Strategies for Managing Breastfeeding Calls
Louisville, Colorado, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 33 No. 1, February-March 1997, p. 7
Helping mothers who call with breastfeeding questions can be one of a Leader's most rewarding and challenging responsibilities. It is gratifying to know that mothers seeking information and support can find it just a phone call away. But what if the number of calls gets too large? One of the first things a Leader can do is increase her efficiency and time management when answering helping calls. Learning to set healthy limits is one of the best defenses against Leader frustration and burnout.
The LEADER'S HANDBOOK lists several tactics for handling LLL phone calls. Unless the caller's situation is complicated, it suggests that a call should last "ten to fifteen minutes." It also recommends that a Leader spend the time discussing the caller's concern rather than her own children and experiences. Another idea for cutting phone time is to "mail information sheets to save time explaining a particular problem in-depth."
If a mother continually calls at inconvenient or inappropriate times, the Leader may have to set strict limits on the telephone time she spends with this mother. As with all LLL calls, avoid spending time discussing issues that are not related to breastfeeding and parenting. Implementing these suggestions and being prepared before the call arrives can put a Leader in good stead when the phone rings.
Be prepared by keeping materials ready near the phone: Leader's log, a pen, BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK, THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, LLL pamphlets and information sheets, meeting notices, envelopes. This practice eliminates spending time looking for resources or recording each call twice, once on scrap paper and once in your permanent log. Time is saved and accuracy increased when information is written down during the call.
Be prepared for children's needs as well with a box of special toys, modeling clay or coloring books. Any quiet activity that can be supervised while you talk helps you continue to meet your children's needs while you concentrate on the helping call.
While it is important to answer a caller's questions, it is equally important to avoid creating a situation where a mother becomes dependent on you. Suggest that a mother attend a Series Meeting for support and information or that she purchase a copy of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING which will answer many of her basic questions. In this way a Leader helps a mother learn to find answers for herself. Leaders encourage mothers to attend Group meetings not only because they can receive mother-to-mother support but because individual Leaders cannot meet all the needs of every mother. Group involvement benefits mothers and Leaders in several ways:
- mothers connect with others for support thereby calling Leaders less often,
- mothers often become Group members, Group workers, perhaps future Leaders.
In some places Leaders can take advantage of telephone technology. A cordless phone or long cord can help a Leader accomplish other tasks while talking to a mother. An answering machine or voice mail can be used to record incoming calls so they can be returned at a more convenient time.
Mention convenient times to receive calls on recorded messages. If you are going to be unavailable for a short time or if you need a break, ask another Leader in your Group or District if she would be willing to take calls for you. For women seeking only meeting information, ask the caller to leave her name and address so you can send her a meeting notice. Your outgoing message can say that if she needs immediate information you will call her back.
You have reached 000-0000. If you are calling for La Leche League meeting information, please leave your name and address so I can send you a meeting notice. If you need a breastfeeding question answered immediately, leave your name and number and I will get back to you as soon as possible. If this is an emergency, please call (list the first name and number of another Leader who has given you permission to do so).
There are times in our lives when receiving helping calls needs to be put on hold - the birth of a baby, a vacation or a family event that requires a lot of our time. During these times, you may need to ask other Leaders if they can take your calls. If you are scheduled to be on the phone help line in your area, let the coordinator know when you are going to need time off. She can reschedule you at a time that is more convenient. Communicating your needs to those responsible for phone-helping rotation will help everyone involved to work as a team.
If you need more ideas or help with managing phone time, your District Advisor can help you develop a strategy that works for you. Remember, be prepared, set limits and communicate with your support people about the joys and challenges of LLL phone calls. Leaders can work together to develop successful strategies for helping mothers and babies breastfeed and make the most of everyone's time spent on the phone.
Linda Ensley Claflin is a Regional Administrator (RA) for the US Western Division. She was prompted to write this article, which appeared in the Rocky Mountain Leader, Winter 1995, when LLL of Colorado/Wyoming experienced sudden population growth, resulting in a 25% increase in helping calls per Leader.