Creating Fun Toddler Meetings
Pleasant Hill CA USA
From LEAVEN, Vol 43 No. 4, October-November-December 2007, pp. 88-89
I started attending La Leche League Series Meetings about three years ago when my daughter was 18 months old and I was pregnant with my son. Although the Series Meetings were wonderful, they were not meeting my needs as a pregnant mother with a toddler in tow. I joined a playgroup of LLL members who were all breastfeeding toddlers, which turned into a formal Toddler Meeting. A year ago, when I became a Leader, I started facilitating those Toddler Meetings! Although I still consider myself to be a novice Leader, I love hosting and facilitating our Toddler Meetings. This article contains some information that you may find helpful in starting your own Toddler Meetings.
The Need for Toddler Meetings
Mothers with toddlers have different needs and issues than mothers with newborns or infants. Breastfeeding is already well established, so they rarely need technical information (e.g., positioning, latch, establishing supply), but they do have their own issues (e.g., night weaning, pressure to wean, tantrums) and need a lot of support to continue breastfeeding a toddler in a culture that is not accustomed to this practice.
Mothers with toddlers can build a community with other breastfeeding mothers. The mothers at Toddler Meetings will often become friends and may do activities together with their children. Breastfeeding toddlers in numbers is sometimes easier! Toddlers are sometimes viewed as too noisy, but not at Toddler Meetings!
Mothers who find support to nurse their toddlers help build a culture of long-term breastfeeding. Women who nurse toddlers stay active in, and support the work of La Leche League. The more nursing toddlers people see, the more normal it will hopefully become!
Toddler Meeting Topics
The bulk of a Toddler Meeting is usually an informal discussion based on the needs and interests of the mothers. Most of the topics are generated naturally as mothers often come with questions or concerns. In addition, I also place a sheet of paper next to the sign-in sheet to solicit topics. This way, if a mother does not want to speak in front of the Group, she can listen to the other mothers discuss her question and still get support.
Toddler Meetings tend to run themselves as mothers talk about their issues and others respond with helpful information about their own experiences. I simply guide the discussion and offer information, encouragement, and support. Sometimes I do need to get the discussion back on topic or make sure that everyone has a chance to talk (the same as in a Series Meeting). Sometimes a topic will come up that is not within the scope of LLL. At these times, I give a disclaimer such as, "LLL is an organization that helps mothers breastfeed their children, and we do not have a position on this topic."
Sometimes there is a real need for discussion so I'll ask other mothers to share their stories and experiences. Other times, I simply refer mothers to books in the Group Library or other organizations such as our local attachment parenting group.
Logistics of Toddler Meetings
Our Group usually meets once a month. There are usually six to eight mothers in attendance, but sometimes we've had as many as 15. Smaller groups tend to be easier to manage.
The attendees really seem to enjoy the informal setting of a home. The children are free to play with toys while the mothers talk. I like it because I don't have to transport a lot of items to a meeting location. My children (ages three and five) seem to appreciate being at home during these meetings because they are comfortable, and can even attend in their pajamas!
The Group meets for an hour followed by a second hour of playtime and informal discussion. This gives moms the opportunity to receive information while making new friends.
To promote the meetings, I email announcements to those who have attended before, and I pass out flyers at regular Series Meetings. Most often, it is word of mouth that brings mothers. A mother who attends a Toddler Meeting may invite other nursing mothers from a playgroup. This mom may not have found La Leche League otherwise.
One of the wonderful things about Toddler Meetings is that many of the mothers simply want to know that they are not alone. Mothers new to the meeting often express how nice it is to see other mothers nursing toddlers. They feel supported and have a comfortable place to nurse and ask questions.
Toddler Meeting Topics
Below are some of the topics we've discussed in the past year. The topics with an asterisk next to them come up frequently and are often revisited meeting after meeting, but mothers rarely seem to tire of talking about these subjects.
- Breastfeeding in public *
- Coping with family/societal pressure to wean *
- Dental concerns (including dental caries and dentists who are not supportive of breastfeeding)
- Sleep and breastfeeding (especially lack of sleep!) *
- Weaning *
- Night weaning *
- Nursing strikes
- Discipline (and how breastfeeding can help)
- Stress (how breastfeeding can be affected by stress)
- Tandem nursing *
- Surgery for mother (and how to handle breastfeeding)
- Surgery for baby (and how to handle breastfeeding)
- Nutrition and solid foods
- Working and breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding during various developmental stages
- Toddlers who breastfeed as frequently as newborns
Toddlers Meeting Are Fun!
Toddler Meetings are not only a great way to keep mothers with growing toddlers coming back, they are also fun for Leaders to plan -- especially those with toddlers themselves. These meetings can also be an incentive for promoting membership! If your Group does not hold Toddler Meetings, perhaps you might consider them after reading this article!
I find it helpful to have resources available for myself as a Leader, as well as to refer the mothers to. These are some of the resources that I like to use. (Some books can fit into more than one category.)
Breastfeeding a Toddler
THE BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK by Nancy Mohrbacher and Julie Stock
MOTHERING YOUR NURSING TODDLER by Norma Jane Bumgarner
THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING
HOW WEANING HAPPENS by Diane Bengson
ADVENTURES IN TANDEM NURSING by Hilary Flower
NURSING MOTHER'S GUIDE TO WEANING by Kathleen Huggins
NIGHTTIME PARENTING by William Sears
THE NO CRY SLEEP SOLUTION by Elizabeth Pantley
ADVENTURES IN GENTLE DISCIPLINE by Hilary Flower
HOW TO TALK SO KIDS WILL LISTEN AND LISTEN SO KIDS WILL TALK by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
KID COOPERATION by Elizabeth Pantley
RAISING YOUR SPIRITED CHILD by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
MOTHER NURTURE by Rick Hanson
THE HIDDEN FEELINGS OF MOTHERHOOD by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett