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Where Do You Go When You Need to Know More?

Sue Ann Kendall, LLLI Web Site Manager
LaJuana Oswalt, LLLI Online Coordinator
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 34 No. 6, December 1998 - January 1999, pp. 119-20

You are so excited! You've just signed up to answer Help Forms, those breastfeeding questions mothers pose via email from the LLLI Web Site, and your first question has arrived. You eagerly read it over... but you haven't a clue as to how to help this mother in her particular situation. What to do?

You're right there at your computer so it's quite tempting to just fire off a question to one of the breastfeeding email lists you belong to. They're full of people who know a lot about breastfeeding. And you'll get answers so quickly that way.

Consider the Source

Yes, some of those email lists do have many lactation professionals on them, but is the information they provide what you should be giving mothers in your role as an LLL Leader? When a Leader provides breastfeeding information to a mother, whether in person, by telephone or via email, she is strongly encouraged to use La Leche League sources. This is the information that is credible, reliable and consistent with LLLI.

And there's so much to choose from! Within its pages, THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING has almost everything a mother needs to know about the normal course of breastfeeding, plus wonderful words of wisdom on mothering. Another invaluable LLLI resource, the BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK, covers the entire range of breastfeeding experiences and suggests ways of presenting information to mothers that will help them decide for themselves what is best for their situation.

Still stumped? Your treasured back issues of LEAVEN may yield exactly what you are looking for as well as provide journal citations. If you are a relatively new Leader whose LEAVEN collection does not go back very far, you can consult the large compilation of articles on the LLLI Web Site, conveniently arranged by topic at http://www.lalecheleague.org/llleaderweb/LV/ .

All of these resources not only contain current breastfeeding information but also offer options and present choices to a mother, rather than give advice. Other hints for using the LLLI Web site when helping mothers can be found in LEAVEN, Aug/Sept 1997, pages 81-85.

You might also have access to additional references from the LLLI Bibliography (No. 460) or Affiliate book list. Whenever you provide breastfeeding information, remember to cite the source for the mother.

Now What?

At this point, if you still need additional input into a mother's situation, you may want to contact another Leader to see if she's had experience with a similar situation. Often two heads are better than one and it really helps to bounce ideas off another Leader.

Your next step should always be to contact your Professional Liaison Program representative. In many Areas/Affiliates, this is the Assistant Area Professional Liaison (AAPL) or the Area Professional Liaison (APL). These Leaders have the most up- to-date breastfeeding information available from LLLI. They are updated regularly by the Center for Breastfeeding Information (CBI) and they often have information of a more technical nature at their fingertips, such as the LLLI Lactation Consultant Series and lactation textbooks. Your PL Leader will be happy to speak to you by telephone if the need is urgent and there is always a backup if she is unavailable. Many PL Leaders have email as well and are happy to be contacted in this way.

Leaders with email sometimes also choose to network with fellow Leaders on unofficial email lists for Leaders. Most Leaders who seek additional LLL input in this way let list members know that they have already contacted their PL representative and are looking for the experiences of other Leaders to corroborate what they found out within their Area Affiliate. List administrators and members frequently remind participants to use their local support mechanisms for mother-to-mother helping situations.

Online Help When You Need It

All of these resources are available to Leaders and it's a rare question that can't be handled by going through the steps outlined above. Leaders who answer Help Forms have a few other options, too. The LLLeaderWeb section of the LLLI Web Site features a collection of frequently asked Help Form questions (FAQs) at http://www.lalecheleague.org/leaderpages/HFfaq.html. Leaders are free to use and modify these for the particular circumstances of mothers they are helping. FAQs have been reviewed by an Online Professional Liaison Leader. To use the collection, a password is needed. Contact the LLLI Website Team to obtain the password.

The new LLLI Online Council provides Online Professional Liaison Leaders (OPLs) to help Leaders in the US and International Divisions. The OPLs are available to assist Help Form Leaders, Leaders who lead meetings online and Leaders whose Area PL representatives do not have email access or are temporarily unavailable. Note that some Areas/Affiliates prefer that Leaders use LLLI personnel for assistance with their Help Form or LLL chat work. Contact LaJuana Oswalt, LLLI Online Coordinator, at oswalt@ix.netcom.com for the name and email address of your OPL.

