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."