HUGs across Asia Pacific

As you can tell from reading HUG Blogs over the past five months, HUG Your Baby has been well received in Asia Pacific. I expected to find that parents everywhere care deeply for their baby and that those who serve these parents would want to provide up-to-date, family-friendly education and resources. But, it has been a delightful surprise that professionals from Guatemala to Sri Lanka, from Japan to Australia, and from Malaysia to Brunei are wanting a bigger, longer HUG!

HUG Your Baby's leadership (Jim Henderson [husband, editor, researcher and "Dad's Got the HUG"], Gale Touger and Barbara Hotelling [HUG Trainers]) has recently considered the growing interest and greater requests coming our way and discussed what steps forward make the most sense. We're concluding that creating a Roadmap to Breastfeeding Success online course, and then a Train-the-Trainer program, are reasonable next steps.

Presenting HUG Your Baby to over 1,500 professionals since July, I've gained insight into what HUG ideas are readily understood ("Zones" and "SOSs"), what concepts need tweaking (infant self-regulation), what baby care practices are controversial (swaddling and nighttime routines), and what additional information should be offered (a template for assessing a newborn's behavior).

In addition, I have spent time considering how best to teach the HUG ideas and what new materials to create. Because I teach best with stories and video, Jim and I discussed where we might videotape babies in this part of the world. We were delighted to have the opportunity to tape a number of babies in Malaysia. 

And, after inquires were sent and emails returned, Jim and I also arranged a return stay in Hobart, Tasmania, to work with the Royal Hobart Hospital's "Midwifery Group Practice" (MGP).

Kimmy Brooks, a friend and experienced MGP midwife, is our connection here, and she graciously spent some of her "annual leave" time gathering the support of MGP's leadership, the approval of the hospital, and the scheduling of interested pregnant patients due in November, when we were able to come back to town. In exchange I offered several complimentary HUG trainings to interested staff at The Royal and free DVDs to the parents whom we videotaped.

We've been in Tassie for three weeks now--initially staying in spectacular Woodbridge with Kimmy, her husband, Steve, and their beloved dog, Wombat--and later back at our "home away from home" ("Werndee") in North Hobart. These weeks were spent meeting young families and collecting video footage of a variety of newborn behaviors. Though I had an extensive list of behaviors I hoped to capture on film, babies are not very responsive to requests such as, "How about 'take two' on that behavior?" I've long since learned to go with whatever behaviors a baby chooses to present.

Every time I encounter a newborn I am impressed once again by how much each baby has to teach. As I review the six babies I taped in Hobart and the seven I saw in Malaysia, I realize that I have collected video of most of the behaviors I had hoped to see. Here are a few examples of the lessons these babies taught:

Baby A: This baby demonstrates her remarkable ability to transition form one Zone to another We see her using behaviors that make a smooth transition possible: She "Spaces Out," she moves into the fencing pose, and she brings her hand to her mouth. All these self-comforting measures help her regulate her Zones. As I experience Baby A, and watch her on video, she seems predictable; I can tell where she is going. I can see (and explain) why this young mother experiences her baby as easy to care for.

Baby B: This baby's first-time parents are worried about their baby's sleepiness. Though the baby's weight gain is perfect, the father can't believe "I need to spend so much time trying to wake up my sleepy baby." Identifying for and with the parents this baby's active and deep sleep cycles, and discussing the value of active sleep for brain development, proves helpful to them.

Baby C: These dedicated first-time parents are challenged by a baby who is "hard to settle." I observe that this baby moves randomly and unpredictably between Zones, demonstrates few self-soothing behaviors, and struggles with efforts to orient (to look at a toy, or my face). Helping these parents see objectively the behaviors that are at this time challenging is helpful. In addition, hearing about each baby's unique development, and showing them techniques to help this baby with Zone regulation (such as swaddling before attempts to engage visually), is reassuring for these concerned parents.

Though I have completed initial editing of these videos in order to share them with the parents who volunteered their time, I expect to spend a number more hours watching, sorting, and watching again this precious example of the complexity of a baby's behavior, and the range of parents' experiences with a baby, as I continue to plan how best to convey the most important information to the widest range of interested professionals. This will be fun!

I'm looking forward to finding time for this project both before and after our time in Thailand--where we are going tomorrow for several weeks and a number of HUG Your Baby presentations in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.