Breastfeeding Interventions: Miriam Labbok, MD, MPH, FACPM, FABM, IBCLC

By Christine Staricka, BS, IBCLC, CCE, ILCA Medialert Team

Screenshot 2015-01-22 09.55.20One of the amazing things about attending a live conference with lactation professionals is hearing the history of our profession from the people who have made it happen.  Dr. Miriam Labbok, MD, MPH, FACPM, FABM, IBCLC has significantly advanced the field of lactation over her career, and her presentation at the 2014 ILCA Conference, Breastfeeding Interventions: What We Know and Do Not Know, reflects her deep knowledge of our field.

This presentation has now been made available as a study module through the International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®)’s CERPs on Demand portal and is worth 1 L-CERP and 1 contact hour.

Dr. Labbok’s presentation is an excellent primer on how to critically read research and includes plenty of examples to drive home the concepts.  She shares that her personal interest and pathway into research came from learning that, “clinical medicine turned out to be less about patient support and more about rote prescription of medicines, and [I] turned to public health to allow me to think outside the box.”

In the presentation, she also shares insights into why certain questions about breastfeeding have been studied and from where the motivation and funding arise for these studies.  She discusses the classic question for lactation professionals reading research, “What is the definition of breastfeeding?”  She leads the audience through a consideration of the challenges of ethics in research, provides a helpful how-to on setting up a study, ponders the problems with data mining, and ends with an inspiring call to action for new research.

In a written interview after the conference, Dr. Labbok shared her thoughts on the most pressing needs for research:

CS: Hearing historical perspectives on issues around breastfeeding (such as the history discussed in this presentation surrounding the definition of breastfeeding) is so influential for newer IBCLCs [International Board Certified Lactation Consultants®] like me; in fact, it is a huge motivator to invest in attending conferences such as ILCA.  How can the next generation hold on to these stories in a meaningful way?

ML: Honestly, this is a question that might better be answered by someone in the next generation! I would suggest that the next generation be encouraged to keep an open mind to what came before. Today, much of this is available on the web, IF you know what to look for. Actively asking for history is also good; trying not to take things at surface value, but asking “How did that come about? How was that decision reached?”  Again, I think you would have a better answer to this than I.

CS: Did you ever face a choice between spending your professional time and energy on clinical work vs. focusing more on research? How did you choose?

ML: My own decision to do research on breastfeeding was actually quite circuitous. My interest began before I even finished medical school and public health school, as Dr. Cicely Williams was my adviser.  At the time, unfortunately, I thought of her as being old and out of touch (she was in her 70s, and I, in my 20s), just as many of my students today find me.

As time has passed, I have realized that her approach, which was always to ask for dialogue and to liberally share anecdotes, still serves me today when I try to illustrate a point or challenge folks to try original thinking.  I found that clinical medicine turned out to be less about patient support and more about rote prescription of medicines, and I turned to public health to allow me to think outside the box.  In public health, the entire population is your patient!

CS: What research would you love to see in the next 5 years?  What research do you think would be most useful for helping today’s mothers?

ML: At least 5 areas of research are needed immediately to support today’s new mothers:

  • Safe, long-acting contraception for use during breastfeeding that does not have any negative impact on breastfeeding.
  • Value of breastfeeding in economic terms including the costs of alternatives, excess DALYs, and hospital/medical costs. These could be used to help sway policy towards paid maternity leave.
  • Cost to the environment of formula feeding, including the carbon footprint of the dairy industry, wasted plastics, excess pharmaceutical use, trucking, etc.
  • Differential impact on women’s and children’s health of expressed milk feeding vs direct breastfeeding.
  • Identification and reduction of remaining barriers to breastfeeding success, including continuity of care, prenatal prophylactic education, etc.

As a leader in policy research, Dr. Labbok’s presentation is highly enlightening and inspiring. It will certainly be viewed as a seminal conversation between the newest and the most experienced IBCLCs — a way to forge strong connections between what has been done and what is to come in the future.

CERPs on Demand from ILCA conferences are a great way to catch conference presentations that you missed while earning CERPs. You can access CERPs on Demand at the times that work best for you!

