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Reflections from a Former Chris Mulford ILCA-WABA Fellow

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 headquartersin Penang, Malaysia. ILCA has designated this annual Fellowship, the 6th to be awarded, as the Chris Mulford WABA ILCA Fellowship. Chris had been an ILCA member and helped to guide the birth and growth ofthe 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 on Women and Work and Gender issues, bringing many achievements in supporting working women to breastfeed globally. She also paved the way for the first WABA‐ILCA Fellowship, in 2007, by being an exemplar of a Fellow. At Lactation Matters, we are proud to highlight this post, by Denise Fisher, 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 October 22, 2013.

By Denise Fisher AM, MMP, BN, IBCLC

In 2010, I was honored to be selected the Fellow to work with the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) staff on several projects to support breastfeeding worldwide.

WABA’s home office is in Penang. Penang has been called the Jewel of the Orient, and is a beautiful island off the coast of Malaysia. Malaysia is a bustling melting pot of races and religions where Malays, Indians, Chinese, and other ethnic groups live together harmoniously. Because of this multiculturalism, this tropical paradise has also made Malaysia a gastronomical paradise, and even the Malays from Kuala Lumpur will tell you that Penang is the place for the best food.

I was incredibly excited to be given the opportunity for this fellowship to not only continue my passion for promoting breastfeeding, but to do it in such a fascinating country.

Now, while I was working on a purely volunteer basis, I was aware that ILCA® and WABA had invested financially in my travel and accommodation, and my family and work colleagues back home were also putting in big-time for me in my absence; so while the temptation was to spend many hours on the beach, I was keen to be able to help WABA as much as possible. I was given several projects to complete. They select projects that are in line with your interests and skills, so needless to say mine were either internet-related or education-related.

The biggest project was the establishment of the Breastfeeding Gateway. We worked as a small team to establish it in time to be launched for WABA’s 20th birthday celebrations. The goal of this Gateway is to provide you with all the quality information about a topic in one easy collection.  For example, you may be asked at work to develop a policy on an HIV-positive mother breastfeeding. You only need click on the HIV heading in the Gateway to open a page with links to all the quality information sites relevant to HIV on the internet, saving you hours of searching. This is perfect for students too – so easy. I loved helping to create this resource – it was such fun to work together on it.

Another project I had was to go to one of the local hospitals and film a mother doing skin-to-skin care and have baby self-attach. As a midwife, the opportunity to visit the maternity unit was one not to be missed, and then we had the most delightful mother, with a very obliging newborn who did exactly what he was supposed to (phew!).

Presenting a full-day workshop for the medical and nursing staff at the local university was pretty nerve-wracking, but on the day it all went smoothly and everyone was happy. Doing a workshop for the mother support group that had been established by a previous WABA/ILCA Fellow was much less stressful and I got to cuddle babies!

IMG_6511It wasn’t all work though. The WABA staff welcomed me into their lives and social events, and were all very friendly. I still keep in contact with some of them. I’ve been told I have to come back when the durian are fruiting (!). A young intern from America was working there at the same time I was, so both being visitors to the island, we spent our leisure time exploring – most memorable was the bicycle tour through Georgetown (the capital of Penang). You think traffic is bad where you live – wait until you’ve ridden a bike through the streets of an Asian city! This was a history and food tour – we went to lots of the historical sites (Georgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and our guides (two lovely young men) told us about living and working in Penang now, and what it was like for their parents and grandparents. And then there was the food – they took us to each of the places that was famous for each of the dishes Penang is famous for – lucky we did lots of riding to work it off. Another tour I did with my son was a guided taxi ride around the island. It truly is a tropical paradise.

Since my time in Penang, I’ve become one of a select group who get to meet up at the ILCA conference and talk about the good old days – the former WABA/ILCA Fellows! And even better, this year ILCA decided to honor us with a special Fellow’s pin. Based on my wonderful experience which was so personally and professionally rewarding I’d encourage everyone to consider applying for this yearly fellowship. You won’t regret it.

IMG_6093Denise is a registered nurse, midwife practitioner, and lactation consultant who has worked in education for many years. In recognition of her services to health professional education, specifically in the mother and baby area, Denise was inducted as a Member of Australia last year. Recognizing that the internet was the way of the future, Denise and her team created Health e-Learning in 2000, followed by the very popular GOLD conferences, to provide breastfeeding education for lactation consultants and other health professionals. She is now the Director of Step2 Education, a company that delivers Baby Friendly education to hospitals worldwide. Denise is married to Steve and mother to 3 beautiful young adults – James, Nicholas and Laura, and lives outside a little country town in Queensland, Australia.


Mother to Mother Peer Support in Penang, Malaysia

Written by Debz Christiansen-Lee and Connie Mooi

Penang, Malaysia is hoping to shake things up!

2011 Dec monthly gathering

At the end of 2007, a group of mothers were encouraged, by a local Lactation Consultant, to take advantage of a free, three-day breastfeeding course, given by WABA. Ten of us took part and gained technical knowledge as well as taking part in practical demonstrations.

We were so empowered by our new found knowledge, and I personally couldn’t work out why everyone didn’t know all this anymore, that we decided to form a group to help inform anyone and everyone who would listen.

Penang MMPS Graduates 2007

We named ourselves MMPS (Mother-to-Mother Peer Supporter) and our first meeting was on March 1, 2008. Since then we have met every month on the first Saturday of the month. This is no mean feat as we all give our time and energy voluntarily. Our passion and determination is what keeps the group going.

These meetings are a chance for pregnant ladies and new mothers to meet, share experiences and ask questions or talk about problems, to be answered by all.

We especially encourage pregnant ladies to attend and join our support system. Our core group contains mothers with training and/or experience. We also have a Lactation Consultant as our medical advisor so we hope we can attend to any issues raised. Once in our network, support and advice can be reached so that new mothers do not feel alienated or overwhelmed. We’ve even made visits to hospital, confinement centres and homes to aid new mothers in latching-on methods and generally making the mother feel her struggles will be worth it.

We have a Facebook site, an email account and a blog. This way we hope ourselves and other mothers can give advice and support in a timelier manner.

Flash Mob

We’ve attended a number of functions, to promote breastfeeding and every year we host a “one-minute simultaneous breastfeeding” event for World Breastfeeding Week (1st to 7th August). In 2011, for WBW we held a “virtual one-minute simultaneous breastfeeding event” via the internet and then later in the year we held a public one.

The reason behind the delay of the public event was that we had been working very hard with the local Government and got backing to launch a new campaign called “Make Penang Breastfeeding Friendly” (MPBF). This has become a parallel, ongoing project, but is one we are proud to know was born from our little MMPS group.

March 2012 Breastfeeding Talk by Dr. Balkees

So what’s the future of MMPS? We hope to continue our monthly gathering and give support to the MPBF project. The most important things for us have always been the same: give information on breastfeeding, offer breastfeeding advice and show support to mothers, mothers-to-be and anyone else who has an open mind(husbands, mothers, mothers-in-law etc).


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