Kathy Grossman, Moab, Utah, USA
Adapted from eConnect, LLL of US West Area Network’s electronic newsletter for Leaders, Issue 27, April/May/June 2013
A good time for participants to introduce themselves can be right before the discussion. Not only does this give them the opportunity to get to know a little about each other, it also helps them warm up to participating in the discussion. —LLLI Leader’s Handbook, Fourth Edition, 2003, page 37
Mothers’ personal introductions are a typical feature of many La Leche League Series Meetings. Sometimes a Leader may want to get through those introductions quickly, so that she can move on to the discussion, perceived as the “real” meeting. But there are many advantages to letting round-robin introductions be the meeting. From setting the meeting tone, to identifying and answering hot topics and burning questions, to tailoring the discussion to the mothers who attend, introductions can put La Leche League mother-to-mother support on warm and empathetic display.
The tone of introductions can set the tone of the meeting. The Leader’s Handbook suggests a Leader model mothers’ introductions with a verbal example and template:
Set the tone by starting the introductions, giving your name, your children’s names and ages, and/or your due date, if relevant. Then each participant in turn can introduce herself. —LLLI Leader’s Handbook, 2003, page 37
Mothers will realize that we avoid an atmosphere of competition (baby’s weight and health, birth experience, who nursed the longest, etc.) and that we affirm each breastfeeding experience as unique and successful in its own way. Mothers often learn from guiding and doing the talking themselves, expressing fears, and articulating concerns. A Leader can express LLL philosophy and perspective (and the occasional disclaimer), but for many mothers, this meeting may be their first opportunity to talk about their mothering journey with someone other than their partner, doctor, or family members. Mothers’ responses to other mothers’ comments during introductions may also give them a chance to demonstrate their own confidence and experience.
Answering questions and asking follow-up questions during introductions can calm and reassure a mother immediately.
Hot topics can be identified and burning questions addressed. Leaders may write down issues and concerns as mothers introduce themselves, and plan to address questions later. However, sometimes discussions of other concerns and issues at a meeting can push those noted questions into the background. Answering questions and asking follow-up questions during introductions can calm and reassure a mother immediately.
The discussion is tailored to attendees, not to the mothers you thought might come when you were preparing your notes the night before. When I’ve come early to set up for meetings, I have often heard arriving mothers describe the hard night they had, how they almost didn’t come to the meeting, or how much the baby cried in the car on the drive over. You don’t have to make those mothers wait! You can address their concerns during introductions. A mother will feel the warm, attentive spotlight on her, and a Leader can feel reassured that she is providing exactly the information the mother wants.
Milestones can be noted and celebrated. During introductions, Leaders can honor every mother’s stage in mothering, from pregnancy to newborn to preschooler to teenager. Other mothers can join in the praise and acknowledgement when a mother mentions her baby was finally able to latch on, or that she finally had a successful solo trip to the grocery store with her baby, or that a mother-in-law finally understood the benefits of nursing beyond six months.
You may not want to do extended introductions at every meeting, and not all rounds of introductions will have the staying power to sustain a full meeting. Timid and overwhelmed mothers, especially if they are new to La Leche League, may need extra time and empathetic understanding—and perhaps a more structured format—to feel comfortable bringing out deeper concerns. Some mothers may only want to give their own and their baby’s names. However, there is no single way to facilitate La Leche League meetings. Introductions can provide a natural platform for breastfeeding information and support.
Kathy Grossman first introduced herself at a La Leche League meeting in 1982 in Carlsbad, New Mexico, USA, when she was pregnant with her first child. Several years later, when the Leader of that meeting had moved away, Kathy became accredited by mail. Her far-flung sons, Sam, Ed, and Monty, enjoy visiting her high-desert home in Moab, Utah, USA.