ILCA Members receive a 50% discount on all CERPs on Demand.

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Dr. Miriam Labbok, MD, MPH, FACPM, FABM, IBCLC, is currently a professor at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. She also serves as the Director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute, which offers a comprehensive program of research, service to the greater community, and education related to breastfeeding and optimal reproductive health.


Christine2Christine Staricka, BS is a hospital-based IBCLC. Christine is the co-owner of California Advanced Lactation Institute, which provides lactation education to professionals and expectant parents. She has contributed to USLCA’s eNews as well as this blog. She enjoys tweeting breastfeeding information as @IBCLCinCA and maintains a blog by the same name. She is a wife and mother of 3 lovely and intelligent daughters and aunt to 4 nephews and 2 nieces, all of who have been or are still breastfeeding.


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Join the ILCA Social Medialert Team: Marketing IBCLCs and Empowering Families!

ILCALogo_full_text (2)Elevate your social media know-how while spreading evidence-based information about breastfeeding and the role the IBCLC® plays in supporting families!

Are you a breastfeeding advocate who uses social media to spread positive messages about breastfeeding and parenting?

Are you looking to increase your social media skills?

Would you like to support your profession with a growing social media presence?

The International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA®) is seeking applicants for a one year volunteer position as an Online Community Manager (OCM).

As an ILCA OCM, you will:

  • Receive social media training (including the basics and masterclasses to take your skills to the next level) in the comfort of your own home, led by a social media expert.
  • Learn the cutting edge tools and strategies that will help you spread your breastfeeding know- how, build your online credibility, enhance online relationships and mobilize people, and deepen your skills as a strategic community builder.
  • Learn to use social media strategically to spread messages about breastfeeding, parenting, and the IBCLC profession.
  • Work on a team with others that love social media and breastfeeding as much as you do!

Preferred applicants should:

  • Be a current member of ILCA.
  • Be intrigued by social media.
  • Be familiar with and regularly use at least one social media platform (like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, blogging).
  • Love people!
  • Enjoy working in teams, interacting with a diverse online community and being respectful even when there’s controversy.
  • Have been known to “talk breastmilk” at a dinner party . . . and are familiar with current topics in breastfeeding, parenting, and the IBCLC profession.
  • Have time to learn and engage. The online training takes about 12 hours and will be conducted via interactive online platforms.
  • Have time to volunteer. Each OCM is expected to volunteer 2-3 hours per week on an ILCA social media platform, with our startup time (March/April) and 3 other times per year being even more intensive.
  • Make a commitment. Because of this significant free training opportunity, ILCA asks each volunteer to commit to being an ILCA Online Community Manager for a one year term.

If you are interested, please complete the application here. We look forward to learning more about you!

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2015 ILCA Conference: TOP FIVE Reasons to Attend

Are you planning to attend this year’s International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) Conference in Washington, DC, USA 22-25 July 2015? We hope so! We’ve been hard at work planning for an exciting and informative time together as we celebrate Leadership in Lactation: 30 Years and Moving Forward.


Why Attend? Here’s 5 Reasons…


Learn new clinical techniques, absorb fresh methods of communicating, and come prepared to challenge old ways of thinking. Our 2015 slate of speakers includes top thinkers and innovators from around the world. The families we serve deserve the latest in evidence-based care. You’ll find it all here!


Reconnect with and learn from your peers, be inspired by those who have built our profession and glean new insights from emerging leaders in the field.


We are committed to changing the world! Coming together helps us develop a unified voice in the international community. Together, we can promote IBCLC care worldwide.


Our Clinical Skills Rotations have become one of our most popular conference events and we hope that you will take advantage of the opportunity to participate!

These sessions always sell out quickly. Be one of the first to register so you don’t miss out!


No one has ever said that IBCLCs were boring! 30 years ago, our profession began and we’re looking forward to having one giant birthday party together! Help us blow out the candles and celebrate the incredible impact of IBCLCs in our communities!


Don’t forget to check out our brand new conference website. You can also download a printable brochure.

