Indian Physician Becomes a Certified HUG Teacher

I am Dr. Manjiri Deshpande, a Certified Childbirth Educator (CAPPA, USA) from Gurgaon, India. I am an Ayurveda practitioner, focusing on helping patients have a holistic approach to staying healthy and managing their chronic diseases. Earlier in my career I worked as a residential medical officer in nursing homes, along with six years' experience in gynecology and OB. Completeing my certification as a certified childbirth educator from CAPPA, USA, introduced me to HUG Your Baby's online course (Part I). I was very surprised to see the amazing newborn language. 

I was fascinated by the scientific evidence and research used in The HUG program to understand the newborn. Though I had worked in the field of Ob-GYN, understanding the newborn always presented difficulties for me. I was challenged to understand my own newborn baby after my C-section. When I went through the HUG Your Baby course I realized that if I had known to that information then, it would have been easier for me to understand my own baby and to enjoy an amazing bond.

I now collaborate with a gynecologist to work with expectant first-time parents who are having tons of questions and misconceptions. 

Most of my clients are first-time parents who are worried about labor and newborn care. During my clinical practice I realized that most parents, especially first-time parents, face lots of difficulties in understanding their newborn baby. At times it is very confusing for them to know what action to take. After completing the first HUG course and my CAPPA certification, I decided to finish the HUG program and introduce it in my childbirth education classes.

As I started to learn the HUG Your Baby course material, I discovered strategies for supporting a new family to better understand the newborn and to increase the trust and confidence of these parents. The HUG not only gives parents the best way to handle their baby; it also helps them clarify their role as partners. It was amazing to learn about newborn behaviour, and the sleep patterns and the crying patterns of babies. Crying is very disturbing and frustrating for parents. If parents can't discover the reason for the crying, then life can become very erratic for them, and this affects their relationship with both the baby and their partner. The concept of "SOSs" is a very helpful way to understand and explain a baby’s stress responses--and how to handle them effectively. When I introduced SOSs to my mums in the clinic, they were very surprised. Second-time mothers told me that they faced those problem with their first baby. Now they feel that they have a way to understand and calm their baby and help him/her to get back on track.

In the coming months I want to develop a centre where parents can have an opportunity to understand all the aspects of a baby’s behaviour, his/her growth patterns, and how to develop good sleeping and eating habits. Some of these habits can carry from the newborn period to the toddler, the kid, and finally, to the teenager. I hope that my HUG Your Baby centre this will be a one-stop destination for parents to solve their problems and to become successful in their desired style of parenthood.

Home-Based Professional Becomes a Certified HUG Teacher

The home-based program I work with just started a prenatal program. I am excited to be sharing HUG Your Baby information with our parents. The HUG videos and materials are well research and offer language and educational strategies that parents understand and relate to. I am finding that several points of the training, in particular, are important to the new parents and pregnant parents I serve.

The first module I completed was “HUG Strategies.” A few day after I completed this course, I had my home visit with Francisco. Practicing “broadcasting and commenting” with his parents was the hook that connected his parents to our program. It is not too often that both parents attend a home visit. When this happens I need to take advantage of the situation. Francisco's parents were engaged by my description of their baby's behavior and were affirmed in their role as parents.

“Gaze, then Engage” is another concept that is helpful to my parents. Presenting the HUG video to parents sends the message that “you are not alone”; other parents are in the same situation, and professionals like us are here to help. I have asked several experienced moms what they are doing differently this time, now that they have been exposed to the HUG Your Baby resources. Typically they say that they didn’t have the circle of support they have this time. I believe that sharing “Hug Your Baby” information with parents will lead to better outcomes for the families we serve.

Certified HUG Teacher Gives The HUG in an Airport!

Michelle Hardy is the founder, director, and program coordinator for a non-profit organization, Mothering the Mother Inc. Mothering the Mother was founded in 2010 because after working in the field for many years (starting in 2003) Michelle had seen so many disparities in the care available to low-income women, and she often felt that the women who had the least support due to financial constraints were often the ones who needed it the most. Michelle is passionate about finding the means to provide doula care to women who normally would not be able to afford the service.

