New Zealand: Presenting at the NZ Lactation Conference

Thanks to a change in travel plans, I was able to attend the New Zealand Lactation Consultants (NZLC) annual conference in Auckland in February and was added to a distinguished group of international presenters including (L-R) Thomas Hale, Alison Baum, Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Jennifer Tow and Alison Hazelbaker. 

An energetic and experienced group of nurses, midwives and lactation consultants joined me for an all-day HUG Your Baby workshop. They were especially interested in The HUG’s “Zone” and “SOS” approach to helping parents read their baby’s body language and to settling techniques for both the newborn and the older child. Eleven professionals from New Zealand registered to complete the Certified HUG Teacher program! We have lots to learn from and share with our Kiwi colleagues!

Barb Glare, whose Breastfeeding Conferences organization produced this event, assembled an outstanding panel of speakers. Dr. Thomas Hale, pharmacologist, researcher and author of Medications and Mother’s Milk, made two presentations. What a joy to hear him explain both the process of evaluating the safety of drugs used during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and his conclusions about the effectiveness (or not) of the most commonly used medications. We were reminded that the molecular size of the drug, redistribution potential, and means of excretion all contribute to a thumbs-up or thumbs-down conclusion about safety. He also acknowledged the humbling reality that much is still unknown about the impact of meds on newborns, especially on the premature baby. Mothers are sometimes erroneously reassured about a med, while at other times are advised to stop breastfeeding (when that course of action is unnecessary). Dr. Hale concludes with the challenging statement, “It’s the lactation consultant’s job to better educate the doctors prescribing these medications.”

Alison Baum, CEO of UK's "Best Beginnings", is an engaging, passionate and tireless advocate for safe birth, effective breastfeeding, and compassionate parenting. As a former BBC employee, she is well positioned and skilled to bring us her exciting new DVDs: “From Bump to Breastfeeding” and “Small Wonders” as well as her “BabyBuddy App” soon to be released. The functionality of this app allows young mothers (and mothers-to-be) to create an avatar for themselves and their fetus and then their baby, and then, for example, to sign up for voice text reminders (from their avatar) to take their vitamins, make an appointment, keep a diary of their pregnancy or child’s growth and development, and/or take a weekly photo of “their bump,” which the app eventually converts into a video of their belly's growth. Short video clips and instructional messages will also be available, keyed to gestational age.

Alison wonders if HUG Your Baby’s language of “Zones” and “SOSs” and its video clips might enhance the app’s efforts to promote understanding of infant behavior and parent confidence. What do you think?

Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD (my favorite “Uppity Science Chick”) clarified new research on postpartum depression. Evidence increasingly indicates the key role of the inflammatory process in acute and chronic pain, stress, and depression. Clearly, a history of physical, sexual and/or birth trauma, or a history of depression, PTSD and/or anxiety increases the risk of antenatal and postpartum depression. And, though unresolved breastfeeding problems can also be a risk factor for depression, BREASTFEEDING IS PROTECTIVE OF MOTHER’S MOOD. Now we have research to counter the too-frequently-offered recommendation “to give up breastfeeding to help mother’s depression.” Mothers with postpartum depression DO need help, but giving up breastfeeding is a step in the WRONG direction. 

Jennifer Tow, IBCLC, is interested in taking a holistic approach to breastfeeding support. Her presentations focused on nutrition and "gut healing" and looked closely at the biochemistry of gut development and how one's birth and breastfeeding experiences impact this development.

Alison Hazelbaker, Ph.D., IBCLC, knows A LOT about tongue-tie. She has studied with and been mentored by leaders of our profession and has continued on a quest to help IBCLCs address the many breastfeeding challenges we face. Her NZLCA conference presentations reminded us that women in pain, or with babies who are not thriving, will almost always give up breastfeeding prematurely. Reasons for both can be complex and must be thoroughly assessed. 

Alison developed the “Hazelbaker Assessment Tool for Lingual Frenulum Function” that is used to assess both the appearance and function of the tongue. Her afternoon presentation highlighted how intrauterine positioning or delivery issues might result in asymmetrical or limited movement outside the womb, disrupting breastfeeding. She shared a number of short video clips demonstrating these (sometimes) subtle, but important findings and showing exercises that promote midline orientation and positioning. Since HUG Your Baby gives professionals skills to SEE and SHARE a newborn’s subtle “body and behavioral SOSs” (Signs of Over-Stimulation), it is exciting to add this level of careful observation to my toolkit! 

Needless to say, it was a delight to join this group of distinguished professionals in an effort the empower New Zealand's lactation consultants with new ideas, innovative resources, and practical tips for supporting breastfeeding families in their communities and in a country with such a strong commitment to doing the best for parents and children.