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SAVE THE DATE: ILCA is Proud to Celebrate IBCLC Day on 4 March 2015

IBCLCDayLogoWe are just over one month away from this year’s IBCLC® Day Celebration! Once again, the International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) is proud to partner with you in singing the praises of all the ways IBCLCs impact their communities.

Get connected to the IBCLC Day celebrations! We’ve planned a number of ways to celebrate so make sure you join us on our IBCLC Day Facebook Event Page by clicking here to stay up-to-date.

Get Your IBCLC Day Gear. Want to show the world exactly what IBCLCs do? Check out our IBCLC Day Pop-up Store for t-shirts, mugs, office supplies, and even mobile phone cases with our IBCLC Day slogan. Items are available in English and Spanish, with additional languages coming soon! Order NOW to assure that all of your items arrive by 4 March 2015.

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Looking for items in YOUR language? We’d love to help to provide them. Send your translation of our slogan to

Help us share your inspiration with the world. On IBCLC Day, we want to share with others the wisdom and inspiration we know that you share with families every single day. As we create visuals and other content to share online for #happyIBCLCday, we need you! We want to hear the wisdom you share with families. We’re especially looking for the inspiration you share when you know a family needs your most heartfelt support – in sound bite form that is easy to share online. We’ll share some of your brilliance on IBCLC Day! Feel free to leave your phrases, top tips, and inspiration in the comments, or email us at

Get ready to share! We’ll have Facebook cover images, profile images, and visuals for you to share on IBCLC Day. Follow along on our Facebook event page or grab your downloads at the ILCA website here.

Don’t forget to share your inspiration and top tips for families in the comments below! #happyIBCLCday!

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Lactation Support for Pediatric Trainees: Q & A with the Authors

Pediatric TraineesDrs. Avika Dixit, MBBS, MPH and Lori Feldman-Winter, MD, MPH recently published an article (with co-author Dr. Kinga A. Szucs, MD, IBCLC) in the
Journal of Human Lactation (JHL) titled, “Frustrated,” “Depressed,” and “Devastated” Pediatric Trainees: US Academic Medical Centers Fail to Provide Adequate Workplace Breastfeeding Support, a study of pediatricians who parent during their medical training and the substantial obstacles they face in achieving their own breastfeeding goals.  

Drs. Dixit and Feldman-Winter were interviewed by Marie Hemming, IBCLC, a member of the International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) Medialert Team.

MH: What led you to investigate the issue of breastfeeding support at United States academic medical centers?

LFW & AD: There is an increased focus on improving work and life balance during medical training. We have seen that more pediatric residents are having children during residency and wondered what their breastfeeding experiences have been, given the rigors of residency, and the presumption that they may have difficulty.

We wondered how trainees balance the needs of their baby, specifically breastfeeding, with the demands of their profession and how this experience affects their practice. This led us to explore this issue more.

MH: What was the most surprising finding from the research?

LFW & AD: We were surprised to see just how strong the emotions related to barriers and challenges of breastfeeding [were]. It was really disheartening to see how passionate and negative these emotions were, upon not meeting their breastfeeding goals, as well as the finding that many agreed that this affected their interactions with their own patients.

AD: There is an obvious disconnect between what the profession preaches as an optimal health behavior, exclusive breastfeeding, and what the training institutions do in terms of supporting this choice. The word cloud here was striking; the bigger the word the more often it appeared in the responses. Words like disappointed, sad, guilty and frustrated [were] prominent.Words for Pediatric Trainees

MH: Pediatricians are at the forefront of supporting the mother-baby dyad during breastfeeding. What changes do you think can be made to improve the ability of pediatricians to provide effective support?

LFW: Graduate medical education (GME) programs, especially in pediatrics, need to be more proactive in making sure their trainees who have children during training are supported to meet their breastfeeding goals. This could mean longer leaves, more options for flexible schedules upon return, more apparent places and facilities to express milk, or onsite child care to facilitate breastfeeding during the workday. Successful trainees will be the best spokespersons for their colleagues seeking ways to support breastfeeding mothers.

AD: I agree with Dr. Winter. Pediatric training programs can lead the way for other GME programs in developing support for breastfeeding trainees with changes such as longer parental leaves, flexible schedules upon returning, easily accessible and good quality facilities for breastfeeding mothers at the workplace, etc.

