This Friday I’m off to California where my daughter & I will be doing a little mother daughter road trip (give me strength – she’s 14, what on earth was I thinking??). We’ll start in Santa Barbara (the same day as Prince William & Princess Kate my daughter informs me!) drive down to Los Angeles, and end in San Diego where I’ll be attending the International Consultant’s Association’s Annual Conference. This will be my first time attending the ILCA conference and I’m proud to say I’ll be attending as a speaker!
The idea for my talk, “From Johnny Appleseed to Woodstock: Going Baby Friendly In New England” originated from a series of road trips I made two years ago. At the time 100% of the hospitals in Sweden were “Baby Friendly” (i.e. breastfeeding friendly) while in the US it was less than 3%. That bothered me, but what bothered me even more was the knowledge that here in Massachusetts we had only one certified “Baby Friendly” hospital while rural Maine already had five, and even tiny Rhode Island had three! Being curious (I am after all the Curious Lactivist!) I wanted to know why Massachusetts was so far behind, so in 2009 I got in my car and drove to ten “Baby Friendly” hospitals in five different states where I asked two questions; “How did you become “Baby Friendly”? & “What are the challenges you face in remaining “Baby Friendly” today?
The answers were fascinating! Their stories ranged from the small hospital in Maine where the nurses simply said to each other, “You know those things that we didn’t like about our own birth experiences; let’s just not do that here.”, to the lactation consultant in Rhode Island who inspired an enthusiastic group of young nurses to follow in her footsteps, to the hospital in New Hampshire where one key person had so completely blocked efforts to become “Baby Friendly” the hospital had to withdraw from the certification process entirely, and yet today not only are they certified, they even keep a supply of donor milk on hand for any baby who needs to be supplemented for medical reasons!
In addition to speaking at the conference I’ll also be in the exhibit hall helping out Ron Daley the owner of “Supple Cups” at his booth. Ron and I live in the same town and when I found out he wouldn’t be able to attend I offered to help him out. If you haven’t heard of them “Supple Cups” came out about three years ago as a tool for aiding women with inverted or flat nipples. Unlike nipple shields that are used during feeding, “Supple Cups” are a small silicone cup (about the size of a thimble) that gently draws the nipple out. By wearing them before or during pregnancy they can aid in elongating the truly inverted (i.e. tethered) nipple. In the postnatal period “Supple Cups” can also be used to help draw out the nipple that has disappeared due to engorgement (especially during the colostrum period for engorgement caused by IV fluids!), in many cases making them a great alternative to the dreaded nipple shield. (Look for Julie Bouchet-Horowitz’s soon to be published study on “Supple Cups” in the journal “Clinical Lactation”.)
So if I can survive the road trip with my 14 year old it promises to be an exciting conference. I’m hoping to connect with as many familiar faces as possible, so if you’ll be at the conference please look for me in the exhibit hall (I’ll be in Booth 95, next to the folks at Mother Art), or come hear me speak on Sunday morning (and no I won’t be mad if you’ve already signed up to hear Miriam Labbok or Karen Gromada, who can blame you?). I’m looking forward to saying hi to folks and if you have any stories about either “Baby Friendly” or “Supple Cups” I would love to hear them!