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La Leche League 18th International Conference
Strength through Diversity - Creating One Breastfeeding World
San Francisco, California, USA
July 3-6, 2003

Friday, July 4 - Session #112
Global Issues - Taking Action through Collaborative Activities to Ensure a Place for Breastfeeding Promotion, Protection, and Support

Presenter: Janine Schooley
Facilitators: Nair Carrasco, Bonnie Davis, Mónica Tesone, Chris Mulford and Jennifer Shaw

Janine Schooley explored the issues and challenges of communication, networking and collaboration, giving specific suggestions on how to overcome the obstacles to reach the set goals. Communication, networking and collaboration are seen as easy and natural, but many times this is not the case. They take a lot of skill, commitment, effort, and time. Time needs to be invested wisely to ensure a product which is reflective of the energy and effort utilized. It is essential to be strategic, not to waste precious resources, not to rush through the process, and to choose partners carefully.

Always keep in mind the concept of "maximum tolerable unalikeness." In other words, do not collaborate with someone who is too similar or too different. A common ground needs to exist, but it is also important to have some differences that complement both parties.

When exploring the possibilities of networking or collaborating, make sure both parties are clear as to why they are interested in the partnership, their expectations and needs, and their roles and responsibilities. If there is a lack of communication and openness, misunderstandings and mistrust can arise.

Another good recommendation is to balance your heart and your brain. When working for something which all individuals feel very passionate about, it is important to keep very much in the forefront the logical and strategic side of things, for example:

  • Do not let things bother you for a long time.
  • Assume the best but be prepared for the worst.
  • Think that people always want the best, and if something goes wrong it is because of a mistake.
  • Write a memorandum of understanding. Although you want to assume everyone has good intentions it is important to have the key points written down.

Identify and actively participate in good networks and collaborative groups such as WABA and CORE Group. There is no need to reengineer something if it already exists. Always look out for good partnering possibilities, but do not overnetwork. Once you have identified the resources needed, focus all your attention on them. Networking and collaboration are powerful mechanisms to reach out to more people and to advocate. Schooley reinforced the importance of realizing this power, and although it takes a lot of effort, it is one of the best ways to utilize a variety of resources to bring about lasting changes.

Schooley ended her presentation with a poem read by Anwar Fazal during his Keynote Address at the LLLI 16th International Conference, Orlando, Florida, USA, July 4, 1999.

Decide to Network

Use every letter you write
Every conversation you have
Every meeting you attend
To express your fundamental beliefs and dreams
Affirm to others the vision of the world you want
Network through thought
Network through action
Network through love
Network through spirit
You are the center of the world
You are a free, immensely powerful source
Of life and goodness
Affirm it
Spread it
Radiate it
Think day and night about it
And you will see a miracle happen
The greatness of your own life
In a world of big powers, media and monopolies
But for six billion individuals
Networking is the new freedom
The new democracy
A new form of happiness.

Following are the actions presented during the session:

A. Reaching out to employers
Facilitated by Nair Carrasco and Mónica Tesone

This group chose to design a Web site as a tool to reach out to employers, employees and policy makers.


  • Design an award for those companies which successfully support breastfeeding mothers
  • Have a section on the financial benefits for the company when providing an adequate environment for mothers to breastfeed
  • A space for women to post their stories and suggestions
  • A kit for employers to help them design a breastfeeding friendly workplace
  • Describe the laws relevant to supporting breastfeeding in the workplace
  • Post breastfeeding information
  • Offer breastfeeding support training to the personnel

Countries around the world may decide to adapt this outline to fit their particular situation.

B. A checklist for successful collaborating
Facilitated by Chris Mulford

This checklist was created to help WABA collaborate with the childcare community, but can be used for other collaborating situations.

A Checklist to Support WABA (Taskforce on Women and Work) to Create Collaboration with the Childcare Community


The breastfeeding community needs the childcare community to set up a daycare for working mothers, and the childcare community needs the breastfeeding community to help raise healthy kids.

  • Clarify from the outset that all outputs will be equally attributed to all who contribute
  • Stay away from formal legal contracts, but
  • Create structured opportunities to get to know each other -- mission, dreams, agendas
  • Review/reassess the relationship early and periodically -- where it might go. Listen to each other, evaluate the relationship and be ready to make changes
  • Develop some common concerns, such as healthy kids and women who can reach their full potential
  • Pay for and use a third party facilitator to organize a meeting to bring out underlying concerns
  • Develop a timeline with checkpoints
  • Develop a list of "killer assumptions" - from both sides - that could cause the relationship to end (e.g. share WABA endorsement form) - these could either end the relationship or cause parties to alter positions/practices
  • Develop low risk outputs to begin with
  • Look for opportunities such as joint statements with UN bodies (e.g. UNICEF) or advocacy, press releases, communiqués
  • Identify/highlight and publish best practices
  • Focus on developing technical materials that both groups can use

C. Joining birthing practices with breastfeeding
Facilitated by Jennifer Shaw

How to bring birth practices to breastfeeding and breastfeeding to birth practices, and to those who have little knowledge on these topics

a) Organizations working in one or the other or both: (BP= Birthing Practices, and BF= Breastfeeding)