MH: Were you able to look at the correlation between the breastfeeding support provided for pediatric trainees and the Baby-Friendly hospital designation of the facility where they were trained?

LFW & AD: We did not look at this, as we did not have these data, but, at the time of the study, there were very few academic medical centers designated [as Baby-Friendly hospitals]. Over the past few years, the number of Baby-Friendly hospitals that train pediatric residents has increased dramatically, with multiple national initiatives helping hospitals achieve designation, so a follow up study looking at this factor would be interesting.

MH: Working and breastfeeding is a well-documented challenge, and yet, economic pressures and inadequate leave policies leave many families with wage-earning breastfeeding parents. Pediatric training programs can lead the way in resolving this conundrum, beginning with their own family leave policies. What role can healthcare practitioners play in resolving this critical issue affecting the health of our society?

LFW: It is vital for health care organizations as well as private practices to model optimal leave policies, including paid leave and flexible options for return to work. There should be national policies that incentivize these accommodations.

AD: There is increasing impetus nationally to revise parental leave policies. Healthcare practitioners can be advocates both at their workplace and by supporting changes in national leave policies. At the workplace, not only can they support patients and co-workers, but [they] can advocate for leave policies and improvement of facilities; while, at the national level, healthcare practitioners can write to their representatives about changing leave policies.

avikaDr. Avika Dixit, MBBS, MPH, is a third year pediatric resident at Indiana University School of Medicine. She is the AAP Section on Medical Students, Residents, and Fellowship Trainees (SOMSRFT) liaison to the Section on Breastfeeding (SOBr). 



feldman-winterLori Feldman-Winter, MD, MPH, is Division Head of Adolescent Medicine at The Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper and Professor of Pediatrics at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, NJ. Dr. Feldman-Winter is recognized nationally and internationally for her work related to breastfeeding education programs and nutrition policy. She is the chair of the Policy Committee for the AAP Section on Breastfeeding, member of the AAP Task Force on SIDS, AAP representative to the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), and National Faculty Chair for the National Initiatives for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) Best Fed Beginnings Project. Most recently, she is consultant to the Kellogg funded CHAMPS Project Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternity Practices, and the NJHA Mother-Baby Hospital Initiative.

Marie ipad photoMarie Hemming, IBCLC is the mom of three breastfed children (now 21, 17, and 16 years of age). She developed and taught a 20-hour breastfeeding class at the Florida School of Traditional Midwifery. She is currently volunteering as an IBCLC and lay community counselor at Birthline of San Diego, serving families living in poverty.

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JHL Introduces: Dr. Nathan Nickel, MPH, PhD, Associate Editor

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by Aire Jae Etheridge

Journal of Human Lactation (JHL) would like to congratulate Nathan Nickel, MPH, PhD on his new role as Associate Editor of the journal. Dr. Nickel now shares this position with Donna Chapman, PhD, RD.

Dr. NickelBefore taking on this new role, he worked on JHL’s Editorial Review Board, which required active participation in the peer-review process, reviewing articles for scientific content and identifying emerging contributions in the field of human lactation.

Dr. Nickel received his undergraduate degree from Southern Adventist University, his Masters of Public Health in Community Health Sciences from the University of California, Los Angeles, and his doctorate in Maternal and Child Health Policy from the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill. He is currently a Research Scientist at the Manitoba Center for Health Policy, where he worked closely with Dr. Patricia Martens. In fact, Dr. Martens was his postdoc adviser on research examining child health inequities in Manitoba. They also worked together on a study looking at the healthcare costs associated with smoking in Manitoba. Dr. Nickel teaches a course on statistical methods for doctoral students and biostatistics for medical students. When he is not teaching, he finds time to conduct independent breastfeeding research.

One little known fact about Dr. Nickel is that he that he began his career as a pastor and chaplain. He says his biggest challenge was shifting his mentality from comforting others during challenging times to developing approaches to address public health-related issues.
When asked how he began his career in Public Health, Dr. Nickel shared this interesting story.

