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AfS Lactation Congress in Cologne 2016 – our highlights

AfS Lactation Congress in Cologne 2016 – our highlights

As breastfeeding counsellors, qualified through the German organisation AFS, it’s important to us to remain up to date regarding everything to do with breastfeeding and lactation and to exchange with other breastfeeding counsellors. That’s why we visited the AFS Breastfeeding Conference in Cologne again this year (unfortunately this time without Inga).

There were many familiar faces and even more new ones and we were glad to be able to take part in four great seminars:

At the expert panel on the topic of “Caesarean Section: Physical and Psychological Impact”, by Denise Both (IBCLC and author of various texts on the topic of breastfeeding and lactation), we talked about how we as breastfeeding counsellors can prepare ourselves for supporting women who delivered their babies via c-section. It’s clear that for many women, a c-section is not ‘elective’ but for medical reasons or as a result of multiple unexpected events during the course of the birth, the baby needs to be delivered via sectio. Often mothers experience negative feelings, perhaps even deep trauma as a result of events during the birth of their babies. It’s therefore important that we as breastfeeding counsellors recognise the signs of trauma and the beginnings of a potential postpartum depression and where needed, that we help the mother to find the right kind of support.

A similarly tough topic is supporting parents with ‘fussy or colicky babies’. In the workshop “Fussy Babies and Colic” we talked about what signs there are, other than the ‘rule of 3‘, what these entail and what can be done to break or soothe a crying cycle. The most significant learning was that in supporting and advising such families, it’s important to move the attention away from the children and onto the parents because at the end of the day, it’s the parents who need support and encouragement. Imperative here is also for us to recognise our limits as breastfeeding counsellors and to ensure that we refer parents to the relevant experts. A change of focus and the development of a supportive network for mother, father and child is definitely a step in the right direction during the tough first few months.

„Oohhh…ahhhh“-Fact: If a parent can no longer stand to hear their baby cry, it’s absolutely ok to use ear protection headphones to block out (some of) the noise. This can help to significantly reduce stress during the more difficult moments.

The talk held by Dr. Carlos Gonzales, Spanish pediatrician, founder of the Asociacion Catalana Pro Lactania Materna and author of books such as “Kiss Me! How to Raise Your Children With Love” and “My Child Won’t Eat!” covered Positioning and Tongue Tie. According to Dr Gonzales, babies with normal tongue mobility can be nursed in various, less optimal positions and still thrive, whereas babies with a tongue tie, which restricts mobility of the tongue (which is essential for the ‘milking’ movement during nursing) need good positioning and latching techniques in order to be able to nurse well. If not, a mother may experience pain during nursing, and/or sore or even bleeding nipples. We learned that there are four different types of tongue tie but none is worse than the other. A child with a tongue tie can still breastfeed, despite possible initial issues. However, if breastfeeding cannot be established / is painful / baby is clearly not gaining weight, a tongue tie can be cut in outpatient surgery by a trained doctor.

„Oohhh…ahhhh“- Fact: Even if there are no problems with breastfeeding, issues can arise in later childhood as a result of a tongue tie, for example, during the introduction of solid food or speech development or the teeth can become crooked or decayed in certain areas of the mouth.

We have researched tongue tie in more detail and will dedicate a whole blog post to the topic so watch this space!

On Sunday morning, prior to our departure from Cologne, we attended the training seminar on “Galactostasis (Clogged Ducts) and Mastitis”, also by Denise Both. Denise reminded us of the symptoms of a clogged duct and of mastitis and we learned what we as breastfeeding counsellors can do, in order to help women with these problems to make a quick recovery. New for us was the fact that massaging the affected area is not a good idea, since pressure can push the milk blockage through the milk ducts into the surrounding tissue, increasing the infected area and worsening the symptoms. The preferred treatment is to continue nursing on the affected side in different positions, applying damp warmth before breastfeeding and then cooling afterwards (refrigerated white cabbage leaves are one of the most commonly used cooling methods!) NOTE: Do not cool the breast if you are taking antibiotics for mastitis! Lying in bed with baby and avoiding stress as far as possible is also key to a speedy recovery.

“Oohhh…ahhhh“- Fact: Rather than using pressure to free up the blocked duct, use vibration in the form of an electric toothbrush or even a vibrator (if you happen to have one lying around)

Should an abscess appear, it’s important to get to the doctor as soon as possible. Nursing is still possible (as long as the abscess wound isn’t too close to the areola) since the milk remains clean, as no puss can cross over into the milk ducts.

We will be finding out more about ‘The Art and Science of Breastfeeding’ on 7th May with IBCLC Indira Lopez Bassols and look forward to reporting back on our learnings.

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