Polly Smith, Southampton, Great Britain
Polly Smith has a thriving Group in Southampton, Great Britain. In this article she shares some of the secrets of LLL Southampton’s success.
Growing a La Leche League Group can be a daunting as well as an exciting prospect. Maybe you are a newly accredited Leader looking to start a new Group. Perhaps you have moved from the comfort of a thriving Group into a new area where LLL has never been established. Or maybe you would like to start a Group in a new area. One thing is certain: wherever breastfeeding help is needed, there will be a need for La Leche League. Leaders the world over know there is something special about LLL Series Meetings—a room full of mothers, babies and children who are all uplifting each other, providing a much valued support network. Some mothers describe the feeling as “like coming home.” How can we encourage more mothers into LLL Groups to enjoy the special support LLL offers?
“Wherever breastfeeding help is needed, there will be a need for La Leche League”
The early days of motherhood can be overwhelming, especially if you have your first child. It can be hard to retain information as a new parent. Trying to remember dates, times, addresses and who to contact can be off-putting and create barriers to attending meetings. The predictability of meeting every third Tuesday of the month, or every Thursday morning at 10 am, for example, at the same location is easier to remember.
Know your community
Sometimes when a new LLL Group is publicised, mothers appear from everywhere. Great! Other times, mothers don’t seem to appear, or a Group may have once been thriving but numbers start to dwindle. If so, it can be helpful to take a fresh look at your area. What works for this community? What breastfeeding support is already in place? I co-lead LLL Southampton and we used to meet once a month for a Series Meeting in a children’s centre (a free community venue with excellent resources for children). Between these meetings we met at various mothers’ homes (the address changed each time). We noticed that only one or two mothers were coming along and not always coming back. We looked at services available locally, and noticed that other successful breastfeeding support groups met weekly. Although a bigger commitment, we decided to change the venue so that we could also meet weekly in the same place. We provided a Series Meeting once a month alongside drop-in sessions for the rest of the month. The drop-in sessions provided a place for parents to come and meet each other and get breastfeeding support if needed. Some Leaders may find a weekly commitment is too much and that twice monthly might be more manageable: see Group Meetings Twice a Month (Leader Today, October 2016).
The new venue we chose was easier to access and had a free car park; parents could also get there by bus, train, or on foot. It was close to a town and had a denser and more diverse local population. These changes really helped reach more mothers in our area. For more tips on choosing your venue, see Location, Location, Location by Annette Green (Leader Today, October 2017).
Publicise your Group
To publicise our new weekly Group, we wrote to the local midwifery and health visiting team and invited them along to the launch day. We shared the date with nearby parent groups on Facebook. We are also lucky enough to be included with the maternity discharge information given to every new mother by the local maternity hospital. For further ideas see Making LLL Visible: How Networking and Collaboration Can Raise Your Profile in Leader Today (June 2017).
Use social media
Mothers today use social media for networking all the time, so we decided to create a Facebook page for our Group. We use the page to advertise our meetings and events. Mothers can send a private message to the page if they wish to, but they can’t post questions. Preventing questions really cuts down on our administration time because we are only a small Group with three Leaders. In the future we plan to have a Facebook group to allow for more discussion and dialogue, but not until we have enough Leaders to make this manageable. See Guidelines for Leaders on Facebook by Sara Dale-Bley (Leader Today, January 2015) and Face to Face or Facebook? by Emma Gardner (Leader Today, January 2015) for more reading about supporting mothers on social media.
Having a Group in a city means that there are plenty of community events to attend to promote LLL. We go to as many as we can to make sure we have a local presence and publicise LLL meetings. We usually have a table with leaflets and meeting information at these events; but for alternative promotional ideas, see LLL Hosts a Breastfeeding Tent at the Oklahoma Medieval Fair (Leader Today, June 2016). We have been encouraged by the growth of our Group and how the mothers use our Group as a base to meet up and support each other.
There is no charge to attend our Group; donations are welcome if a mother feels she can afford it. We are not in a wealthy area and have been very surprised and heartened by the number of mothers who have taken out memberships. This really speaks volumes to us about how valued LLL is in the hearts of these mothers.
As a Leader, it’s wonderful to be able to watch friendships blossom between our attendees. The support mothers give each other and the way they welcome newcomers with encouragement—this is so much of what LLL is to each and every one of us.
LLL Israel, Leader Today, April 2015
Polly Smith was accredited in September 2014 and began co-leading LLL Southampton meetings with her two co-Leaders. She is currently involved in running a pilot antenatal breastfeeding class and is actively involved in the local maternity hospital initiative (Breastfeeding Champions) to improve breastfeeding at the hospital. Polly home educates her six-year-old twins. Polly is also the contributing editor for Growing Your Group in Leader Today.