  • La Leche League International (BP and BF)
  • CIMS- Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (BP and BF)
  • DONA (BP and BF)
  • WIC (BF)
  • Lamaze (BP)
  • Bradley (BP and some BF)
  • ILCA (BF)
  • GIMS (BF and BP)
  • WABA (BF and BP)
  • CAPPA (BP)
  • Breastfeeding Task Forces in different states
  • BFLRC website (BF)
  • Upledger Institute (Massage) (BF)
  • AAP- American Academy of Pediatrics (BF and BP)
  • ACNM- American College of Nurse Midwives (BF and BP)
  • MANA (BP)
  • HuBANA (BF)
  • Confidential Perinatal Services Program
  • Peer Counseling Organizations

b) Organizations and Individuals who need to receive this information:

  • Doctors (obstetricians), nurses, midwives
  • WIC
  • Private hospitals, public hospitals
  • Community based / local organizations
  • Doulas
  • Grandmothers
  • Public health departments
  • Academia

c) How to get this information out and used:

  • Peer counselors
  • Web sites - WABA, LLLI, etc.
  • Distribute lists to the list above
  • The list should be culturally appropriate, literacy appropriate (especially low-income groups)

d) In the future:

  • A list of funding sources to bring information to low-income groups and multicultural

D. Guidelines for collaborating and networking in support of breastfeeding
Facilitated by Bonnie Davis

This group came up with a list of guidelines when collaborating and networking in support of breastfeeding. This action together with Action B above can be joined into one product.

Ideas to keep in mind:

  • Create specific measurable goals
  • Research well the group/person you want to collaborate with
  • Provide consistent information
  • Address the "family unit" and how it exists
  • Take multi-disciplinary approaches; include OB/GYNS, nurses, lactation consultants, social workers, etc.
  • Be diverse when looking for collaborators
  • Create clear agreements
  • Find commonalties and differences
  • Periodically evaluate progress
  • Do not waste resources (overnetworking)
  • Refrain from duplication of data
  • Don't assume the organization is a good fit
  • Create a group that is neither too large or too small that prevents goals from being accomplished

E. Communicating with the non-breastfeeding sectors
Facilitated by Janine Schooley

This group came up with a boilerplate language that can be used in letters to the non-breastfeeding sectors and representatives:

Know your audience!

Need a grabber statement:

Explain why are we reaching out to this other/new group. Make a connection, get the door open and make them think, get their attention. Keep them from throwing the letter in the garbage.

For example:

  • You may wonder why we are contacting you. We share a mutual interest in the health and well being of our country/state/county/city/neighborhood/your future work force (depending upon your audience).
  • Did you know that by promoting optimal infant feeding you can be saving more lives than any other single intervention?
  • Did you know that by working with our organization, you can help save 1.5 million children's lives annually?
  • Did you know that poor infant feeding practices are eating into your tax dollars?
  • Link to legislation or policy if you feel this will be strategic.
  • Turn these questions into statements if you feel that a question may be a turn off.
  • Link to a person or an issue that this person or group would relate to (so it isn't a cold, completely generic letter). For example, you may have recently seen such and such article or issue. Personalize the letter, contextualize, show some respect to the reader. Do some homework to make sure you are linking to something that this person can relate to.

What's the Big Deal: Isn't Everyone Doing This?

No, not everyone is breastfeeding optimally. Only 25% of women are breastfeeding exclusively globally. It is exclusive breastfeeding that leads to the tremendous benefits.
Provide data on low rates of exclusive breastfeeding in a particular geographic area or target group.

What's in it for you? (Benefits)

  • Workforce that is happier, healthier, more productive.
  • Reduces overall health costs ($1.3 billion annually could be saved in the US in health costs).
  • Helpful in lowering taxes.
  • Helps you do your work, or achieve your goals.
  • Other countries/similar groups, etc. have found such and such to be the case (language that helps the recipient feel that they are part of a broader movement, that they will feel left out if they don't get on this bandwagon).

Breastfeeding as a chameleon:

  • If we are talking to educators, address the issue of improved intellectual development.
  • If we are talking to prison officials, or folks interested in social development (less abuse, more well adjusted adults, bonding), etc, etc.

How can you help? What is the desired action/outcome?

  • Be as specific as possible in what you are asking the reader/recipient to do. Be very clear and practical. Don't be vague about expectations. If time defined, include specifics about timing.
  • Offer follow-up, additional information, resources, help for them. Provide the Web site for LLLI and other easily accessible resources. Avoid them feeling like they are being taken advantage of. Needs to be a two-way street (something must be in it for them).
  • Provide a stamped, self addressed postcard that shows that they have received your letter and to help them access additional information. Can we do the same thing via email (some sort of response).
  • Follow-up via email or phone (ideally by phone).
  • Make this as easy as possible for the recipient to be responsive and helpful. Facilitate the process of their being collaborative with you. Make them want to help and help them overcome as many of the barriers as possible (competing priorities, information overload, etc.).
  • Whatever format or method you use (letter, postcard, email, etc.) should be carefully selected strategically. What will be the most likely to be read and responded to?

Need a "clincher" statement

Something that wraps up the letter and leaves the reader with a punchy statement or something that leads to action.

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