After starting her organization Michelle quickly realized that the clients she was working with really needed more than just a doula, so she added a childbirth education program. Over time, Michelle's organization grew to include birth doulas, childbirth education, prenatal care coordination, lactation support, postpartum doulas, and now classes to assist families with newborns, such as the HUG Your Baby program.  

In addition to running her nonprofit organization Michelle is also married to a wonderfully supportive man and together they have nine children. She is very active with ICEA (International Childbirth Education Association), where she is an approved trainer for childbirth educators, birth doulas, and postpartum doulas. Michelle chairs the postpartum doula program for ICEA.

Michelle is also very active in her community by supporting families living with a rare genetic disorder called PKU. She is the founder of the PKU Organization of Wisconsin and serves on the board of directors for that nonprofit organization.

"As a HUG Your Baby educator I am very excited to have found this program. Since taking the training to become a HUG educator I have found many opportunities to share what I learned with families--not only through my nonprofit and its educational programs, but also in my everyday life. My most unique opportunity to educate came today, while I was sitting at the airport waiting for my plane to take me to the HUG Your Baby train the trainer workshop. As I sat there answering emails I suddenly found myself focusing on the interactions of a mother and her baby who were sitting next to me. I heard the mom keep saying, "Why won't you look at me?" and "Sweetie, look at Mama." The more this mother tried to engage with her baby the more the baby diverted her eyes.  

I couldn't help but watch this adorable little person, and the mother said she that she thought the baby liked me since she kept looking in my direction. This interaction led to our having a conversation in which we discussed how the baby might be overstimulated by all the hustle and bustle going on around him. The young mother was interested in learning more, and she was amazed at how, when she turned her baby into her body and held him close, within minutes he was gazing beautifully back into her eyes.

Our time ended rather quickly, and the young mother said that she would visit the HUG website to see if she could learn more. As a birth worker I love finding informal opportunities to offer impromptu education . . . sometimes in the strangest of circumstances!"

Parents Inspire a New Certified HUG Teacher

Brandi Kulikov-Ramirez is a CAPPA Certified Labor and Postpartum Doula, a Newborn Care Specialist, and a Family Educator/Infant Development Specialist in Santa Ynez, California.

I recently was nicknamed "The Baby Lady" by a client of mine, after teaching them some valuable Hug Your Baby information. This is a nickname I will cherish as it is a symbol of the hard work  and commitment I offer my families, who, for their part, have demonstrated nothing but pure love and dedication to their newborns. Parents' desire to get to know their baby, even in the hardest of times, is what keeps me going as The Baby Lady.

One particular family has benefited the most from my recent Hug Your Baby education. This family is open-minded and always ready to learn. They live every second of their day wanting to understand their babies (yes, babies . . .TWINS!) as much as they possibly can. They ask questions; they ask for advice; and, most importantly, they are not afraid to practice what they learn. They give everything a chance if they feel it may benefit their children. They respect my training and experience, and I can feel their trust in me. However, this is not the reason why I chose them for this reflection. I chose this family because THEY are the amazing ones. THEY are the ones who understand how important it is to know your child. THEY are the ones who apply what they learn to real-life interactions. THEY are the ones who empower other parents to want to get to know their babies too. 

This family is raising twins, with no prior experience, and they are doing one heck of a job! They came to me with questions about newborn sleeping, feeding, and play questions. Baby boy is very docile and easygoing, while baby girl struggles with self-regulation. One of the twins is highly interactive and calm; the other becomes distraught at attempts to engage and interact. One baby slept well; the other rapidly moved through sleep cycles, waking constantly and so forth.

This is not an uncommon story. However, to these parents it was life altering. Adding one baby to a family is significant. Two babies can turn everything upside, but two babies with such different needs and communication responses pose a daunting challenge. Rather than overwhelming them with an entire session/class of Hug Your Baby education, I chose to educate with little bits and pieces as issues arose when I was in the home. Together we tackled one aspect of Hug Your Baby after another. Within a week, this family went from feeling  they were raising two tiny little strangers, to understanding their children as two unique, lovable little people. I could easily send these parents out to teach others about newborn zones, communication signs, and sleep states. I'm sure they would rock every second of it!