“In 2001, I was teaching English to high school students in a small rural town in northern Mongolia, Sant Suum, with a population of around 1,200. The town had been hit hard during the transition to a market economy in the early 1990s. About one-third of families living in Sant faced food insecurity. While I was there, I connected with a Mongolian non-governmental organization working in the area, Mongolian Outreach Services.

I partnered with them to develop a microeconomic agriculture project focused on reducing food insecurity among these families using a multipronged approach. At the end of the first year, families had increased food diversity and security. Doing this project, I learned about the importance of conducting community-based needs assessments and designing projects with an eye towards sustainability after the funding has ended.

This experience was the most important, because it was my first exposure to health interventions focused on improving family nutrition. I learned a lot doing this project, but I also realized that I had a lot more to learn. It was during this project that I decided to pursue graduate training in public health; I wanted to become more effective at improving population and public health and realized that I needed a broader skill set to accomplish this. My work as a health policy research scientist is really an extension of the lessons I learned while engaged in this project: sustainable strategies that improve public and population health.”

While reflecting on his time at UNC, Dr. Nickel appreciates the rigorous work conducted with Dr. Miriam Labbok, MD, MPH, FACPM, FABM, IBCLC and Emily Taylor, MPH, CD (DONA), LCCE. It was during this time that he learned the importance of thoroughly explaining study design strategies and properly conducting various study design methods. It was also during this time that he developed a passion for helping other researchers conduct good science and motivate them to implement new approaches.

JHL is delighted to have Dr. Nickel on board as Associate Editor.


Aira Jae Etheridge is a student at Boston University School of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health, MPH Candidate, a JHL student intern, and CHAMPS Regional Coordinator for The Breastfeeding Center at Boston Medical Center.


Please join Lactation Matters in welcoming Dr. Nickel by leaving him a welcome note in the comments!

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In Remembrance: Patricia Martens, IBCLC, PhD, FILCA, CM

Pat Martens oct 2007 high resThe International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®), along with the lactation profession as a whole, grieves the recent passing of Patricia Martens. Pat has been instrumental in the advancement of our field and her contributions will be missed.

We reached out to Dr. Anne Merewood, the editor for the Journal of Human Lactation (JHL) to share some stories and memories of her relationship with Pat. She shared:

There are several stories that stick in my mind about Pat that go beyond the research and teaching at which she so excelled. Pat and her husband had a farm (as well as an airplane), and some of her animal stories were her funniest. She told one about a sheep that had fallen over, and could not get up. The sheep was lying in her barn and no matter what she and Gary did, it was lethargic and refused to move. They fed it and cared for it as it was lying there declining, and they were sure it wouldn’t make it. They asked a local farmer who obviously had more experience than they did, what to do. The man looked at them as if they were mad and said, “Just stand up the sheep.” Those who knew Pat can imagine her description of this activity. Sure enough, Pat and Gary lifted up the sheep, stood it on its four feet, and off it ran.

She also loved to tell a story about a cow that had bloat and gas problems on Christmas, and a local farmer (there were a lot of them about, apparently) told them to feed it a bottle of soapy water. So there was Pat on a freezing cold Canadian winter Christmas Day, pumping a bottle of soapy water into the cow. The cow did an enormous burp and all its problems vanished.

Pat had ways of telling these simple funny stories and laughing along with you that were quite unique. She permeated all her research talks with humor. One can just imagine, as she told it, all her statistics students sitting in their exams, furtively waving their arms about and putting their fingers to their noses to remember the action-packed mnemonics that helped everyone to recall the complex statistical concepts she was so good at teaching. She combined humor, common sense, and research acumen to prove that you can lead an outstanding academic center without being aloof or pretentious. It was Pat who persuaded me to apply for the position of JHL editor. While I received plenty of wise counseling from many people during that application process and in the position ever since, it was Pat who looked at me with a big smile and said, “But of course you should do it.” She was always at the end of the phone with pragmatic, down to earth, straightforward advice.

