Virtual Support: Attending Online La Leche League Meetings
For nearly a year, La Leche League meetings have been offered exclusively online. La Leche League Leaders have shifted the welcoming and informative atmosphere of in-person meetings to a virtual format, striving to meet the needs of parents while also following safety recommendations.
Have you attended Group meetings online? Or are you unsure if it’s worthwhile? We asked Leaders to share how their virtual meetings are set up and how they continue to offer support and information. We also asked parents to share their experiences attending these virtual meetings. You can find resources for connecting with an online meeting at the end of this post.
Larissa attends virtual meetings hosted by the La Leche League of Lawrenceville (New Jersey) Group.
“In addition to the virtual meetings that I go to now during the pandemic, I attended an out-of-state group online a few times when my baby was a newborn. I think online meetings have lots of pros. They’re flexible time blocks — you can put in as much time you want to when you’re available. Also, the information we discuss is very accessible, in case you need to refer back to something or are running late. With my kids being two and four now and being at home with them all day, things always pop up. I like the memes the Leader posts. They hit home more online than they would in person, I think. I miss our in-person meetings, though, and being supported by our Leaders and sitting in the circle with other parents.”
Dana, a Leader with La Leche League of Hillsborough/Bridgewater (New Jersey), writes:
“During this pandemic, our Group is fortunate to be able to meet virtually to continue to meet the needs of new families.
“Prior to the start of the pandemic, we already had a private Facebook group established where new parents could stop by any time to get support and ask questions from the community. In addition to the daily conversations always taking place, we hold a Facebook chat meeting once a month. It’s essentially just a larger focused Facebook chat with lots of our members all on at once. All the conversation takes place within a Facebook event itself. One of the Leaders structures things into a thread for introductions and a separate thread for each parent who has a question, just to keep things organized and keep the questions from running into one another and being hard to follow. Some threads are focused on families’ specific breastfeeding questions, whereas other threads are more conversational and funny and share thoughts about daily life with babies and small children.
“After the pandemic began and we were no longer able to enjoy our in-person gatherings, we also initiated a Zoom meeting each month. We find that the Facebook chat meetings and the Zoom meetings appeal to different audiences and we have a group of regulars who attend one or the other. The Facebook regulars like not worrying about their child being noisy and being able to jump on and off without feeling rude. The Zoom regulars typically either aren’t active Facebook users or feel like they feel more connected with others by verbal conversations rather than just typing into an online group. While we miss our in-person meetings very much, we feel as though offering a few different varieties of virtual meetings still provides the support and camaraderie so needed in our community and keeps our group of parents connected.”
Sarah, who leads the West Hollywood (California) Group, adds:
“At our (meetings), we check in with each person and introduce ourselves and our babies, then we share what breastfeeding issues have come up for us in order of youngest baby to oldest, with any pressing questions put into the comments so the Leader can bring them into the discussion. Hopefully everyone can share their experiences to support each other.”
While many parents miss in-person interactions, they have also expressed appreciation for the flexibility that comes with having a variety of online meeting choices to fit their schedules, choosing a meeting based on the day and time rather than the location. Several Leaders also noted the bonus of connecting with parents from all over the world, rather than just those who are within driving distance of a physical location.
Erin, who lives in Pennsylvania, expressed her appreciation for being able to connect with other parents during the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has taken so much from my first year of motherhood, but being able to connect with other local parents and get support from a Leader has been invaluable, especially when navigating those first few weeks at home with a preemie. Chatting from the comfort of home and the flexibility of the group setup allows me to participate and keep doing things that (are part of) motherhood.”
The ability to connect with other parents online is an option that some parents, including Cailin who is currently living in Sweden, hope will continue after in-person meetings resume.
“One positive for me that came from the pandemic is the accessibility of online meetings. I grew up in an LLL home; both my mom and sister-in-law are Leaders. I always appreciated the community aspects of the meetings and looked forward to going when I had kids of my own.
“However, as an expat currently living in Sweden, when I had my daughter I was saddened that there were no local groups here for me to attend. I was having a hard time finding ‘mom friends’ in general, and was feeling a little isolated so far from home.
“When the pandemic led to lockdowns, and everything was uncertain and a little frightening, my mom and sister-in-law invited me to an online meeting, and I was hooked! Here were ‘my people,’ and here was that sense of community I longed for. Now, nearly a year in, I hope LLL continues the online meetings even after they are approved to meet in person.”
A current listing of online meetings is available at www.facebook.com/LaLecheLeagueUSA/events/. You can find a larger listing of La Leche League Groups and Leader contact information for phone or email help at lllusa.org/locator/.
Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].
Supporting Breastfeeding Families–Today, Tomorrow, Always
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