Australia: Kangaroos and HUG Enthusiasts

Hello, Mate! And, lots of new "mates" are coming our way!

With decades of experience in the world of birth and lactation, Barb Glare (of BreastfeedingConferences) has organized 3 HUG Your Baby all-day trainings in Australia. Hobart, with a smaller community to draw from, surprised me with a room full of 30 experienced, dedicated professionals. I knew that focusing on how to extend breastfeeding duration was on the mind of these folks. And, though I've given this workshops dozens of times, I couldn't help but spend days incorporating what I learned at ILCA (International Lactation Consultants Association conference) in Melbourne, shortly after we arrived in Australia.

I am always impressed that what goes in the ears--and moves through the brain--sometimes has trouble coming out the mouth! HUG participants will nod their head in understanding the Newborn "Zones" and "SOSs" (Signs of Over-Stimulation), yet they (understandably) struggle as they try to explain these ideas in a role play. So, the room lights up with laughter, drama and downright silliness (which I love), as these seasoned birth and parenting professionals act out a distressed mother ready to give up breastfeeding "because my baby doesn't seem to like me." Some play the role of a father convinced that "all a baby does is eat, poop and sleep. There's not much for ME to do."

The response to this last comment was enhanced by the input of our newest HUG teacher, my husband, Jim Henderson. Jim has been reviewing the literature on fathers' roles. He was keen to comment on the fact that many fathers have a lot of experience being coached (as an athlete or musician or woodworker) and therefore have considerable potential to become a dynamic coach for their partner, a new mom. "But guys need SPECIFIC skills," Jim begins, "not just a warm and fuzzy 'you're doing great, honey!' Let's teach a dad how to see what a good latch looks like. Lets make him an expert in noticing early SOSs.  Let's show him how to comfort a baby and, most importantly, let's demonstrate for him how ready a little baby is to interact with his father!" I was inspired by this man--as I have been for 35 years!

I especially enjoyed spending time in Hobart with Georgia Hodges, who is in the process of becoming the first Certified HUG Teacher in Hobart. She was MY teacher as we problem- solved together about how to find the right balance between distinguishing early feeding cues of the newborn (wiggling, smacking of lips, and vocalizing) from similar, but later, signs of active sleep (once breastfeeding is well established). Mothers suffer if a well-fed, thriving baby (2-4 weeks old) is put to the breast every time he wiggles into active sleep. And, certainly a newborn suffers in the first weeks of life if those early feeding cues aren't addressed with skin-to-skin contact, an effective latch, and a growing sense of confident breastfeeding in the mother.

I enjoy tossing my kush ball around our circle at the end of the day, giving those who catch (or miss) the ball a chance to act out how to calm a fussy baby, to demonstrate "Spacing Out," to remember the three newborn "Zones," and to remind the group how to get a baby to the "Ready Zone" in order to interact with his new and eager parents.

We close the all-day workshop by noting what was most important to each participant today--and how she will work these tips, tools and techniques into her work next week. I am not surprised to hear that the HUG Strategy, "Broadcasting" a baby's behavior, is most frequently appreciated. (I will explain "Broadcasting" further in a future blog.) I LOVE hearing this because I am convinced that "Broadcasting" a baby's behavior will: 1) enhance a professional's ability to actually SEE more of the baby's behavior; 2) endear the parent (who appreciates, more than anything, someone taking an authentic interest in their offspring) to the professional; and 3) immerse the professional in the utter joy of being in this intimate moment with a new family.

From this somewhat magical place, parents are empowered to be the good mums and dads they long to be!