When Pat first told me about her cancer, we knew it was bad news. “Now if I had to choose, this would NOT be my choice of a cancer to get…hoping I’m a friendly outlier. It’s weird to be sitting here working, feeling pretty good and looking just like I always do (except slimmer), and knowing that it is a flip of the coin if I survive the next 9 months.  But my emotional/spiritual state of mind is just fine, so don’t worry about me.  I’m a do-er, not a worrier, and I approach this as a very interesting scientific research project on the qualitative experience of cancer.” Pat lived 22 months after this email. She also said, “I couldn’t ask for a better more loving environment of support at work, home, and around the world.”

Good people should live longer. It will be hard to manage without Pat.

Barbara Wilson-Clay also offered the following remembrance:

We lectured together at several conferences, and got to know one another over dinners. Pat was one of the most talented teachers I’ve ever observed. Her wit and humor brilliantly transformed subjects like interpreting statistics. I once saw her make a crowd of several hundred health care professionals act out the nursery rhyme “I’m a Little Tea Pot” to clarify a statistical concept. Pat was kind enough, on several occasions, to look at manuscripts I was working on to check whether my conclusions about the research were sound on the basis of the numbers cited. She contributed hugely to our profession, to mothers and babies, and I’m sure her students at the university were changed forever by her instruction. I’m heart sick to hear she has passed away. I would have loved to tell her how I valued her.

DSCN6526In 2013, at the ILCA Conference in Melbourne, Australia, it was announced that JHL would begin awarding the JHL Patricia Martens Annual Award for Excellence in Breastfeeding Research. As was only appropriate, the inaugural award was given to Pat herself for her incredible body of research in the lactation field. While accepting the award, Pat graciously said,

“Thank you to all of my ‘journey friends’. I call you ‘journey friends’ because you don’t come to success without the persons, the places, and the times being fortuitous in your lifetime. We want to make those persons, places, and times fortuitous for everyone so that we may allow success for everyone. This is not an individual award. It is an award because I have such a wonderful community around me of ILCA, La Leche League, and all of the people who are my ‘journey friends’.”

We are so grateful for Pat and what she gave to our field and those around here. We are honored to be her “journey friends”. You may read Pat’s obituary HERE.

How did Pat’s work impact your practice? Do you have memories to share or a reflection to offer? We would love to hear from those who were influenced by Pat, not only for her research and teaching, but also for the care she provided to breastfeeding families. Please comment below or on our Facebook Page. These comments would be treasured memories for all who cared for Pat.


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Reflections from the 2014 ILCA WABA Fellow, Geraldine Cahill

The International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) and the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) are pleased to once again jointly sponsor the exciting opportunity for a Fellowship to travel and work with WABA on outreach and advocacy projects at their headquarters in Penang, Malaysia. ILCA has designated this annual Fellowship as the Chris Mulford WABA ILCA Fellowship. Chris had been an ILCA member and helped to guide the birth and growth of the profession with a gentle spirit and wise leadership. Chris first joined WABA in 1996 at the first WABA Global Forum in Bangkok and became a long term volunteer for WABA. She worked mainly to support working women to breastfeed globally. She also paved the way for the first WABA‐ILCA Fellowship, in 2007. At Lactation Matters, we are proud to highlight this post, by Geraldine Cahill, a recent fellow, about her experiences in Malaysia with WABA.

For more information about applying to become a Fellow, please see this document. The deadline for applications is 16 February 2015. 

By Geraldine Cahill, IBCLC, BAced., Dip.ED (Antenatal)

I am the 2014 Chris Mulford WABA/ILCA Fellow. As a part of the fellowship, I recently traveled to Penang, Malaysia, and I would like to share about my time with the WABA staff. Hopefully, my experience might encourage some of you to consider this opportunity in the future.

I applied for the fellowship in September 2013 and was told that I had been chosen in November. I felt so honoured and worried whether I would actually be able to do justice to the work that I was going to be asked to do.

