By Mistel de Varona
It’s always good to be home after being away, but even better when I’m still glowing from a wonderful experience! USLCA’s inaugural conference “Gateway to Excellence” was excellent, but it did not feel like a novice was hosting it! The education, speakers, vendors, networking, and all the little details were top notch.
The education was multifaceted, varied in degree of interest and knowledge, as well as exciting and refreshing. Marsha Walker set the foundation for the conference with the first plenary “The State of Breastfeeding in the US: We’ve Come a Long Way with Miles to Go Before We Sleep”. These are notes I will revisit many times. I’ve already shared with my La Leche League group the plethora of information Marsha taught or reminded me of at the conference. To move forward, it is essential to know where we came from. I was surprised to learn it was just in 1999 that the federal law was passed to protect nursing mothers and babies breastfeeding on federal property!
If Dr. Thomas Hale is a lactation rockstar, than I am a groupie! Since I was first introduced to the lactation world, I have admired Dr. Hale’s work (and who wouldn’t!?). He is a phenomenal speaker and was so funny! He gave interesting insight into his Infant Risk program (that let you host your site at Hostgator.com) stating “I’ve been asked everything, and everyday I’m asked something new!” Dr. Hale shared his ongoing journey researching Domperidone and the complicated process to FDA approval. It is a gift to be informed by someone you admire and respect on a topic that is up and coming. It also feels cool to be part of a group that is getting information first hand from the researchers and being able to come home and share with your coworkers, mother-to-mother support group, and coalition partners!
In addition to the seven plenaries, there were workshops and concurrent sessions. I enjoyed Barbara Robertson’s “Infant Supplementation: Should We or Should We? And How Much?” Barbara approached this sensitive topic with skill and compassion. Diane Wiessinger had a very appealingly titled session “Everything Else About Breasts”. It was entertaining to learn about the history of breast culture and other variables that can impact breast health. A new favorite speaker of mine came from the no nonsense approach of Linda Smith. She spoke about “Lactation Consultant Time and Effectiveness”. This was a great review of what is necessary and what isn’t when a consultant is crunched for time with a mother and baby. She is a must see! Linda Smith is a featured speaker at the upcoming ILCA conference “Born to Breastfeed: A Global Public Health Imperative” in Australia along with many other fantastic speakers.
Attending events like these are priceless. I walked away feeling educated and reenergized. In addition to the education, the conference provided me with an amazing networking experience. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many familiar faces from my first conference, ILCA 2012 in Orlando. We picked up where we left off, just like old friends. New relationships were formed too. I also found the authors and speakers that I admire easily accesible and friendly. How cool to have a conversation with Diana Wiessinger about normalizing breastfeeding in our culture or to personally thank Nancy Mohrbacher for a great resource book for La Leche League leaders to help mothers!
I’m also very proud that I was a part of helping USLCA raise a significant amount of money to help fund their mission to advance the IBCLC profession. With the essential help of the volunteer coordinator, Annette Leary, conference volunteers, conference participants and generous donors, we raised funds through the silent auction and raffle. Thank you to everyone for being a part of it!
My favorite part of the USLCA conference, hands down, was connecting with another attendee that gave me a lead on a job. Coincidence or not, it was after Denise Altman’s session entitled “Where are the Jobs?” Come for the education, networking, break from everyday life, but attending a conference may have life changing consequences!
How will you benefit from ILCA’s 2013 Conference in Melbourne, Australia? Please attend and find out! There are still a few days left to receive the early bird rate but you must register by May 15th for the discount.
Mistel de Varona found her passion for breastfeeding advocacy shortly after the birth of her daughter. Eager to support and educate fellow new mother friends, one suggested she become a lactation consultant. A light bulb went off with that idea and has only gotten brighter. Mistel holds a CLS, is an aspiring IBCLC, pursuing an RN and is a Le Leche Leader Applicant. She’s a self-professed nerd and enjoys helping her daughter explore the world. Follow @Mistel_dV on Twitter for evidence based information mostly about lactation.