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Meet the Public: Tips for Giving LLL Interviews

from LEAVEN, July-August 1986, pp. 57-8

This article was prepared for the Eastern United States Division by Mary Hoskin, Regional Administrator, and Area Administrators from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey.

Remember that you should contact your Area Coordinator of Leaders prior to all media contacts other than regular Series Meeting announcements.

GETTING READY

1. Be clear about time, date, place, etc. Be on time, be prepared, and put your "best food forward."

2. Remember that only LLL Leaders speak for La Leche League. We suggest that only Leaders be present at interviews, although a nursing League Mother may wish to accompany you for photographs. Make it clear to the reporter in advance that League members do not always represent the policy or philosophy of LLLI.

3. Interviews should not take place in conjunction with LLL Series Meetings. We need to devote our full attention to the mothers at the meeting. A photographer might possibly be scheduled for a "photo opportunity" at the close of a meeting, but we suggest that only regularly attending League Mothers participate. Again, it should be made clear that only Leaders represent the views and opinions of La Leche League.

4. Tape record the interview if the Reporter does not object. (If he/she does object we would wonder why and consider cancelling the interview.) If you are misquoted you will be able to make valid corrections.

5. Ask if you may read the article before publication. It is likely that you will not be able to, but ask anyway. Better to correct an error before the entire city sees it in print.

6. When making arrangements for the interview ask the reporter if he/she will be pursuing any particular issue or "angle." How might you prepare: Statistics, book lists, information sheets....

7. Send the interviewer Breastfeeding: The Best Beginning, NEW BEGINNINGS, and an LLLI Catalogue. These will familiarize the reporter with LLL, and give him/her a better idea of our scope and resources. They'll ask more interesting questions if they know more about us.

8. Offer to send the interviewer a list of suggested questions so you'll feel better prepared. Some possibilities include:

Q: How does breastfeeding foster good mothering?
A: As you share your feelings about the ways that breastfeeding helps a mother meet the needs of her baby you can also acknowledge the fact that bottle feeding mothers are good mothers, too. You can positively discuss this special aspect of breastfeeding and still present an accepting attitude toward mothers who choose to bottle feed, dispelling the myth that we in LLL are "fanatics."

Q: Why are you involved in LLL?
A: This question gives you an opportunity to show your personality and individuality, and to emphasize the caring, volunteer aspects of LLL.

Q: Why is breast milk the superior infant food?
A: You will establish your credibility when you answer this question: Resist the temptation to go on forever, but do share some facts about the immunologic properties of breast milk, the nutritional benefits, etc.

Q: What are some of the more challenging breastfeeding situations?
A: By sharing information about nursing handicapped babies, premature babies, relactation, or other special situations you will not only help mothers who might be facing such challenges, but you also gain respect for LLL and our expertise.

Q: Why do some women choose not to breastfeed?
A: This gives you an opportunity to once again exhibit LLL's accepting attitude (by explaining that breastfeeding is a personal choice) and also allows you to discuss our viewpoint of being "tied to" one's baby as opposed to being "tied down."

YOU'RE ON!

1. BE POSITIVE. Talk about the joys of breastfeeding, not the evils of formula.

2. Avoid absolutes. Phrases like "breastfed babies are more secure than bottle fed babies" or "breastfeeding is the only way to meet baby's emotional needs" only serve to antagonize. Remember that we believe in good mothering through breastfeeding, not that breastfeeding is the only way to mother a baby well.

3. Answer touchy questions honestly but tactfully. Sometimes you can gain some time to collect your thoughts by starting out with something like, "Well, there are two schools of thought on most everything. It's difficult to absolutely prove many things with research, but....": Or you can label a question as controversial or loaded: "I think that's kind of a loaded question and I'm hesitant to answer for fear that I might be misunderstood."

Here are some samples:

Q: Breast milk certainly seems to be good for babies. Do you think that all mothers should nurse their babies?
A: I think that any mother who wants to nurse her baby should be given the information and support she needs.

Q: How long do LLL mothers usually breastfeed?
A: Don't say, "Oh, some mothers nurse until their children are five or six." Reply, "Well, we in LLL believe in baby-led weaning. Nursing is more than just a means of feeding the baby, it is part of a highly individualized emotional relationship between mother and child. As a baby becomes more independent he gradually outgrows the intense need to nurse. And just as babies walk and talk at different ages, so they wean at different ages."

Q: Well, what's an average age? How long do most LLL babies nurse?
A: With a smile.... "I don't know that anyone has ever statistically figured that out. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that breast milk is the superior infant food for the first year of baby's life, and most mothers are interested in providing superior nutrition for their babies. As I said, it's a highly individualized relationship. Some mothers nurse for less than a year, others for more."

You may be pressed for a specific answer, or asked directly if it's true that some people nurse six-year-olds. You can reply honestly that in our culture you would expect a nursing six-year-old to be relatively uncommon but that in other cultures it is not that unusual.

In the unlikely event that an interviewer gets "hung up" on this question or others which deal with potentially touchy areas you might be able to tactfully move on by suggesting that "While I do receive some questions about this I find that most new mothers are more interested in learning about nursing their new baby. Your readers/listeners might be interested to know that breastfeeding isn't an instinctive behavior, it is a learned behavior. La Leche League is here to help new mothers learn how to nurse...."

4. Don't bring up touchy subjects unless you are asked. Maybe the reporter never heard that "it feels good" to nurse. Maybe no one ever told him/her that many League families sleep with their babies. Perhaps it never occurred to him/her that a two-year-old would want to nurse.

5. Use your best helping skills, even if the reporter asks a really dumb question: "Isn't formula cleaner since you have to heat it?" Reply with a straight face and understanding tones.

6. If telephone numbers are to be given in the article it is suggested that the numbers not be linked with the names. The article will probably quote or list the Leaders' names, but phone numbers can be presented "For more information about La Leche League or help with breastfeeding call 123-4567 or 987-6543." Be sure that only Leaders' numbers are used, not those of the series hostess or another League Mother.

7. Have a friend at home tape record your radio interview, for fun, for future reference, and to help other Leaders.

Have we alarmed you by sharing some of the "touchy" situations or potential problems? We hope not. Many Leaders have "horror stories" to tell, but the few pitfalls are far outnumbered by the many successful interviews that LLL Leaders have given.

Approach the interview positively, knowing that you have an important message to share. Be flexible and be yourself. Your sincerity and your belief in our goal of good mothering through breastfeeding are tools that will help you communicate with ease, clarity, and acceptance.

AFTER THE INTERVIEW

Congratulations! You survived your first interview. It wasn't so bad, was it? There are two more things you need to do:

1. Send your District Advisor a report. Your area may have speaking report forms, or you can just write a letter. Share your impressions of the interview, the high and low points, what went well, what you would change for the next time.

2. Send your ACL a copy of the published article for the Area files. She may be able to use it to help other Leaders.

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