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Looking Back One Year Later

Katie Williams
Ringgold GA USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 40 No. 6, December 2004 - January 2005, pp. 130-31.

The LLL leadership application period is a time for a Leader Applicant to reflect on La Leche League philosophy and in her own breastfeeding experiences, to enhance her breastfeeding knowledge, and to prepare herself to be an effective source of support for other mothers.

As I reflect on my journey as a Leader Applicant, I can remember which elements of the application were most meaningful to me. With a year’s experience as a Leader, I can now clearly see which activities helped me grow in ways that I couldn’t fully appreciate until I began applying them as an actual Leader. My sponsoring Leader and Associate Coordinator of Leader Accreditation (ACLA) guided me through the application period with sensitivity and acceptance. As a result, at the end of my time as a Leader Applicant, I was invigorated, fully committed to mothering through breastfeeding, and ready to help other mothers experience all of the joys of breastfeeding.

Each part of the application was helpful; however, I would like to highlight a few exercises that I found particularly useful.

One of the first things that my sponsoring Leader and I did together was discuss LLL philosophy and concepts. In sharing some of her personal experiences, she helped me realize how I applied the concepts to my life and how other mothers apply the concepts differently in their lives. Before I wrote my Personal History of Breastfeeding and Mothering, she asked me to read the section "LLL Philosophy—The Concepts" (pages 139-141 in the LEADER'S HANDBOOK to answer the questions following each concept, and to write down some thoughts on each one, including how I had applied the philosophy in my own mothering experience. This served as a wonderful exercise in preparation for writing my personal history. Before putting pencil to paper, the concepts seemed so obvious to me, and I didn’t see how writing a Personal History of Breastfeeding and Mothering would be useful. I was seeing "philosophy" in general without paying much attention to the parts of which it was composed, the individual concepts. When I began thinking about the concepts individually and answering the questions, I found myself reflecting deeply on my mothering experiences. I realized exactly how I was applying each concept in a unique and personal way. Putting my thoughts into writing and exploring how I was living the philosophy enabled me to gain a higher level of understanding of each concept and to see that, although they are intricately related, they are also separate, specific things that comprise the whole of my mothering.

During my journey toward leadership, I enjoyed enhancing my knowledge of breastfeeding management and the normal course of breastfeeding through completing the reading requirements. As a new Applicant, I was looking forward to the opportunity to read accurate breastfeeding and mothering information. What I didn’t realize was how much there was for me to learn through the reading requirements. I gained confidence in my ability to support other mothers as I increased my knowledge, especially when it came to breastfeeding situations that were outside my realm of experience, such as pumping milk or breastfeeding after a cesarean birth. I found that completing the Breastfeeding Resource Guide pulled all of this information together for me and gave me a valuable "quick reference" tool to refer to when helping a mother.

Finally, I found the Preview component of the application to be incredibly helpful preparation for supporting other mothers, both at LLL Series Meetings and with telephone calls. The Preview helped me learn about active listening, acceptance and respect for individual mothers’ choices, effective communication, and retrieving and providing information in a "hands-on" fashion. I was excited and nervous on the day that my sponsoring Leader and I were scheduled to work through the Preview together. While I knew that this was a learning tool and not a test, I still wanted to demonstrate an ability to provide a balance of compassionate understanding and information in helping another mother. Having been on the receiving end of wonderful support countless times from this Leader made me want to come through the Preview with flying colors! As we role-played many situations together and I struggled to put my leadership skills into action, I realized that giving mother-to-mother help is more of an art than a science, one that I will have to continually, thoughtfully tweak as a Leader. This conclusion was very important for me because I tend to be a perfectionist and put a lot of pressure on myself. I became more confident as we enacted many different situations. After finishing the Preview, I felt excited and ready to help other mothers.

As I look back on my experience as a Leader Applicant, I am thankful for the opportunities for growth. When I work with Leader Applicants, I hope I will be sensitive to each one’s needs and give her the freedom to fully experience each part of her application to get the support that she needs on her journey to leadership and to thrive as a Leader.

Katie Williams is an LLL Leader and childbirth educator. She lives in Ringgold, Georgia, USA with her husband, Justin, and her tandem nursing daughters, Anna Katharine (3) and Delaney (1). Article submissions or ideas for "Preparing for Leadership" may be sent to Monique Kitts at 3777 Cherokee Valley Road, Ringgold GA 30736 USA; (email); or 775- 256-7960 (fax).

A Leader Applicant’s journey to LLL leadership will be unique and build upon the personal experience, skill, and knowledge base she brings to her application. By completing the application requirements and supplementing with any additional activities she might choose to help her feel confident, she will develop the knowledge as well as learn and practice the skills necessary to effectively help mothers as an accredited LLL Leader.

The sponsoring Leader plays a tremendous role in shaping the future of LLL by helping mothers become Leaders.

Application Requirements

  • Required Reading
  • Personal History of Breastfeeding and Mothering
  • Dialogue with LAD Representative
  • Checklist of Topics to Discuss in Preparation for LLL Leadership
  • A Preview of Mothers’ Questions/Problems and Group Dynamics /Management
  • Breastfeeding Resource Guide

Supplemental Opportunities/Activities

  • Suggested Reading
  • Books selected from LLLI Bibliography
  • Back Issues of Leaven and New Beginnings
  • Educational Opportunities
  • LLLI Web site
  • Area, Affiliate, National, Regional, Division, and LLLI Conferences
  • Chapter/Evaluation/Enrichment Meetings
  • Leader/Leader Applicant Seminars and Workshops
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