A Breastfeeding Counselor working alone in a Community Chapter is responsible for all the decisions and operations of that Chapter. Working with other Breastfeeding Counselors to co-manage a Chapter can help ease the workload, but also presents some coordination challenges. Breastfeeding Counselors who work together effectively to manage a Community Chapter often find that their Chapter is able to reach more breastfeeding mothers and babies and provide more services than they may have been able to provide individually.
Just as every Community Chapter can decide what programs and services to provide, Breastfeeding Counselors co-managing the Chapter can decide what responsibilities to assume and which services to provide. In meeting to determine responsibilities, co-BCs may want to consider their individual skills and interests, as well as the time they have available to volunteer and their schedules. Many Breastfeeding Counselors enjoy leading support group meetings or breastfeeding classes, but some may prefer only doing phone or email helping. Some are adept at coordinating events and handling finances, others may want to focus exclusively on helping mothers and babies. Whatever the co-BCs decide, they should confirm that they all understand the responsibilities and expectations. Frank discussion is important to avoid misunderstandings.
There are a variety of ways that co-BCs may work together to facilitate meetings. For example, one of the Chapter Breastfeeding Counselors may be the primary planner for a meeting: preparing the topic; introducing the meeting; coming up with an ice-breaker; and being the main facilitator for the discussion. The other BCs can give suggestions like the other mothers in the Chapter, however, the co-BCs should be introduced as Breastfeeding Counselors so the other attendees recognize that they too can provide evidence-based information from Breastfeeding USA resources. Breastfeeding Counselors who aren’t the primary facilitators can also take responsibility for a logistical aspect of the meeting. For example, they may welcome participants at the registration table, serve refreshments, or help to supervise older children (perhaps to help with the children of the Breastfeeding Counselor facilitating the meeting).
Co-BCs can also consider co-leading a meeting, with each focusing on a different aspect of the topic. Co-leading can work very well in small meetings, where using a round-robin discussion format encourages each participant to contribute frequently. Co-leading may also make sense if the Breastfeeding Counselors have children who are likely to need their attention during meetings. One BC can step away to meet her children’s needs while the other continues facilitating the discussion. For larger Community Chapters, co-BCs can decide to split a meeting and each facilitate a discussion with half the participants. This approach can provide a more intimate and supportive environment allowing more focus on each of the attendee's particular concerns. If the meetings become consistently large, the Breastfeeding Counselors may decide to hold separate meetings or spin off a new Community Chapter to meet the needs of local mothers.
Dealing with Conflicts
Most conflicts among Breastfeeding Counselors can be avoided through good communication. Sometimes, however, co-BCs may have difficulty making decisions about the Community Chapter, or BCs may feel resentful about how responsibilities are shared, and may have trouble communicating these feelings. Breastfeeding Counselors may contact their Regional BC Support Team Representative to discuss any concerns about their Community Chapter, including issues dealing with co-BCs. Hopefully, with this support, Breastfeeding Counselors can find ways to communicate effectively and resolve their conflicts, allowing them to focus on serving their local communities.