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2013 USLCA Conference Wrap-Up!


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.

uslca1The 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!

posterIf 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 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!

poster2In 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. 

mistelAttending 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!

uslca2I’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!

deniseMy 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!

ilcaHow 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.

mistelMistel 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.


Highlights of USLCA’s Upcoming Inaugural Conference: Gateway to Excellence

By Mistel de Varona and Annette Leary

299737_10152662816125424_1453935094_nSpring is here and USLCA’s first national conference is on its way. Gateway to Excellence will kick off in two weeks! There are many exciting things to look forward to if you are attending and an abundance of wonderfully tempting reasons to commit if you are undecided.

Not registered? It’s not too late! The standard registration rate is available until April 20th. On-site registration is available for a small additional charge. Click HERE to register!

St. Louis Union Station - A DoubleTree Hotel

Photo via hotel website

The beautiful and historic St. Louis Union Station Hotel currently has rooms available for the standard rate. We are looking forward to staying four days at this gorgeous hotel and the pictures on the hotel’s website are breathtaking. Beautiful lodging, first rate education and fun networking make this conference the perfect working vacation. Sharing a room is a great way to build a relationship with another attendee and will help minimize your travel costs. Check out our forums to find a roommate.

The Grand Hall

Knowledge is Power

In a previous post, we highlighted our seven plenary sessions. Check them out:

The State of Breastfeeding in the US: We’ve Come a Long Way with “Miles to Go Before We Sleep” – Marsha Walker, RN, IBCLC

Reflux, GERD and Breastfeeding – Catherine Watson Genna, BS, IBCLC

How to Evaluate Drug Usage in Breastfeeding Mothers – Thomas Hale, PhD

Into the Mouths of Babes: An Exploration of Infant Oral Skills – Robin Glass, BS, OTR, IBCLC and Lynn Wolf, MOT, OTR, IBCLC

Breastfeeding and the Joint Commission: Partners in Health – Celeste G. Milton, MPH, BSN, RN

Whos’ Your Daddy…Mommy, Surrogate, or Donor? Modern Families and Lactation – Elizabeth Brooks, JD, IBCLC, FILCA

How to Influence Key Stakeholders and Promote Breastfeeding Powerfully – Todd Wolynn, MD, IBCLC

With such great and diverse concurrent sessions, there will be many new ideas to bring home and share with your colleagues. Subjects span from research skills, the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, social media, the “F” word (formula), birth trauma, WIC, pumping, preemies, and even a few sessions available in Spanish. It was a fun challenge to choose our topics during registration. Which ones will you be attending? Check out the conference brochure for a complete list of session topics.

We Need You!

All registered attendees are encouraged to get involved. More information about how to volunteer is HERE! We need help with the silent auction, selling raffle tickets and introducing speakers.

Win Amazing Prizes from the Silent Auction and Raffle!

Coming for the education, networking or a passion renewal? One of the real bonuses for some attendees will be winning unique and valuable items from the silent auction and raffles. This is a CAN’T MISS opportunity! Make sure to bring extra spending money! USLCA will accept cash, check, or credit cards for the silent auction and raffle. All proceeds will benefit USLCA’s mission to advance the IBCLC profession.

The Silent Auction will be filled with generously donated items including jewelry, artwork, gift baskets, baby carriers, lactation books and DVDs, as well as other lactation paraphernalia and online conference registrations! Come to the Exhibit Hall to place your bid starting at the beginning of the conference and we’ll keep it open until Saturday at lunch. Please consider donating an item to show your support!

ticketWe’ll also have the best raffle ever! Purchase raffle tickets at the USLCA book in the Exhibit Hall. This is your chance to win an iLactation online conference registration, a year’s worth of USLCA webinars with CERPs, or a full registration to the 2013 ILCA Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Winners will be announced during the conference.

Looking for Networking Opportunities?

Look at the communication board as we have reserved several tables each night to restaurants which are within walking distance to the hotel. Make sure you sign up to reserve your dinner spot.

Tweet to Share and Connect with #USLCA13

twitter-bird-white-on-blueGet involved on a deeper level and tweet leading up to and from the conference using the hashtag #USLCA13. It’s easy to join and a great way to stay connected with IBCLCs around the world. New to Twitter and want to get started? Here’s a great guide to get you started.

See you in St. Louis!

mistelMistel de Varona found her passion for breastfeeding advocacy shortly after the birth of her daughter. Eager to support and educate fellow new mom 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.

photo (4)Annette Leary is a mother of 4 and grandmother to 1 beautiful 2 yr old, Makenzie. She has been working with mothers , babies and families for over 25 years.  She became an IBCLC in 1995, and because of certifying at such a young age, she has calculated that she’ll have to sit for the IBCLC exam 4 times in her life!  She feels very blessed to not only be able to help new families latch onto parenting and breastfeeding but also for the opportunity to educate, groom and mentor colleagues in the field of lactation.


Meet Me in St. Louis: USLCA’s Upcoming Conference

After a long, cold winter, St. Louis, MO is preparing for spring’s cherry blossoms, Cardinals baseball, and USLCA inaugural conference Gateway to Excellence!

USLCA has put together a fabulous line up of speakers including inspiring veterans and innovative newcomers for this May 3-5 event at the historic Union Station Hotel.  With seven plenary sessions and seven different tracks for concurrent sessions, there is something for every lactation professional.  The greatest challenge will be deciding which sessions to attend, so I suggest coming with friends and sharing what you learn over refreshments in one of the many local establishments.

