Helen Gray, London, Great Britain
There are five traditional responsibilities of leadership: helping mothers, planning and leading Series Meetings, managing the Group, keeping up to date, and helping mothers prepare for leadership. Helen Gray, a Leader in London, Great Britain wrote this for her Group’s interested mothers and Leader Applicants to explain the day-to-day role of an LLL Leader.
1. Helping mothers
I receive about two to three phone calls from the La Leche League Great Britain (LLLGB) Helpline each week. Depending on the complexity of the situation, and how upset the mother is, calls can take 20-45 minutes. They usually require a variety of listening skills, reflecting the mother’s feelings, some basic breastfeeding information, and details on how to find a local Group. I take brief notes during the call. This is important for any follow-up with a mother and for insurance purposes. Using the Leader Log helps me collect as much information as possible.
If the mother expresses an interest in further information, I send her some LLL leaflets such as “My Baby Needs More Milk” plus a LLLGB membership leaflet, an LLLGB Books catalog, and a little note with suggestions. I let her know that donations are welcomed and include the cost of the mailing. I also help mothers one-to-one in person, usually after our regular LLL meetings and sometimes by email.
2. Planning and leading Series Meetings
LLL Groups usually have at least one Series Meeting every month, cycling through four repeating themes: “The Importance of Breastfeeding,” “Birth and Getting Off to a Good Start,” “Overcoming and Avoiding Difficulties,” and “Nutrition and Weaning and Loving Guidance.” I schedule two hours for a Series Meeting, although mothers tend to stay for another hour or so for extra help or just to feed their babies. I allow a couple of hours to prepare the meeting topic, set up the room and clean away, count the money in the donation box, and record the meeting numbers. Many Groups have a team of Leader Applicants or keen mothers who help out with various jobs, so the work can often be shared. If you have co-Leaders, then you can take turns preparing and leading meetings too.
Many Leaders find it helpful to have regular or occasional Planning and Evaluation Meetings with a core group of mothers or an Enrichment Meeting each month. Some Groups have informal coffee mornings, Toddler Meetings, evening, or Saturday meetings for working parents, or Couples’ Meetings. It’s important to do what works well for you and your community.
3. Managing an LLL Group
I find that the time required for this varies widely depending on the help available from co-Leaders, Applicants, and mothers in the Group. The main aspects of Group management include:
- Administration: keeping a record of and reporting meeting attendance and number of helping calls.
- Group library/resources: the core books of the Group library are The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and a comprehensive birth book. In addition, we have books/DVDs on various breastfeeding, birth, and parenting topics and LLL leaflets and magazines.
- Publicity: this varies! Some Groups place posters in the local maternity ward, some produce flyers for waiting areas, and some post meeting information on Facebook.
- Memberships: our group Treasurer is usually responsible for processing membership applications and fees.
- Funds and finance: I’ve been lucky that in over ten years of being a Leader, I have always had someone who could help with the Group accounts. Being Group treasurer involves keeping accurate records of money in (donations, memberships and fundraising profits) and expenses (such as book and leaflet purchases, venue hire, Leader registrations for workshops, and parking costs.)
4. Keeping up to date
There are many places to continue learning about breastfeeding management and to keep-up-to date on LLL policy and procedure changes. For example;
- LLL online “journals” for Leaders: Feedback (LLLGB) and Leader Today (LLLI). Applicants can access them online.
- LLL magazines for mothers: Breastfeeding Matters (LLLGB on paper); Breastfeeding Today (LLLI – online); New Beginnings (LLL USA – now a weekly blog format); Aroha (La Leche League New Zealand) and more.
- LLL Leader Workshops: in the United Kingdom (UK), every region has an annual spring workshop in April/May for Leaders, Leader Applicants, and interested mothers (babies and non-separating little ones are always welcome, of course). LLLGB has an annual National Workshop or Conference in October each year. Although attendance is not required, it is expected that Leaders will make an effort to attend when they can. Groups can fundraise to pay Leaders’ conference expenses. Attending workshops and conferences is a great way to meet other Leaders and Applicants, as well as to learn more about breastfeeding topics and to brush up on our Leader listening and group dynamics skills. See our Events page for forthcoming LLL events across the globe.
5. Helping mothers prepare for leadership
I usually hold an Interested Mothers Meeting about once a year to help mothers find out more about how LLL works and what being a Leader involves. This year we are experimenting with doing this via Facebook. Once a mother officially begins her preparation for leadership, she works at her own pace with regular correspondence with a representative from the Leader Accreditation Department (LAD). Regular one-to-one meetings with her supporting Leader cover both breastfeeding topics and the practicalities of leading an LLL Group, as well as lots of communications skills practice. Some Groups help their Applicants move through the application by holding regular Leader Applicant meetings or workshops, perhaps monthly.
As you can see, there is a lot of variation from week to week and from Leader to Leader! Some of us allocate one day or morning a week as an “LLL day.” We schedule Series Meetings or Leader Applicant Workshops on that day, or use the time to do other LLL work. That way we avoid regular conflicts with playgroups, etc. Other Leaders prefer not to have a set “LLL day” and fit their Leader work around other commitments.
Although these are the basic responsibilities for an LLL Leader, some Leaders find they have the time and energy to do more. They may decide to do other roles within LLL, such as writing for and editing LLL journals, joining an LLL social media team, working with Leader Applicants as a member of the LAD, or supporting other Leaders as a member of the Leader Department or the Professional Liaison Department. Some national roles require a significant time commitment, so a Leader might do that instead of working as a Group Leader.
There are also national roles on the LLLGB Council of Directors or equivalent in your area such as on the governing board of a Leader’s Direct Connect Area Network (DCAN). There are also international roles with LLL International—see Being an LLL Leader – Is It All for Nothing? (Leader Today, 2015-October) on this website.
No two days are alike! I love being a Leader and the way I can fit it around the rest of my family; the endless variety means there is never a dull moment.
Originally from the USA, Helen Gray is a La Leche League Leader in London, UK, where she and her husband Julian live with their three teenaged children. Helen is an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and joint coordinator of the UK working group of the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi). She represents LLL Great Britain on the Baby Feeding Law Group, which works to implement the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes into UK and European law. Helen tweets as @HelenGrayIBCLC.