Breastfeeding mothers benefit greatly from mother-to-mother sharing that occurs at support group meetings. Breastfeeding Counselors can set the stage for an effective meeting by selecting meeting topics and using discussion starters that put the participants at ease and encourage informative and supportive conversation. All Community Chapter meetings must be facilitated by a Breastfeeding Counselor. Meetings and activities can be conducted in a variety of formats (including round-table discussions, breastfeeding classes, and drop-in social events) that are appropriate for the local community.
Breastfeeding Counselors should consider the meeting format and needs of their Community Chapter when deciding on meeting topics. More informal groups and meetings, including drop-in social events, may not require a specific meeting topic. Other Chapters may prefer to have detailed and creative topic titles announced in advance for support group meetings, since specific topics may engage attendees with a particular interest in that topic. Events that include fathers and other family members may require different topics to meet their needs.
Because meeting attendees tend to change over time, some Chapters may choose to have a rotating series of meeting topics that address the life cycle of nursing issues. Or, Breastfeeding Counselors may select topic titles that relate to the season or calendar events, making sure to consider religious or cultural sensitivities about holidays. Breastfeeding Counselors are encouraged to share meeting ideas on the BC Discussion list. BCs may search the archives of that forum to find new ideas for their Chapter meetings.
At support group discussions and educational events, a Breastfeeding Counselor can initiate the formal meeting with a brief welcome, introducing herself and any other Breastfeeding Counselors in attendance. During the welcome she can give an introduction to Breastfeeding USA, provide logistical information (refreshments, bathrooms, etc.), and introduce the meeting topic.
The meeting introduction can include the following elements:
- Welcome: Hello and welcome to ____________, a Chapter of Breastfeeding USA. My name is _______, and I am one of the Breastfeeding Counselors in this Chapter, [along with ______].
- History: In September 2008, a group of women [or mothers] came together to start working on a new, national, mother-to-mother support organization. Breastfeeding USA was founded in November of 2010, and the mission of Breastfeeding USA is to provide evidence-based breastfeeding information and support, and to promote breastfeeding as the biological and cultural norm.
- Meeting and Membership Information/Supporting the Chapter: Our meetings are free. If you would like to support the work we do, please consider becoming a member of Breastfeeding USA. Dues are $25 a year and are payable to the national organization. [See our flyer with the link, or talk to a Breastfeeding Counselor after the meeting and pay online.] Keeping our Chapter running and our Breastfeeding Counselors educated about breastfeeding is easier when you make a donation. There are various ways you can support our Chapter so that we can continue to offer all of our services. You can become a member of Breastfeeding USA at the national level, donate a book to our library, or sponsor a Breastfeeding Counselor to attend an upcoming continuing education event.
- Volunteering Information: We are actively seeking volunteers with a variety of talents to work both locally and at the national level. Please talk to a Breastfeeding Counselor if you are interested in learning about our Breastfeeding Counselor education program, or volunteering in some other way.
- Online and Print Resources: We have a [Facebook page, Facebook group, website, and Yahoo Group]. In our Facebook group, you can find discussions of breastfeeding-related topics. We use our Yahoo Group for meeting announcements, so please print your email address very clearly on the sign-in sheet so we can send you an invitation to our Yahoo Group. We also have a lending library of books about breastfeeding for you to check out after our meetings.
- Upcoming meetings/special events: We have some upcoming meetings--[Nursing Mother’s Socials, Topics in Breastfeeding Meetings, and our morning Chapter meetings].
- Facility: There are bathrooms near ______. Thank you for bringing snacks to share and quiet toys for your children.
- Meet your children’s needs: The most important thing any of us can do here today is to take care of our children's needs. Please feel free to nurse, change diapers, walk around–whatever works. We understand if the discussion gets interrupted!
- Side Conversations: We have a large group, so we ask that you keep side conversations to a minimum so that everyone can hear. There will be time after the meeting for socializing.
- Disclaimer: You will hear many different ideas and opinions here today. Consider the ones which might work for your family, and leave the rest. Please note that only Breastfeeding Counselors speak for Breastfeeding USA.
After the welcome, the Breastfeeding Counselor can have all the attendees introduce themselves and their children. Attendees can also be encouraged to share any questions or concerns that they brought with them to the meeting.
To get the meeting discussion started, Breastfeeding Counselors can also ask each participant to answer an ice-breaker question, perhaps one that relates somehow to the meeting topic. For example, for a meeting on the topic of starting solids, each mother could be asked to tell what is her favorite food.
Good ice-breaker questions include:
- What the attendees like about the current season (fall, winter, spring, summer)
- A fun vacation memory
- A special holiday memory
- Something attendees are proud of in their diets
- Favorite movie, TV show, book, recipe, city, country, etc.
- How the attendees chose their children’s names
- Ideas for low-cost family-friendly activities
In addition, many of the daily posts on the Breastfeeding USA Facebook page could be used as ice-breaker questions.