Brunei: Perinatal Symposium Features HUG Your Baby

Brunei is a small Muslim country with a population of about half a million. (CLICK HERE to watch two-minute  of "Sights and Sounds of HUG Your Baby in Brunei".) With a total of 365 maternal-child nurses nationally, and a commitment to make all their hospitals Baby-Friendly, Brunei is now becoming HUG Your Baby proficient! During a busy five days in Brunei, I wrote a number of short Facebook posts, which (I hope) conveyed the flavor of my wonderful time here. This blog includes these posts, with a bit more information.

October 18, 2013 . . .  Jim and I just arrived in Brunei, where we were met by Dr. Elizabeth Chong (Brunei's only neonatologist [photo]) and her colleague, Maskaton Samsuddin, BSN (nurse manager [photo]), who graciously welcomed us to her home for several days. I will be presenting at their upcoming National Perinatal Conference, meeting nurses who work with mothers and babies, and role-playing some breastfeeding techniques with those promoting the Baby-Friendly movement here in Brunei. Today, as I often am in our travels, I'm deeply grateful to spend time with professionals who are dedicated to supporting new parents. 

October 20, 2013 . . . I am honored to join 300 professionals today as the keynote speaker at Brunei's 9th National Perinatal Symposium which received national press (photo). It is a joy (and a relief!) that both of my HUG presentations are well received. One amazing thing about gatherings in a small country is that the decision makers and stakeholders can all be represented. So today the medical and nursing community of BRUNEI learned about HUG Your Baby. 

I am honored to be welcomed by (and to have lunch with) Dr. HJH Rahmah Hi, MD, Deputy Secretary of Health for the Ministry of Health, Brunei. She and I discussed their national health initiatives (decrease obesity with exercise, and make the kingdom “smoke-free”) as well as their commitment to breastfeeding support and to the WHO’s Baby-Friendly Initiative. The morning symposium was followed by an afternoon workshop to develop national Baby-Friendly SOPs (standard operating procedures). (Jim had risen to the occasional when some AV help was needed at the conference.) Tonight Dr. Roselina Yaakub took me and the hard working Dr. Chong and Maskuton to dinner to celebrate a successful conference. 

One of my favorite moments of this visit was my tour of Ripas Hospital's pediatric and post-partum wards and maternity suite. Of course, I felt mostly overwhelmed amid the tiny babies in Dr. Chong's NICU, where the care is gentle and modern. Though having only a 20% c-section rate at Ripas, Dr. Roselina, the OB/GYN faculty, described the recent childbirth education provided by an exquisite teacher, Debra Pascali-Bonaro (LINK). Hospital staff now want to provide a labor support workshop for the nurses as a step toward meeting their Baby-Friendly goals. 

Finally, we toured the postpartum ward, where I felt quite at home (photo). With a small cohort of nurses trailing behind, I was invited to go from baby to baby and "give a HUG"--my idea of a REALLY GOOD time! 

October 21, 2013 . . . Before our day was over we were asked to drop by and meet the hospital's CEO. Expecting a quick handshake, Jim and I were surprised to walk into the ample Board room and to join an extensive conversation with the hospital's CEO, medical director (an ER physician with a Harvard MBA), head nurses, and other hospital administrators and visionaries. "What do you think of our care here?" and "What can we do to improve our services?" I was asked. Fortunately, Dr. Roselina Yaakub and I had discussed many of these issues just the night before.

October 21, 2013 . . . Sometimes a teaching session comes together perfectly! And, this one did just that today, when I had a HUG Your Baby demonstration with nurses at Ripas Hospital and later at a community maternity center. We discussed the HUG concept of “Broadcasting” a baby’s behavior, a technique to help mothers feel “listened to” and thereby to become more open to what nurses have to teach.

A midwife volunteered to play a disgruntled patient, “fed up with being told, all the time, to breastfeed.” I loved how this role-play unfolded as we used HUG Strategies and techniques to connect with this “mother and her husband.” Then, a lovely REAL mother shared her one-week-old baby and recent breastfeeding struggles (photo). Her story reminded the nurses that babies born at 37 weeks may be medically stable but still need help to breastfeed. Massaging the baby’s tongue to enhance sucking, adjusting the breastfeeding position, helping the baby get to the “Ready Zone,” and watching for “SOSs – Signs of Over-Stimulation” made all the difference for this wonderful baby and attentive, young mother.

That evening, we joined the Ripas Symposium committee for a huge, celebratory Chinese dinner. Having a lot more fun than the tasty red snapper in the photo (!), we chatted about the enthusiasm generated by the Symposium, the hospital's efforts and dreams to create a family- and Baby-Friendly environment, the new hospital block for maternal-child care that is under construction, and the needs they currently have. Enjoying our "thank you" ice cream cake, we were happy to hear Dr. Roselina ask, "When are you coming back?  We need The HUG in all of Brunei!"