Annette Green, Modi’in, Israel
In 1956, the seven Founders of La Leche League began helping mothers through monthly meetings. La Leche League and Series Meetings were born. When I became a Leader in Israel in 2003, monthly Group meetings were still going strong and attendance was good. However, several years ago, participation rates for monthly meetings feel and a local Leader decided to offer an additional meeting each month. Her rationale was simple: we can meet mothers more often. Paid maternity leave in Israel was only 12 weeks at the time (it has since been increased to 14 weeks) so the opportunities for mothers to attend meetings before returning to work were limited. Immediately after birth many women weren’t up to attending a meeting until their baby was several weeks old, and in their last month before returning to work they were already preparing mentally and physically for their return to the workforce. That left a very short span of time when mothers could potentially attend LLL meetings.
If a mother was seeking support for an acute breastfeeding issue, waiting three weeks or more because she had just missed the monthly meeting was also a challenge and a missed opportunity for us to provide the mother-to-mother support for which we are well known.
Benefits of meetings twice a month
- Follow-up with mothers became easier when meetings were offered more often. When a mother was struggling with a particularly challenging issue, she was able to return after two weeks to get further support and encouragement.
- When mothers met more frequently at meetings they had more opportunity to create social and support networks that extended above and beyond the Group. Even those mothers who didn’t connect outside of the Group recognised each other when they returned which led to better Group cohesiveness and interaction.
- As Leaders, more frequent meetings led to increased confidence in skills to plan and run Group meetings successfully and to deal with tricky situations. Newer Leaders were able to practice their communication skills and share breastfeeding information often and gained confidence quickly.
Increase in attendees
Following the benefits of meeting twice a month, many other Groups in Israel followed suit and began to offer the same. Almost every Group had an increase in attendees. Frequency of meeting is not the only factor that helped increase membership. Ironically, a very active Facebook group run by Israeli LLL Leaders improved our reach and encouraged mothers to close down their computers and ignore their cellphones (mobile phones) for two hours and attend real face-to-face La Leche League meetings. But there is no doubt that meeting twice a month has had a significant impact.
Morning or afternoon?
I experimented this year with offering one morning and one afternoon meeting per month (instead of my previous two morning meetings per month). I wanted to have a meeting that was at a suitable time of day for working mothers. Looking back over the past year, I feel the Group was not as socially cohesive as the previous year when there was a large core of regular mothers who would continue the meeting at the local coffee shop once I had officially closed the meeting.
Sharing the work
If you are thinking of offering meetings more frequently, you will want to consider whether you have the resources to hold meetings twice per month. In addition to the actual meeting time, Group meetings require advertising, preparation and follow-up dealing with donations, memberships and new attendees’ contact details. When you offer meetings twice a month, you will need to do all of these more often.
If several Leaders are sharing Group responsibilities, this may not be a big factor. Finding a regular Group attendee or Leader Applicant who can help with advertising your Group can also relieve the pressure. Setting up posters that can be reused before each meeting (with new dates!) and keeping lists and links of where to post on social media saves time. Every time I send a reminder to my past attendees, I ask them to feel free to share meeting details with friends, family and of course, on social media.
In a Group with more than one Leader, adopting a twice a month meeting schedule can feel less intense because you can choose to alternate attending and/or leading meetings between Leaders. While this approach works for some, bear in mind there is less continuity for Leaders and mothers when the same Leaders do not attend every meeting. However, it is a good way to offer more frequent meetings and can prevent Leader burnout. Good communication between co-Leaders is essential if you take turns attending and leading meetings.
The change to meeting twice a month gave our Group a feeling of continuity. Mothers returned after two weeks and we could follow up with them on their individual breastfeeding experiences. The number of returning mothers increased drastically. Our Group tripled in size and easily half of the mothers currently attending the Group are regular attendees.
The mothers also felt a difference. Prior to the change the meetings felt like a group of women who weren’t connected to each other but afterwards the mothers were part of an active group process. We could see the babies growing from meeting to meeting and hear and see the mother’s increased confidence from their experience with breastfeeding and parenthood.
Sivan Ben-Orr, Or Yeduda, Israel
Having meetings every two weeks really helped create a strong Group. Before that, the Group was very small and inconsistent. I liked the fact that I could get to know the mothers better. Some women go back to work after three months. So if she comes to every meeting I get to see her six times instead of three!
The frequency of Group meetings also helped me as a Leader. I feel more connected to the Group and feel that it improves my leadership skills.
Melissa Bar Ilan, Tel Aviv, Israel
Our monthly Group had dwindled to one or two mothers, with too many meetings where no mothers came at all. When we changed to two meetings a month, we started getting three to six mothers at a meeting. Most are not repeat attendees, although a few are.
I think the biggest difference has been that it prompts us to keep on top of publicizing the meetings. When it was once a month it was easy to forget about the meeting until it was on top of us. Now, in any given week, we’re generally either dealing with this week’s meeting or planning next week’s meeting (who leads, publicity, etc.). The other advantage of more frequent meetings is that it involved a Leader who hadn’t led meetings in a long time, because we really needed her!
Ilana Sobel, Jerusalem, Israel