By Ellen Mateer – West Yorkshire, UK
Being a nursing mother or parent can be an isolating experience, even under normal circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many new parents without a lot of the support they would normally expect to be available. We have long known that support is critical to helping families meet their breastfeeding or chestfeeding goals [1,2] and that online groups are often a convenient and preferred source of support. 
During this unprecedented health crisis, the value of online support groups is even more evident. La Leche League (LLL) Leaders have responded wonderfully by increasing the already comprehensive support they offer to include more online meetings and more and busier social media groups.
We have thousands of LLL groups around the world, and the majority offer some support via social media – primarily via Facebook, WhatsApp, and WeChat. Find support by selecting an entry here.
What will I find in an LLL social media group?
We are proud to support online communities on Facebook for those seeking evidence-based information and nonjudgmental support. LLL social media groups are managed by volunteer LLL Leaders. They are free from commercial influence; no one will try to sell you anything and there will be no links to external events and petitions. Members will be other parents. You can ask questions and will be offered information. Since accredited Leaders moderate all posts, you can trust the resources you are offered. Sometimes a Leader will signpost a member to further support.
People seeking breastfeeding information online may find judgmental, prescriptive advice, a one-size-fits-all approach. LLL groups discourage giving ‘advice’. LLL has always advocated for families to make choices that work for them. What LLL social media groups offer is a chance to see and hear about the huge range of normal in breastfeeding and babies. Members will share experiences and tips, and this is where online LLL groups come into their own: mother-to-mother, parent-to-parent, heart-to-heart support is what our communities would have provided face-to-face at one time, and today you can find this connecting, validating support on your phone 24 hours a day.
Chatting on Facebook threads with others who have been through similar experiences can help mothers feel less alone. Have you ever thought you were the only parent with a baby who cries every time you put them down? Or the only mother up every hour through the night with a wakeful baby? Or the only family struggling without an extended circle of support? Groups can provide safe listening spaces too, where parents can share things that they are finding challenging, knowing they won’t be told “Just stop breastfeeding if it’s hard”. Through LLL social media groups, members can access warm, empathic support from a diverse group of parents even a few hours after birth, especially if they are restricted to their homes or geographically isolated.
Leaders are well versed in communication skills and have anti-bias training, which helps them to skilfully monitor and moderate discussion threads, allowing all voices and experiences to be heard. Respectful communication and acknowledging all perspectives are key parts of the support we offer.
Common topics in LLL social media groups
These differ from group to group, and around the world. However, there are common themes. At the moment there is inevitably discussion around coronavirus and breastfeeding, and avoiding separation of families due to illness or during childbirth.
There are also ‘evergreen’ topics, much as with in-person LLL groups; they include how to breastfeed comfortably, to increase milk supply, to balance sleep with night feedings, to express milk, to manage work and other separations, to deal with criticism from support people and much more.
Many groups will also have weekly threads such as “How’s breastfeeding going for you this week?”, which allow members to share their successes and challenges and connect with each other.
Facebook groups have a search function so that members can look back at previous discussions for tips. Many groups also offer information in their files for reference, such as FAQs on common issues and questions, and contact details for local Leaders and other trusted sources of support.
Sometimes a parent needs more in-depth help with a technical breastfeeding issue. However, getting some ‘triage’ support in a social media group can be really useful until a Leader can respond to a private/direct message or arrange a Zoom/phone call.
Are there any situations that are not suitable for sharing in an online LLL group?
Urgent or time-sensitive questions are best directed to your local LLL Leader. Contact details will be listed with local group information.
Medical questions, including those about drugs and medications, cannot be answered in LLL groups. Please contact your healthcare professional for support.
Find an LLL support group
La Leche League International (LLLI) has two breastfeeding support groups on Facebook where participants can ask questions and share experiences, and LLL Leaders offer information and resources. The purpose of these groups is to provide support to individual parents in nursing, pumping or offering expressed milk to their own babies. For urgent or time-sensitive questions, please contact an LLL Leader in your region (search here).
LLL entities and groups may have their own support groups on Facebook, WhatsApp, and other platforms. You can find them by selecting an entry here.
When you request to join any LLLI/LLL Facebook group, please answer all the questions listed to help our group administrators approve your request in a timely manner.
Please join our communities here:
Some groups have a specific focus and are run by Leaders from various countries and provide support in several languages.
La Leche League – Inducing Lactation & Relactation
Induced lactation is defined as breastfeeding without pregnancy. It is in fact possible to nurse your child whether or not you birthed them.
Relactation is defined as the process of resuming breastfeeding after a period of no breastfeeding or very little breastfeeding.
La Leche League for Moms of Twins/Multiples
This is an LLL group for anyone nursing, pumping for, or providing any amount of human milk to their twins and higher-order multiples.
La Leche League – Tandem Nursing
This group offers breastfeeding support for those who are tandem nursing. Tandem nursing is a common term for breastfeeding siblings concurrently. This group also supports those who are nursing through pregnancy and those who are planning on or considering tandem nursing.
La Leche League – Special Needs Breastfeeding Support
This group offers support for those nursing babies with a variety of special needs, not restricted to the usual challenges that families may experience.
Ellen Mateer is a Leader with La Leche League Great Britain, a La Leche League International (LLLI) Board member, and Chair of the LLLI Social Media and Website Committee. Ellen lives in West Yorkshire in the UK with her partner and three children aged 19, 17, and 13.
1. UNICEF BFI UK, Blog: Supporting breastfeeding: we know what works; let’s make it happen, https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/supporting-breastfeeding-make-it-happen/ (accessed 26 November 2020).
2. Nigel c Rollins, MD. Why Invest, and what it will take to improve breastfeeding practices? The Lancet 2016; 387 (10017); https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)01044-2/fulltext
3. Robinson A. et al. Facebook support for breastfeeding mothers: A comparison to offline support and associations with breastfeeding outcomes. Sage Journals 2019; 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6560800
A comparative study from 2019 looking at Facebook support for breastfeeding mothers found “participants reported the highest amount of breastfeeding support received from their Facebook support group, in comparison to other sources of support, and Facebook support was significantly correlated with intended breastfeeding duration.”