allaitement maternel Formation,” the only such programme among LLL entities. She has been an LLL Leader since 1989 and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) since 1992. Marie has had articles published in a variety of journals within and beyond LLL.