Working with this family helped me understand how valuable support and education can be to new parents. Newborns sometimes intimidate their parents, who may feel that they need to "crack their baby's code" in order to give her what she needs. The truth is, newborns are not that hard to figure out. You simply need to be willing to try--and give them the time they need.

As an educator, I learn from my families and their newborns on a daily basis. The least I can do is to share confidence-building information that will help them feel more empowered to care for child and will strengthen the parent-child relationship. HUG Your Baby helps me do that important work!

Newly Certified HUG Your Baby Teacher in Holland

Elly Krijnen is a nurse, lactation consultant, and highly experienced educator based in Almere, in the Netherlands. Ellie has recently become a Certified HUG Teacher and is preparing to become her country's first HUG trainer. 

Meeting Jan and Jim in 2014 at the ELACTA Conference in Copenhagen was my first encounter with HUG Your Baby. When I talked to them and heard about "The Roadmap to Breastfeeding Success," I was keen to learn more about this program and how mis-interpreting a baby's normal behavior often contributes to breastfeeding "struggles."

Since Jan and Jim were willing to end their world teaching tour in the Netherlands, I gathered a dozen Dutch colleagues to join me in learning more about HUG Your Baby. We all experienced a number of "Aha" moments (or, as the Germans say, Aha Erlebnis) that hot, summer day. We came to understand how a baby "Spaces Out," "Switches Off," and "Shuts Down." We learned that one good way to start dealing with an "SOS" ("Sign of Over-Stimulation") is to decrease our interaction with the baby at that time, quiet our voices, and hold the baby's hands to his chest. Exploring further calming strategies, we gained both the understanding AND the tools to help a baby transition out of this stressful state.

I remember my first consultation after the HUG training, when I saw this little guy doing the "fencing pose." The HUG training helped me explain to the mother what this behavior is, and how it helps the baby focus on his hand to help calm himself down.

Since this one-day training at my center in Almere, HUG Your Baby has become an important part of my consultations as well as my teaching and continuing education. I teach professionals to become lactation consultants or breastfeeding coaches, and now I have new language for teaching these professionals about normal behavior and how to encourage new parents. I find that sharing HUG Your Baby has so many helpful applications: the mother who sleeps better because she is no longer mis-interpreting her baby's signals; the grandma who now understands when and why her baby is not ready to interact; and the dad who suddenly sees that he CAN interact with the newborn he wants to love.

I look forward to becoming a HUG trainer, and to sharing HUG Your Baby with Dutch lactation professionals, including kraamverzorgendens (our professionals who are similar to postpartum doulas), midwives and nurses. They, in turn, will use The HUG's resources and strategies to help the families they serve better understand and care for their precious newborns.

Certified HUG Teacher Shares The HUG at a Refugee Resettlement Community

Camille Smith is a Developmental Psychologist and Certified Postpartum Doula. She works at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA, where her main responsibility is with a program called, "Learn the Signs. Act Early". This CDC program aims to increase early identification of young children at risk for or with developmental disabilities. Camille also conducts research through implementing parenting programs designed to improve long-term developmental outcomes of young children growing up in intergenerational poverty. In addition to incorporating HUG Your Baby into her professional work, Camille also volunteers as a Postpartum Doula in the refugee resettlement community of Clarkston, GA. As a volunteer, she helps to implement a program called EMBRACE Refugee Birth; it provides prenatal and postpartum support to refugee women and helps them navigate a very complicated system of medical care within a new community that is very foreign to them. EMBRACE offers prenatal, postpartum and well women classes as well as a "Mom's Circle," which provides a time for women to come together with their babies and children in a group format to share information, ideas, concerns, and friendship.

"I love the concepts and strategies that HUG Your Baby provides because they are clear, easy to apply, and can make such a difference in how new families understand and interact with their new baby. As a developmental psychologist I know how important it is for parents to feel a sense of self-efficacy, and I believe that the HUG principles and strategies can set a new family on a trajectory of confidence and strong attachment with their baby.

