Last weekend I had the awesome privilege of attending the Baby Preemie and Me Neonatal Conference at the Marine Marriott Hotel, hosted by Little Big Souls and partnered with NATUS. I learnt a lot and even that is an understatement. This being a first for South Africa, I am very proud that it happened right here in Port Elizabeth!

breastfeedingLittle Big Souls was represented by Chief Mrs Yvonne Igweh (based in London, and of Ghanain Royal heritage). Who shared a bit about what they do and why. “Committed to advancing the care, welfare and survival of pre-term babies born on the African continent” in a nutshell. They work to help reduce the high morality rates of pre-term babies. By this provide a fighting chance for the premature baby born in Africa. This woman is amazing to say the least and her heart for African babies is so big. For more information on how you can get involved please visit their website here.

Our first speaker was Dr Jack Newman, a Canadian physician specializing in breastfeeding support and advocacy. His talk was “What your Dr doesn’t know about breastfeeding” (yes, that is the title of this post). As a breastfeeding mother myself I sat up and listened intently as he shared how little Dr’s actually learn or are taught about breastfeeding.  It is all over – breast is best, from signage and ad’s to actual formula tins. The fact that those we trust to guide us know very little about it was a bit unsettling. The good news though is, it is extremely easy to get on the upper hand of this situation.

neonatal conference

Dr Newman, shared some experiential stories with us from his breastfeeding clinic in Toronto with some videos to help us understand what he was saying. Some of what I saw literally brought tears to my eyes. Watching how babies with cleft palettes successfully breastfeed. As important as a latch is, milk is not sucked out by the baby. Mothers transfer the milk to their babies.  The baby communicates with the mother by the motion of sucking and that causes a reaction that releases the milk. I knew this, encouraging a let down etc. I didn’t realise how literal it was though, the human body is so amazing.

There is more from him on his Visual Guide to Breastfeeding here

Dr Newman also questions (with facts) the basis of our most popular beliefs on things like baby’s weight. How much they should be gaining per week? If hospital scales are regulated to be able to measure accurately the different weights on different days. Even the 10% weight loss within the first 3 days of life was questioned. That timing when breastfeeding is not how it was meant to be done, it’s just a natural progression. I knew this – but I still timed, struggled and pained during breastfeeding.

I learnt so much, so much that I wish I knew a year ago – when my breastfeeding journey was still fresh and new. With a whole new appreciation for how God created us as women, and how wonderfully our bodies are put together.

We also heard from speakers such as Mrs Judy Moore – NICU expert who shared with us about brain and sensory development of prem babies. The brain is so affected by touch and nurturing as per some amazing new research available. It is something so important in those early weeks and months!  Mrs Jill Bergman – a well known author and film producer on Kangaroo Mother Care, or skin to skin contact post birth. Similarly to Judy, Jill shared on the amazing results received when prem babies are fastened and allowed skin to skin during this delicate time. Ms Chantelle Witten, Dietician and senior lecturer shared about balanced nutrition, and the statistics of how many children have stunted growth due to under nourishment. Some scary facts, definitely made me relook at our supper plates to include more veggies in our family diet.

Judy shared some new technology that they are introducing in NICU the NICVIEW which is a camera which will be available for you to watch your baby 24/7. This is going to bring so many mommy’s and daddy’s so much peace about their babies when not with them. She also brought to our attention the importance of hearing screenings for your baby and how it is done. The effects of catching hearing problems early on can make the difference of speech therapy, learning difficulties and so much more to your childs life so please be sure to insist on them.

I know what a mouthful! If you are still reading, thank you I appreciate it. This conference is so helpful and makes the experts available for you to ask questions one on one which is absolutely invaluable. Next year I am there like a bear!

In the Meantime – My favourite quote from Dr Newman at the conference was “Breastfeeding is more than milk.” It’s relationship.” – If not already clear above I absolutely loved this conference.

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