I set off for Malaysia at the very end of May, where I was met at at the airport and was taken to the wonderful apartment I would be staying in for the duration. This apartment was in the centre of the city at Penang Times Square. This new development is situated on the grounds of an old tin mine and smelting works. A McDonald’s occupies the building next door, which was the old colonial home of the owner and manager of the smelting works! My apartment would be shared, for part of the time, with Jerusalem Bereket, a young college intern from Jacksonville, Florida. The apartment had a swimming pool and it was glorious to come back from work most days and head to the pool to cool off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPenang is an interesting place with a mix of East and West; tall modern skyscrapers and yet, when you walk around, you are very aware of the Eastern culture with temples and places of worship all around. I visited the several temples during my time in Malaysia including the Cave Temples in Ipoh on the mainland and Kek Lok Si and the Snake Temple in Penang itself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are three distinct cultural groups in Penang: Malay, Chinese, and Indian and they all contribute to the atmosphere, both in their dress and food. Most people in Penang speak 3-4 languages: Malay, Hokkien, and Tamil as well as English. They may not be fluent in all of them but would have a good working knowledge and be able to communicate across a number of languages. The food in Penang is pretty spectacular! I did not visit even one “fancy” restaurant but rather, I ate street food all the time. Even so, the food was of the highest standard everywhere I went.

The work was also an interesting mix. WABA is primarily an advocacy group and is, of course, the organiser of World Breastfeeding Week. The preparations for this were in full swing when I visited, with scores of resources being prepared to send to the some of the 179 countries which were holding events this year. WABA provides resource materials particularly to the very poorest countries in the world and they are a central hub for breastfeeding resources through their Breastfeeding Gateway on their website. They also have an E-map that shows where mother support groups exist all around the world. They also have an amazing photographic resource that is available from all the WBW events and which can be accessed by ILCA members by emailing

In my time with WABA, I was able to work on fact sheets, help to monitor and update links on the Gateway site, did some preliminary work on a Toolkit/Checklist focusing on competencies in breastfeeding skills for healthcare workers and did some teaching for the local Mother support group by providing a 3-day workshop for their peer supporters. I generally helped out as needed in the office and also attended some Steering Committee meetings as an observer and and was able to present at the Health section of the WABA meeting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe six weeks I was in Penang was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had. I enjoyed every part of it and loved meeting new people and becoming more aware of the invaluable work that WABA does worldwide. I hope you consider applying for this opportunity of a lifetime.

photos courtesy of Geraldine Cahill

Posted in ILCA-WABA Fellows, WABA | 1 Comment

2015 IBCLC Care Award Applications Now Open

Copy of Journal of Human Lactation (3)Let potential clients know that your Hospital-Based Facility or Community-Based Agency recognizes the role of the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC®) in protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding by applying for the IBCLC Care Award.

The IBCLC Care Awards are promoted  to new families and the general public which means your facility can enjoy the benefits of positive public relations in your community, including:

  • Enhanced attractiveness to potential patients
  • Competitive edge in recruiting lactation consultants, nurses, midwives, mother support counselors and other medical staff
  • General good will in the community by providing excellent care in helping new families reach their breastfeeding goals

Visit the IBCLC Care Directory to see which Hospital-Based Facilities are already benefiting from the IBCLC Care Award program!

Hospital-Based Facilities and Community-Based Health Agencies that staff currently certified IBCLCs can apply online to become a recognized IBCLC Care Award facility. Learn more about the qualifications and complete the online application here.

Apply now! Applications will be accepted online starting today (Monday, 12 January 2015) through Friday, 20 February 2015.

The award was created by International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners® (IBLCE®) and International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®). Learn more and apply here.

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Creating a Local Task Force to Address Nursing in Public

By Robin Kaplan, M.Ed., IBCLC

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Editors Note: Robin Kaplan, M.Ed., IBCLC, is an IBCLC in private practice in California, USA. She has developed a program for supporting families who breastfeed in public. Robin shares the impetus for her work, some how-to tips for creating programs in your own community, and an opportunity to learn more in this week’s Lactation Matters:

I’ve never considered myself an activist. Sure, there are many things that I am passionate about, but usually I am the person offering quiet support to a cause, not standing with the megaphone. That all changed when I was contacted on my Facebook page by a mother who had been harassed in a local courthouse because she had been breastfeeding her baby. What transpired was something I never expected. It has turned into a community venture to stop nursing in public (NIP) harassment in San Diego, California, USA.

