A good location can set the stage for effective meetings with higher attendance and better mother-to-mother support. Breastfeeding Counselors may choose a location that works well for their attendees and the type of meeting.
Private vs. Public Locations
Holding meetings in a private home can make for a warm, welcoming environment for mothers. Breastfeeding Counselors may choose to host meetings in their own homes, or at the home of a regular Chapter meeting attendee. Or the Chapter may decide to rotate the meeting each month among many attendees. In all cases, holding meetings in a private location may require flexibility if the host has a family emergency or illness. Breastfeeding Counselors should also be careful about publicizing private home meeting locations to protect the privacy of the host and the safety of attendees.
Public places are typically more reliable, do not involve inconvenience to a host, and can be widely publicized. Parking may be more convenient than at a private home, although locations with high parking costs may discourage some mothers from attending. In most cases, a public location presents a more “professional” environment, as opposed to the more intimate environment of a private home. Public places may be able to handle larger groups, and are particularly well-suited to drop-in type meetings. It can take some work to secure a public meeting space, but once found, the Breastfeeding Counselor typically doesn’t have to deal with ongoing efforts to share information about private locations or handle last-minute changes when a private home host must cancel.
Public Location Options
Breastfeeding Counselors can consider a variety of public meeting locations as Chapter meeting places, including governmental, commercial, and nonprofit sites. Local government buildings are often free to residents (although some communities are starting to charge fees or may have complicated sign-up procedures), and are typically well-known and easily accessible. Governmental sites to consider for meeting locations include:
- Local community centers
- Public parks and recreation centers
- Public library meeting rooms
- Public school, community college, or university meeting rooms, recreational facilities, or lounges
Commercial locations can vary a great deal as meeting spaces. While some grocery stores and other businesses have community rooms that can be used at no cost by nonprofits, other businesses may offer space only in exchange for advertising or acknowledgement (for example, in a Chapter newsletter or on its Facebook page). Some businesses may offer space in expectation of getting sales (for example, a coffee shop that permits a Community Chapter drop-in meeting at their location). The business may also publicize your meeting in different ways. Possible commercial meeting places to consider include:
- Local businesses offering maternity/nursing products
- Women's health care offices
- Grocery store or supermarket community rooms
- Open spaces in shopping malls
- Indoor play spaces
- Family-friendly restaurants
- Coffee shops
Nonprofit organizations are often eager to help other nonprofits by providing free meeting space. This is particularly true of other organizations with a similar mission. But in some cases, an organization may desire a donation of time or services in exchange for meeting space. Nonprofits might publicize your meeting in their publications, helping you reach more mothers. When considering space from religious or cause-related organizations, Breastfeeding Counselors should recognize that people of other faiths or with opposing views of the cause may be reluctant to attend meetings, even with a disclaimer that Breastfeeding USA is non-sectarian and does not support the cause. Unfortunately, in smaller communities these may be the only options for public meeting space. Nonprofit organization meeting location options include:
- Hospitals and nonprofit health care providers
- Private school and university classrooms, recreational facilities, or lounges
- Meeting rooms at churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious facilities
- YMCA, Scouts, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, and other youth recreational organization meeting spaces
- Retirement or nursing home community rooms
- Classrooms or community centers in children's museums, other museums, and zoos
Comfort and Safety Considerations
When evaluating a potential meeting space, Breastfeeding Counselors should assess how safe it would be for the Chapter attendees. Is the space adequate for the number of expected attendees? Is it adequately child-proofed for the ages of children attending, or can adjustments be made to accommodate children safely? Breastfeeding USA has secured general liability insurance coverage for its Community Chapters. Breastfeeding Counselors can contact the Finance Committee if a location requests proof of insurance to use its meeting space.
The safety of the neighborhood and parking spaces should be considered, especially if the Community Chapter will offer evening events. Accessibility is also important, and the location should have adequate space to accommodate strollers. In terms of comfort, consider the seating available and how it will work for the group. Carpeting rather than wood or tiled flooring may be more preferable for crawling babies and participants who may choose to sit on the floor. Having clean, accessible bathrooms is important. Access to a kitchen space or sink may be desirable if your Community Chapter chooses to serve food or drinks at meetings. Large rooms that don’t muffle noise well may make it difficult for participants to hear the primary conversation, especially if there are many babies and children at the meeting. Because the comfort and safety of participants is so important in creating a welcoming atmosphere that encourages mother-to-mother support, Breastfeeding Counselors should periodically ask meeting attendees if the selected space meets the needs of the participants, and if not, request suggestions for alternate locations.