For example…

marshawalkerMarsha Walker, RN, IBCLC will warm the crowd with the opening plenary session “The State of Breastfeeding in the US: We’ve Come a Long Way with ‘Miles To Go Before We Sleep.’”  Marsha, an internationally acclaimed speaker and author, sits on the Board of Directors of USLCA, Baby Friendly USA, Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition, and Best for Babes. She represents USLCA to the US Department of Agriculture’s Breastfeeding Promotion Consortium and represents NABA to the US Breastfeeding Committee. She is the co-chair of the Ban the Bags campaign, a national effort to eliminate the hospital distribution of formula company discharge bags.

cathyCatherine Watson Genna BS, IBCLC, will be speaking on Reflux, GERD, and Breastfeeding.

Cathy has been in private practice in New York City since 1992, and currently addresses health care professionals all over the world on her specialty area helping medically challenged mothers and babies to breastfeed.  Her lively presentations are enhanced by her widely published clinical photographs.  Cathy has authored numerous publications and also serves as Associate Editor for the United States Lactation Consultant Association journal Clinical Lactation.

haleThomas Hale, PhD, one of the world’s leading authorities in the use of medications in breastfeeding women,  will enlighten the crowd with “How to Evaluate Drug Usage in Breastfeeding Mothers.”

Tom is the founder and director of the Infant Risk Center, a national  call center for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. He is a well known international lecturer in the pharmacology of lactation and is  the author of five books including: Medications and Mothers’ Milk, the top-selling drug reference manual.

Liz Brooks (1)Elizabeth Brooks, JD, IBCLC, FILCA,  will draw from her legal background with her boundless energy and humor to bring us the timely,   “Who’s Your Daddy…Mommy, Surrogate or Donor? Modern Families and Lactation.”

With plain language and humor, Liz helps keep us honest as she offers explains pragmatic tips and ethical perspectives that can immediately be used in daily practice.

Liz is the President of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA), serves on the Board of Directors for the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), and works with breastfeeding families both in private practice and the hospital setting.

Sound interesting?  There are still more plenary sessions from the National Breastfeeding Center’s Dr. Todd Wolynn, infant oral motor specialists Robin Glass & Lynn Wolf, and The Joint Commission’s Celeste Milton.


The plenary sessions are compelling enough to click the registration tab right now, but wait!  There is more!  The concurrent session tracks have something for everyone.  Is your hospital pursuing Baby-Friendly status?  Got it!  Finding exclusive breastfeeding elusive?  Got a track on that, too.  Advocacy, community, preterm infants, and WIC, check, check, check, and check.  There is also the Mosaic- the assortment pack of timely topics.

Gateway to Excellence will let you network with speakers, authors, and peers, learn cutting edge skills, see what new tools and texts exhibitors have to offer, and come away refreshed and energized with knowledge you can immediately put into action.

So what do you do now?  REGISTER, of course.  Bring friends.  Click here for more information and to register.  See you in St. Louis!


URGENT ACTION NEEDED in the United States

By Marsha Walker, RN, IBCLC, USLCA Director of Public Policy

USLCAMany mothers need breastfeeding help, but cannot access the level of care that they need.

Even though the Affordable Care Act requires breastfeeding support, it does not specify the provider that best fulfills this mandate. Many insurers will not credential IBCLCs nor maintain IBCLC networks because IBCLCs are not licensed. Breastfeeding care becomes more fragmented and deferred to providers who may not have the training or expertise to handle complex lactation situations. This means that many breastfeeding women are without the care they need, when they need it the most.

Your voice is needed.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is creating rules for insurance companies in the individual and small group markets under the new health care law. As part of this effort, they will take comments from the public about what services insurance companies must cover. Use this opportunity to tell HHS that mothers should have access to IBCLCs, that insurers should cover the services of the IBCLC, and that all breastfeeding mothers deserve access to IBCLCs, not just those who can afford it.

We’ve made a lot of progress – but there’s still more to be done. Send in your comments at HERE. Comments are due by 5:00 PM Eastern time on December 26, 2012. The entire proposed rule can be found HERE.

The US Lactation Consultant Association is working hard to assure that IBCLC services are available to all women. Thank you for all you do to ensure women have access to quality, affordable health care. Your letter needs to be brief as the portal allows only 2000 characters. You can cut and paste the following sample letter into the comment portal HERE.

Please state that insurance companies must cover the services of the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in the maternal and newborn section of the Essential Health Benefits (EHB). IBCLCs are allied health professionals certified through a rigorous credentialing process who possess the requisite skills to manage common and complex lactation management issues. Too many breastfeeding mothers lack access to the level of care that they need, resulting in fragmented care deferred to providers who may not have the training or expertise to handle complex lactation situations. See for a guide to lactation qualifications. This drives up the cost of and increases the number of health claims due to increased infant illnesses and conditions preventable by successful breastfeeding. Services of IBCLCs result lower health care costs to insurers. The U.S. Surgeon General included in the 2011 Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, the specific recommendation to provide reimbursement for IBCLCs independent of their having other professional certification or licensure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention use the IBCLC as a metric in its determination of the adequacy of breastfeeding support in its annual Breastfeeding Report Card. 

State required benefits should include IBCLC services to improve the quality and value of the coverage that is available for EHB. Please include coverage of IBCLC services under Sec. 147.150 Coverage of essential health benefits. Beginning in 2014, all non grandfathered health insurance coverage in the individual and small group markets, Medicaid benchmark and benchmark-equivalent plans, and Basic Health Programs (if applicable) will be required to cover essential health benefits. I strongly encourage Secretary Sebelius to expressly declare in the text of the final rule that health plans specifically state that coverage will be available for IBCLC services.

Thank you for helping USLCA with their advocacy efforts to bring increased access to lactation care for mothers, babies, and their families.


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