The mother who contacted me recounted the incident where a bailiff had thrown her out of a courtroom full of people simply because she had been breastfeeding. I was outraged! How could someone, especially a government employee, feel like it was okay to publicly humiliate this woman for breastfeeding her baby in a public place? I felt compelled to assist this mother in changing this situation and help her to regain some of the self-esteem that had been squashed in such a insulting manner. I consulted with Best for Babes, Breastfeed LA, and several other IBCLCs to formulate a plan on how to remedy this wrongdoing. Based on everyone’s experiences, we concluded that the most progress could be made by corresponding in a professional, non-threatening manner with the person who could actually implement positive changes. After countless emails, hours on the phone, and finally a meeting with the Commander of the Court Services Bureau, we arrived at an acceptable solution to the situation. The mother was written a letter of formal apology from the San Diego Police Department, the bailiff was under investigation and the entire staff of the San Diego Police Department was given an informal training on the rights of breastfeeding mothers and how to protect these rights at all times. We were pleased with the outcome of our efforts.

Next thing I knew, I was being contacted by other local families who had experienced harassment for nursing in public. It was like the flood gates had been opened! I thought San Diego was a fairly progressive and tolerant city, but apparently this wasn’t always the case. It was time to take my newfound advocacy to the next level.

NIPlogo_color BIG-2In April 2013, in collaboration with several local mothers, the San Diego Nursing in Public (SDNIP) Task Force was created. The goals of the SDNIP Task Force were:

  • To educate our local community about the California laws that protect a mother’s right to breastfeed in public.
  • To provide support and guidance to mothers who have faced harassment or discrimination for breastfeeding in public.
  • To provide resources that empower mothers, by educating them on their civil right to breastfeed in public and how to handle an NIP harassment incident.
  • To empower business owners, by providing resources that they can integrate into their employee handbooks and training materials so that they and their staff are compliant with the CA law.
At the Poway Nurse-In

At the Poway Nurse-In

Currently, our SDNIP Task Force webpage hosts a collection of resources to support the above goals. Since April 2013, the SDNIP Task Force has helped to resolve seven local nursing in public harassment incidents. Some were very public, such as the incidents at a local LA Fitness and with the Poway School District. Others were resolved quietly, at the request of the family involved.

Recently, it became apparent that by providing more online resources and guidance, the task of resolving these types of situations could become a more collaborative process between the SDNIP Task Force and the aggrieved families. In my experience, those who experience NIP harassment have difficulty figuring out where to begin or whom to contact to remedy their situations. By providing the most effective language to use in the most effective formats, any NIP Task Force can guide a family in the right direction. That way, they can take the power of resolving the situation into their own hands, while still having the confidence that the full force of the NIP Task Force would be behind them if any further action was needed.

We thought that the best way to accomplish these new goals and disseminate this updated information would be to host something like a town-hall meeting. So, on January 15, 2015, from 4-4:30pm PST, we will host our first SDNIP Task Force Town Hall Meeting on Google+ Hangout On Air. If you are unable to watch the Town Hall Meeting live, we will also place its recording on our website and YouTube channel the following day. During our Town Hall meeting we plan to explain the steps in which a mother can resolve a NIP harassment incident, enlist a group of core volunteers to assist with expanding the SDNIP Task Force resources, as well as provide information for others who wish to start a Nursing in Public Task Force in their own community. We hope you will join us. Hopefully joining our town hall meeting will inspire the nursing in public advocate deep inside of you!

How are you working to support breastfeeding families in your community?

RobinRobin Kaplan received training to be a Certified Lactation Educator and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant from UCSD. She holds a Masters in Education from UCLA, a multiple-subjects teacher credential from UCLA, and a BA in Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. In 2009, Robin started her own business, the San Diego Breastfeeding Center, where she offers in-home and in-office breastfeeding consultations, free weekly support groups, breastfeeding classes, and online support through her business blog.  In addition to her private practice, Robin was the founding co-editor of the International Lactation Consultant Association’s (ILCA) blog, Lactation Matters, and a regular contributor to ILCA’s E-Globe newsletter.  She also is the host/producer of The Boob Group online radio show.  Robin lives in her native San Diego, where she enjoys cooking, hiking, trying new trendy restaurants, and traveling with her family.

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