During the time I worked towards becoming a HUG trainer, I have had opportunities to share the HUG with Moms from Africa, Afghanistan, Burma, Nepal, and Syria at the refugee resettlement center. One of my recent visits was to baby Aaban, who was then three weeks old.

His mom was very frustrated because she wanted so much to continue breastfeeding him but said that he frequently got very fussy and started crying. Then, when she put him to the breast, he seemed too "upset" to latch on and nurse. Mom was not sure what to do because her husband keeps telling her that she needs to give him formula and that maybe he is not "satisfied with her milk." She said that she knows her husband understands how much she wants to breastfeed, but he is worried that she looks so tired all the time.

While I was there, Aaban started showing SOSs. Fussing, flailing his arms and legs in very jerky movements, Aaban turned red in the face and his forehead frowned. Then he clearly entered the "Rebooting Zone" and started to cry. She immediately scooped him up and put him to her breast, and just as she indicated in our discussion he was too upset to latch. I talked with Mom about ways to console him. I told her to talk to him softly and then said to try bringing his arms to his chest. He was still pretty upset, so then I said to try bringing his feet up to his chest as well and hold him very close.

Once Aaban was calm, I "broadcasted" how he was in the "Ready Zone" now - ready to interact, and to feed. She brought him to her breast and he fed eagerly. Aaban's dad came in the room while Mom was breastfeeding. She told him how we had talked about gazing and watching what Aaban does before he starts showing SOSs. She also shared important it is to pay attention early to signs of hunger so that breastfeeding can happen before Aaban gets so upset. She also showed her husband ways to console Aaban if he does start to "Reboot." Giving this young, immigrant mother some HUG ideas and skills has built her confidence, helped her meet her breastfeeding goals, and empowered her family." 

Australian Midwife Shares HUG Your Baby

Denise Harris is a midwife from Melbourne Australia. She has incorporated HUG Your Baby into her postpartum work with new mums. She shares this essay to give us a taste of her experiences using HUG resources and techniques.

I am a registered midwife, in Melbourne Australia. I work in a hospital where my main contact with new parents is birth and the first two nights, as I work permanent night duty. Therefore, I have contact predominantly with Mums and not the whole family. I find this often puts these Mums in a very vulnerable position as they only have me to rely on for education, information and extended care of their newborn, after family members have left for the day.  These Mums are tired and feel the overwhelming reality of caring for a newborn. 

I was first attracted to the Hug Your Bay conference because of its name. I was finding that many women did not want to hold their babies because they were scared of spoiling them! I needed to find more information to try and convince them this is okay. Though it was interesting to learn more about normal newborn behaviour, the greatest thing I learned was about MY behaviour. I learned that no one wants to hear what parenting is like for everyone, but only  what it is like them and their baby. After learning the baby's name, my nest step was DO actions instead of all talk. 

I would ask the Mum if they thought they knew what was going on with their baby, and most Mums at this stage would answer that"my baby is hungry and I'm worried I don't have enough milk". I would agree that the baby's behaviour can be confusing and then go on to explain the process of initiating lactation and the baby's role in this. I would also take time to use the techniques I learned to calm the baby.  I try to keep this all very brief, and condensed as it is usually the middle of the night and these Mums are all getting very tired, some even exhibiting S.O.S.! I try to speak in a calm reassuring manner and I find a much more positive response from these Mums.

The other most common problem I encounter is that the baby will fall asleep at the breast the moment he latches on. then waking up the minute they are taken away from the breast. I usually have six women and newborns in my care, and cannot spend a great deal of time with one mum. However if a mum is struggling, I do my best to spend more time with the mum and bub to show further settling techniques such as patting the baby in bed and rocking the baby. This seems to give these mums more "tools" in managing their babies and increase their confidence.

The very first time I made an effort to incorporate The HUG into my practice,I discovered three of the mothers I had been caring for had gone home a night earlier than planned discharge. I hope that my new approach contributed to their confidence about going home earlier than planned. 

