"Looking Back and Looking Forward"

The end of year is a great time to consider what steps should we take to move HUG Your Baby forward.  I thought you'd like to see this brief overview of the growth and development of The HUG!

Ten years ago I was working at SAS Health Care (Cary, NC) when HUG Your Baby was conceived. Early in the 2000s, HUG Your Baby was well received at several dozen nursing, doula, and lactation conferences; I authored four peer-reviewed articles; my husband, Jim, and I created an innovative, multicultural, and inclusive parent education video (now in its third edition), which grew into some of the first online courses for birth, lactation and parenting professionals. It is hard to believe that this HUG video has been purchased by more than 4,000 parents and professionals, and that over 2,000 professionals have completed HUG Your Baby online courses!

Several years ago—when I retired from UNC Family Medicine, and Jim retired from Carolina Friends School—leadership from the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute at UNC-CH, enthusiastic about HUG Your Baby, helped me plan a year of international teaching. During 2013-14 Jim and I took this program to fourteen countries, made 69 presentations, and translated HUG Your Baby materials into seven languages. Today, professionals from Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, the Dominican Republic, Korea, and Japan serve as HUG Your Baby country representatives. This spring, in Durham, I was pleased to offer the first HUG Your Baby Train-the-Trainer course to participants from four countries.

HUG Your Baby continues to expand its outreach. This past year I presented HUG Your Baby ideas and strategies at the national Lamaze, ICEA, DONA, CAPPA, NAPNAP and Healthy Start conferences, as well as at the VA and NC state lactation conferences, and at the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute. Though we returned this year to teach in six cities in Australia and New Zealand, financial constraints required that I turn down invitations to speak at, or submit an abstract to, a number of other national conferences (e.g., WIC, American Nurses Association, Infant Mental Health Association, National Perinatal Association) and several international conferences, including the Midwives International Congress, the Food Security Network, and the Malaysian Breastfeeding Association.

Exciting outreach to national breastfeeding specialists is underway. New Mexico WIC has just registered 250 lactation peer counselors into the "Roadmap to Breastfeeding Success". We hope to research the impact of this teaching on experienced professionals. 

Along with my national and international educational outreach, I am also bringing more attention to local needs. The North Carolina Women’s Hospital, which delivers 4,000 babies a year in Chapel Hill, will include the HUG video on its newborn channel as soon as all its postpartum nurses, childbirth educators and lactation consultants complete the HUG online course. This fall I began offering a home-based lactation consultant practice, in collaboration with Durham Women’s Clinic, as I seek to address an appalling lack of lactation support for parents discharged from Durham hospitals.

HUG Your Baby is also strengthening its evidence base through research ongoing at several Tokyo universities, as well as at a half-dozen sites in the US. A multi-site study of a HUG Your Baby nursing school module is underway at UNC-CH, Duke, and Johns Hopkins. UNC-CH Family Medicine Center is researching the impact of including HUG Your Baby in its family physician residency training.

The presentations I give at conferences are thankfully well-received; however, organizations who plan these conferences increasingly have little or no budget for providing honoraria, travel expenses, or complementary exhibit tables for their speakers. Especially surprising is the fact that some large, well-funded organizations  have expressed interest in HUG Your Baby training and resources but ask to distribute them, without compensation to us, under their organization’s name.  

Every bit of income generated by HUG Your Baby, LLC, goes into creating new educational materials and projects (including designing the HUG app and reaching out to WIC programs, USA nursing schools, and hospitals). Jim and I have grown this business ourselves, paying along the way for a few hours’ help, here and there, from graphic design, media, clerical, and IT professionals.

So one "strategic plan" for this year is to seek some funding for HUG Your Baby to cover travel expenses to pertinent conferences, to hire a part-time person (or persons) to help with outreach and marketing, and to develop the HUG app. Please let us know if you have an idea of someone who might want to partner with HUG Your Baby! Can't wait to see what 2017 will bring our way!