OVER the past year thousands of mothers across Donegal have joined a Facebook page providing information and support for parents across the county.
The driving force behind the success of the Letterkenny Babies page is Louise Flanagan, a local secondary school teacher and mother to 14-month-old Lucy. She initially started the page to keep in touch with mothers she met during her pregnancy.
Speaking to the Donegal News this week Louise said she is overwhelmed by the interest that has been shown and huge number of mothers, and fathers, who have joined the online forum.
“I set up the page back in July. I met some really lovely girls at antenatal classes, in the maternity ward, and at baby massage and yoga and wanted a way of keeping in touch with them. Life with a baby can be lonely and hectic, and I figured it would keep the channels of communication open between us.
“When I set up the page, I ‘invited’ about 20 of my friends who have babies of a similar age to Lucy. I had no idea that anyone else would be interested in the page. It developed very naturally over the months that followed and now we have almost 2,000 people liking the page.
Louise continued: “I have been amazed by the number of people who have joined, but obviously, everyone is more than welcome. It’s a community page.”
The Letterkenny Babies page is for all things baby-related; buying and selling baby items, sharing links to useful articles and websites, highlighting baby events and bargains in local shops, recommending toys and other baby products, sharing information about local mother and baby groups and other services and facilities, advertising babysitter/child-minder positions. In addition the page also offers advice on all sorts of baby issues, such as weaning, teething and bedtime routines.
“We’re even organising a weekly buggy walk, so that we can meet in ‘real life’,” explained Louise.
The content of the page is always baby-related, but is constantly evolving. It depends very much on the issues the page members want to discuss. For instance, some recent posts have included advice on fertility issues, breastfeeding, potty training and preschool enrolment.
“It’s fantastic to see local women sharing experiences and advice about every aspect parenthood – between us, there are very few issues we can’t resolve,” said Louise.
While Louise admits that as a working mum, the page is sometimes hard to manage, the benefits are well-worth it.
“I’m conscious of trying not to post too many statuses in one day, in case the newsfeed is overrun and people get fed up, so I try to space them out! That can lead to a backlog, but generally, it runs quite smoothly,” she said.
She estimates that approximately half of the page members are from Letterkenny, with the other half living in various towns around Donegal.
“We even have some ‘ex-pats’ who no longer live in Letterkenny, but enjoy the banter and contribute regularly to the page. There are almost 2,000 members – I’m guessing around 20 of them are men and of course, dads are always welcome and encouraged to contribute to the page too.”
Due to the success of the page, a number of local business have come on board and have given prizes for competitions run through the page.
“We are really grateful to businesses like Babyzone and Avellana, as well as Facebook businesses Memory Lane Cards & Frames and Solace Therapy. Other businesses have kindly offered discounts or special offers to page members, which is really great.”
Louise concluded: “There is a lovely community feel on the page – members are very respectful and kind to one another, which is really great to see on a public forum. I’d really like to thank all the members who take time to offer advice and support to other users. I’m really glad I set up the page – it has been such a positive experience and I’ve learned so much from it myself.”