In the near future, I hope to my further my education and become a Maternal and Child Health Nurse. In this field I will see mothers and babies for the first few years of the lives instead of the first few days. I hope to also run first time mother groups where I can incorporate and teach Hug Your Baby. This will hopefully help many more new parents become the good Mums and Dads they want to be!

Walking Instead of Amputation

I usually don't share such personal information to my HUG Your Baby world, but this story is too good to miss!

I had a foot injury as I child but walked, danced, hiked, etc., for decades. About eight years ago I developed severe arthritis in my right ankle and gradually became unable to walk at work, to walk around my house, to stand to cook a meal, or to make home visits with patients. Unwilling to be totally stopped in my tracks, many of you met me over the past few years sharing HUG Your Baby in fourteen countries--on my electric scooter.

After Jim and I returned to the USA, I sought medical advice. Three local physicians here in Durham, North Carolina ("The City of Medicine"), recommended a below-the-knee amputation of my right leg as the best course of action for me. These doctors explained that I would walk better with a prosthesis than I ever could do otherwise. Over the past year I was scheduled for an amputation three different times, but I could not find peace with the decision. After my third cancellation, Jim Googled "alternative to amputation" and discovered the IDEO brace. This brace was invented by Ryan Blanck, an American prosthetist, who had worked with veterans wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The IDEO program was recently opened to civilians. So, this autumn, Jim and I went to the Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor, Washington, so that I could be fitted for one of these innovative, carbon fiber braces. Within 24 hours I was measured, my custom brace was fabricated, and I went outside to give it a try. Miraculously (it seemed to us) I walked--a 1/2 mile around the building, up a hill, on gravel, down stairs--all pain-free.

Indeed, it has been a miracle.  Every day I wake up feeling grateful and am growing stronger. I enjoy cooking again, shopping for Christmas, and building up my private, home-visiting, lactation/parenting business. I go to the gym regularly and can now comfortably walk 1.5 miles. Jim and I are eager now to make further plans to carry HUG Your Baby out into the world. The IDEO is truly a brilliant idea. It has given me back the life I used to lead!

Here is a link ( to the IDEO song that Jim and I wrote to celebrate this amazing brace. My sons, Jonathan (on bass) and Dave (second vocalist), along with Jim (in chorus and production) and other musical friends, made this professional recording of "Our IDEO Song". I asked fellow IDEO wearers to contribute their IDEO photos to create this music video. This song captures the heart-felt joy of this life-changing, and life-enriching experience!

Share "Our IDEO Song" with friends, colleagues and family
to get the word out to those who might benefit!

ILCA and Lamaze/ICEA Love Getting A HUG!

ILCA 2015

ILCA brings together lactation specialists from around the world. This year nearly 300 lactation colleagues took Jan Tedder's new workshop, "Unlatched: When Normal Child Development is Mistaken as a Breastfeeding Problem."

As Jan has traveled and met lactation professionals internationally, she continues to note that the majority of lactation education centers around the issues of breastfeeding initiation, milk production, and early breastfeeding challenges. Though these issues are critical for helping mothers during the first few weeks of their infants' lives, Jan was excited to see how interested these professionals were in how to extend breastfeeding duration by helping mothers understand their child's NORMAL development.

Here's the feedback Jan recently received about her "Unlatched" presentation at ILCA 2015:

Ability to meet learning objectives
98% answered “Effective” or “Very Effective”
95% answered “Very Effective”

Speaker presentation on topic
98% answered “Effective” or “Very Effective”
95% answered “Very Effective”

Usefulness of information to my work
97% answered “Effective” or “Very Effective”
92% answered “Very Effective”

Lamaze/ICEA 2015

It is a great joy to bring HUG Your Baby to experienced professionals. And, it's especially exciting when they say, "I knew THAT; I just didn't know how to explain it to parents!"

This is what we frequently heard after Jan Tedder's presentation, "Unlatched: Breastfeeding Support for Today's Families," at the Lamaze/ICEA 2015 international conference in Las Vegas. Though information is important, USING that information to make practice changes is really what matters. And, more than 150 Lamaze/ICEA colleagues reported that the HUG presentation will change their practices. Yay! (See details below.)