If You Decide to Look Outside LLL

There will be occasions when you need additional information to add to what your LLL resources provided. Just as we learn to read books and journals on breastfeeding with a critical eye (see the LEADER'S HANDBOOK (1998 edition), page 212, and the BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK (1997 edition), pages 506-8), we need to read and evaluate information from Web sites and email lists carefully. Who is the author? What are his or her credentials? Who sponsors the Web site? Is the information backed up by properly cited research? In an article about using online resources in the LLL Canada publication Canadian Collage, Catherine Mallon, LLLC Professional Liaison Administrator, pointed out, "While referenced information is available from some online sources, there is a considerable amount of unsubstantiated speculation, personal opinion and advertising puffery."

An example of an online resource many Leaders consider turning to is the Lactnet email list for lactation professionals and others who work in the field of lactation management. As Kate Pennington, Area Coordinator of Leaders for Maine/New Hampshire, points out, this is "a resource that should be used very carefully." Leaders who participate in LactNet, or any other non-LLL affiliated breastfeeding forum, need to bear in mind that everything they post reflects on the image of LLL. Leaders who post questions that are covered in their LLL materials convey the impression LLL does not provide its volunteers with adequate information to work with mothers. Or they can imply that Leaders have not been adequately trained to check their personal resources before turning to a busy collection of professionals for help.

Before posting about an unusual situation, the Lactnet archives can be searched. They contain many years' worth of posts on many different types of issues and you do not need to subscribe to the list to get this information.

Breastfeeding newsgroups are also available on the Internet. Some Leaders enjoy participating in these as mothers. Participating as a Leader, though, requires care. Mallon cautions, "Most newsgroups are available to a wide audience and easily printed out. Please don't list your Leader credential when you enter into a discussion in such a newsgroup. This ensures that you are seen to speak only for yourself and your comments will reflect on you alone."

In fact, your Area, Division or Affiliate may require PL consultation before posting as a Leader to such a wide audience, just as it does for any communication to a large audience outside of LLL.

It helps to confer with a PL representative and share what you find out when you do come up with information from Lactnet or another online source. Laure Marchand Lucas, International Division Administrator of Professional Liaison Resources, points out, "If the PL network is kept current of responses, all, including Leaders who do not have access to email, will ultimately benefit."

The Power of LLL

La Leche League is the world's foremost authority on breastfeeding. Our resources are numerous and of high quality. The vast majority of situations we encounter when working with mothers and babies can be handled via the tools LLL provides its Leaders. Now that so many Leaders around the world have access to the Internet, questions can be answered even more quickly while remaining within the recommended channels of Leader support. The rare instance when outside online resources need to be accessed requires careful thought, so that LLL Leaders maintain the image of competent, knowledgeable volunteers whose expertise has been recognized for 42 years.

Help Form Leaders have a week to answer the questions mothers send to them. That is more than enough time to make use of LLL resources, both published materials and Professional Liaison Leaders. Kate Pennington reminds us, "A Leader can always reply to a mother quickly, saying she is looking for more information, the same way we sometimes defer a complicated phone call for a time when we have had a chance to do our research."

The LLLI Online Council is just getting off the ground. Our goal is to assist LLL Leaders in their online LLL work and coordinate that help with the established LLL support system. We welcome your ideas and suggestions for changes and improvements.

References

Kendall, SA. The LLLI web site; a new tool for helping mothers and managing your group. Leaven Aug/Sept 1997; 81-85.

Mallon, C. Communication, computers and the PLD. Canadian Collage Feb 1998; 6-7 .

Mohrbacher. N., Stock. I. BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK. Schaumburg, Illinois: LLLI. 1997; 506-8.

Sachetti, D. LEADER'S HANDBOOK. Schaumburg, LLLI, 1998; 212.

Snyder. J. Knowing your resources: how to use non-LLL resources. Cornsilk Sentiments Spring 1998; 6.

[Email and web addresses updated for the new website October 2006]

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