Malaysia: HUG Your Baby Reaches New Lands

It was not easy to say goodbye to my old friend Elizabeth (who headed back to Princeton) and our new friend/teacher/driver, Ida, and to leave beautiful Bali. But Malaysia is our next stop and promises another set of memorable and moving experiences.

Though eating is not ALL we do in Malaysia, we can't help but start every conversation with a description of what we JUST ate! The multicultural heritage of Malaysia is evident the moment we step into the airport, at restaurants where Malay, Chinese and Indian food cohabit, and on the bus where we continue to hear the "One Malaysia" song celebrating what people of diverse
backgrounds share as a nation.

We love hearing the Muslim call to prayer as we drive past a colorful Hindu temple, a sparkling gold Buddha, or a subdued Catholic church. Each faith is awe-inspiring, but seeing them all practiced in harmony is all the more uplifting.

We learn to order dishes like dim sum, bak-kut-teh, or asam laksa; to dodge fast cars and motorbikes on well-paved roads; and to shake hands followed by a touch to the heart (Malay style). Today a toddler reaches out to grasp my hand, bringing it to his mouth for a kiss. Mother explains that this is how young children are taught to meet and greet. I loved this, of course!

I am finally able to meet Siti Norjinah Moin (photo), who has been my Skype buddy for 6 months. She founded the Malaysian Breastfeeding Association and has worked tirelessly for decades to make EVERY public hospital in Malaysia Baby-Friendly in 1998. She set up two HUG Your Baby trainings is Shah Alam (outside of Kuala Lumpur) and helped me confirm a keynote presentation at The 9th Perinatal Symposium in Brunei next week. Norjinah makes things happen!

The KPJ Hospital in Klang hosts HUG Your Baby's first Malaysian trainings. Well prepared for the 50 registered professionals, workshop event planners Danny, Belle and Janet move at lightning speed to set up extra chairs and print out more handouts and certificates for the crowd of 80 nurses, breastfeeding consultants and peer counselors, physicians and childbirth educators who arrive!

Feeling quite welcomed by hospital leadership (Dr. Sivamohan, Medical Director; Jaliah Mat Jani, Chief Nursing Officer; and Zaharah Osman, RN, General Manager) as well as by a local (pregnant) "Reality Show" celebrity, Betty Nanafe, I am surprised and delighted by the ceremonial "launching" of the workshop with the drop-down "release" of a HUG Your Baby banner and an explosion of festive confetti.  I am fired up and ready to roll!

I am usually struck by what is similar about most international HUG trainings: a desire to help parents better understand their babies and the surprise that HUG concepts are so relevant and easily explained to expectant and new parents. 

Because this training focuses closely on how HUG strategies and techniques support breastfeeding, I am especially delighted to have extended conversations with local lactation specialists. (CLICK HERE to watch a two-minute interview with them). Though excited by The HUG, they, like some other lactation professionals, worry that my teaching about infant sleep cycles might cause mothers to inadequately breastfeed their infants because of confusion about "early feeding cues" versus "active sleep." We share our varied points of view and promise to stay in touch as they think through how to give parents accurate information to meet the sleep needs of young mothers AND the nutritional needs of their babies.

Tomorrow we host a community-wide workshop and prepare to welcome expectant and new parents who want to give their baby a HUG! But first, we need to EAT AGAIN! ( Photo of event planners Janet, Danny and Belle who share with us the "FAMOUS" Klang dish, Bak Kut Teh ["Pork, ribs, tea"]).