"Broadcasting" a Baby's Behavior in Thailand

The favorite part of our last day of teaching in Bangkok, Thailand was "'broadcasting' a baby's behavior." Today my husband, Jim, and I joined Meena Sobsamai, a midwife and lactation consultant at Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital (photo), for an all-day HUG training. This class had been offered to professionals for the day and to expectant and new parents for the morning. 

Since four pregnant women, and eight parents and babies, participated off and on during the day, I took the opportunity to "See and Share" a baby's behavior with this group of HUG learners. Because some of the babies were older (up to 8 months), I was able to go from baby to baby and "Broadcast" fine motor changes, evidence of attachment (when the baby "references her parent" -  glances back at parent for assurance), the developing sense of object permanence, and subtle indications of early stranger anxiety. 

One might imagine that a family could feel "on the spot" and anxious about their baby's "performance" in a public setting like this. However, I find that "Broadcasting" a child's behavior not only puts parents at ease but also delights them as I share the capabilities of their newborn.

The way parents sparkled when I would "Broadcast" their baby's behavior made the point: using this HUG Strategy is an effective short cut to a trusting relationship with parents. And once that relationship is established, real teaching and support can occur. I think this message got through, even in the translation from English to Thai and back!

Here is a link to online training about HUG Strategies and to another HUG Strategy story not to miss!

"Gaze, then Engage" HUG Strategy

When professionals are first learning about The HUG, it is sometimes difficult for them to imagine how to integrate the HUG Strategies and other resources into their practice. Nurses, doctors and doulas tell me they already have too much to accomplish in too little time! I certainly can appreciate this feeling of being pressed for time; however, as new learners become more comfortable with The HUG Strategies, they may find (as I have) that opportunities frequently arise for applying The HUG in the natural course of a work day. Here is just such a serendipitous HUG moment:

Claire, the medical student spending time at the pediatrics practice where I work, asked me to show her how to swaddle an infant. We practiced on a stuffed animal and talked about effective strategies for supporting an overstimulated infant and the safest way to swaddle: allowing the baby's hips to flex and avoiding overheating. We had just finished this short teaching session, and were walking down the hall, when we saw two-week-old Jason being checked in for a visit, along with his mom and grandmother.

I noticed that Jason was none too happy about being weighed. I “gazed” at mom, whose wrinkled brow and anxious face signaled that she was equally uncomfortable with her new baby lying there, uncovered and fussing. Grandmother wondered aloud how long the staff was going to leave poor Jason exposed in the cool room. The stress on both mother’s and grandmother’s faces told me that now was a good time to implement the “Gaze, then Engage” HUG Strategy. I “engaged” with mom by acknowledging that it is always upsetting to see a baby fuss a few minutes. I then asked her permission to demonstrate swaddling her baby for Claire. Mom agreed, and was eager for me to show her as well. 

As the nurse lifted Jason off the scale and placed him on the measuring table, he showed us an SOS (Sign of Over-Stimulation) from being awakened, undressed, and now a little cold. Mom and grandma watched intently as I "broadcasted" his pale color, furrowed brow and jerky movements, and then "commentated" that these SOSs are one way babies communicate with us, even without crying. I swaddled Jason's upper body in two easy tucks of the blanket and explained the importance of leaving the blanket loosely wrapped around his hips and legs. In the wink of an eye I was able to “broadcast” that Jason was now still; his cheeks were pink; his eyes were wide, and he looked right at my face. 

Everyone smiled in a shared "Ah Hah" moment.  I “commentated” about the changes we all just saw by explaining that some babies need help controlling their motor activity before they can calm down. With a little help, Jason had just moved from the Rebooting Zone to the Ready Zone -- ready to play, ready to eat, or ready to have his check-up. Mom said, "I can’t wait to share this with my husband. I had a C-section, so Jason's dad has been doing most of his care." The experienced nurse looking over my shoulder joined in, "Thanks! I never knew how to do that!"

By applying the strategy of Gaze, Then Engage, in just a couple of minutes, one baby, two family members, and two professionals got The HUG. And Jason, his mom and grandma were all off to the exam room, right on time, for his check-up.