Australia: Jan's Case of "Nerves" at ILCA 2013

I'm delighted to have been asked to speak at the 2013 International Lactation Consultant Conference this year in Melbourne, Australia.

Thursday I will present "Extending Breastfeeding Duration: Understanding 'Zones' and 'SOSs'" to a room full of lactation specialists. Today one young IBCLC spoke with me quite passionately at our HUG Your Baby exhibit table. She voiced her concerns about any calming behavior other than putting a baby skin to skin. The age of the baby and the working status of the mother seemed not to be variables in her thinking about actions that might support or detract from successful breastfeeding.

I confessed to Jim at "tea time" that this attitude on the part of an earnest IBCLC was both the reason I wanted to speak here and my fear about speaking here! Most IBCLCs' experiences are with newborns (and mostly in-hospital) nursing mothers. It has become one of my missions to help IBCLCs enable breastfeeding mothers, once breastfeeding is well established, to differentiate between those early feeding cues and later signs of active sleep. The strong, even somewhat hostile, responses I have sometimes received in the past have made such efforts challenging for me to undertake.

So, after a big breath, I made my 45-minute presentation to a room of 75 experienced IBCLCs. The most moving experience of the day was when the same (now, teary-eyed) IBCLC I had encountered earlier, now thanks me for the presentation and for giving her a broader understanding of what new mothers need.

Invigorated by the reception of my first presentation, I prepare more confidently for "Extending Breastfeeding Duration: Understand developmental events from birth to one year that impact breastfeeding."

Apparently, this subject and my prior presentation had caused enough of a stir that the partition was pulled to allow the room to fill with almost 200 eager participants. Now I AM the one that is passionate as I review evidence of why women abandon breastfeeding from birth to one year.  "We need systems that provide on-going lactation support, not just the excellent 'early latch' care currently available to most new moms (I mean, 'mums')."

I love ending with my favorite "lactation" story:

I visit a mother who complains of breastfeeding problems with her three-week-old.  I offer some needed breastfeeding tips and finish the encounter, as I always do, by demonstrating her baby's remarkable ability to follow a moving toy. Years later I randomly meet this woman again who reminds me of the help I gave her as a new mother. I ask, "Oh, what did you learn about breastfeeding that seemed to help?" She smiles and responds, "Oh, I didn't learn anything new about breastfeeding. But, when my baby followed that ball one way and then the other, I knew she was going to be ok!"

That is why breastfeeding support has to be broader than breast, nipples, and latch. We need a larger view of what women need to become confident, breastfeeding mothers who meet their breastfeeding goals.