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The HotLLLine Needs You!

Connie Boord
Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 35 No. 4, August-September 1999, p. 95

"Hello. Is this La Leech? I have a breastfeeding question. Can you help me?"

Many mothers first contact La Leche League by phoning 1- 800-LALECHE. About 10,000 calls are made to the line per month, although only about 3,000 people get through. During regular office hours (Monday through Friday 8 AM to 5 PM Central Time), the phone is answered by Leaders who are part of the LLLI staff. Before and after business hours and on weekends, a caller hears a recorded message. If there is a volunteer Leader scheduled, her name and phone number is included in the message so callers needing emergency breastfeeding information can reach her. This after-hours service is called the HotLLLine.

Each HotLLLine volunteer receives a copy of phone guidelines and the International Directory (No. 504) which lists the names and phone numbers of the Area Coordinators of Leaders (ACLs) and Coordinators of Leader Accreditation (CLAs) in and Affiliates and each Area of the US, the International Division. After talking with a mother, the Leader can refer her to someone in her local Area or country for additional breastfeeding information and meeting locations. Each HotLLLine volunteer also receives Leader log sheets to use for note taking during calls. The log sheets are returned to LLLI and each caller is sent an LLLI Catalogue and the name of a local Leader for future reference.

Any US Leader can serve as a HotLLLine volunteer. Since the mothers who call use their own long distance phone service, it doesn't matter where you live; they are glad to have someone to call for breastfeeding answers. A Leader can choose to be scheduled for a week night from 4 PM to 8 AM Central Time or on weekends from 8 AM to 4 PM or 4 PM to 8 AM the next morning. I have answered the HotLLLine 20 times in the past several years and have received anywhere from three to 16 calls in one scheduled time period. Mothers have called from towns in Minnesota to cities in Florida, Maine, Hawaii and even Puerto Rico!

Answering the HotLLLine is not much different than answering questions on the phone from women in your own community. You discover that mothers have very similar breastfeeding concerns, no matter where they live.

I have answered questions about mastitis, engorgement, nipple soreness and milk supply as I use the same information and resources to help these faraway mothers as I do to help local mothers.

I plan ahead to help make answering the HotLLLine easier for me as a Leader and for my family. "Be prepared" is my motto. On my scheduled day, I make sure that my resources, such as THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, the BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK, the International Directory (No. 504), the phone log sheets and a pen are close by the phone. I'm ready for calls even before my assigned time. Because of the time differences, I have received a few calls even before I was due to be "on call." To eliminate the feeling of being unprepared, it's better to plan ahead.

As a HotLLLine volunteer, a Leader is expected to be available to answer the calls that she receives during her scheduled shift. To minimize the possible interruption of family plans, I choose a time when I have no other commitments for that particular evening or weekend period. I also try to pick a day and time when other family members are busy with their own activities. Because evening calls may interfere with dinner preparations, I plan ahead for an easy meal that day or serve leftovers. I try to plan my day around my HotLLLine schedule and try not be involved in any major projects. That day is usually a good one for me to catch up on paper work.

Although not necessary, I have found Caller ID on our phone line to be helpful when answering the HotLLLine. I know immediately whether a call is a long- distance HotLLLine call or a local one for a family member. Having the caller's name, phone number and time of call makes it easier to transfer the information to my log at a later time, if I forget or am too busy when I receive the call. There is no need to ask the caller to spell her name or repeat her phone number, which allows more time to answer her questions.

Occasionally, I receive a phone call in the early morning hours, so I make sure that my phone logs and pen are close to the hallway phone. Each call that I have received late at night has been urgent. A worried mother may need immediate help, no matter what the hour. Sometimes a call is a new mother just home from the hospital who has a baby who is too sleepy to nurse. Another mother may have a fever and engorged breasts. A mother may be upset about her crying newborn who isn't latching on. These problems may seem insurmountable to a new mother, especially late at night. Although I may lose a half-hour of sleep one night, I take pride in helping one more mother overcome a breastfeeding challenge.

Although a Leader with a newborn baby or young school age children may not want to be scheduled for a week night, she may find volunteering for a shift on the weekend easier to handle. Some scheduled evenings and weekends have been busy, others have not. I let my family know when I am scheduled for phone duty, so there are no surprises. They realize how important it is for me to help a worried new mother.

I enjoy answering the HotLLLine. I am gratified and fulfilled to be able to reach out to help others in this unique way. There is a need for volunteers and I am glad that I am able to help. As Leaders, we already have the information we need to assist mothers and babies. Why not share this information with even more mothers who call LLLI? Volunteering for the HotLLLine is also a great way for a rural Leader with fewer local contacts to practice her phone skills, as well as use her knowledge to help mothers outside her area.

The HotLLLine is a lifeline to many mothers in need. It is also important for LLLI to maintain and staff this volunteer phone line in order to retain its not-for-profit status. If each US Leader would volunteer just once a year, there would always be a Leader available to give breastfeeding help. A distressed mother calling 1-800-LALECHE would not have to hear this message:

A volunteer La Leche League Leader is not able to take calls at this time, Please call during business hours.

To serve as a HotLLLine volunteer, contact:

Tina Landis
9325 South Hamlin
Evergreen Park, Illinois 60805

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