A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the 22nd Annual International Breastfeeding Conference. Every year I participate, I come home with a profuse amount of information and insight to digest. I take pages and pages of notes, and it usually takes me quite a while to process them into something coherent to share on the blog. This year isn’t any different in that regard. This year though, I have a newfound appreciation and respect for the conference organizers, participants and presenters.
I’ll start here: I arrived at the conference Wednesday morning, groggy and morning sick. Those unpleasant feelings immediately disappeared when I was greeted by the amazing Healthy Children faculty with smiles and big bear hugs. Nikki Lee writes on her Facebook page Nikki Lee Health: “I’ve been going to every International Conference since the first one in 1995; that’s one reason it is my favorite breastfeeding conference because I always feel as though I am returning home.” Exactly my feelings! While I’ve only been attending for three years, I still feel like I am returning home.
When you’re home, someone is always looking out for you. The dearest Cathy Holland offered me fresh ginger each morning of the conference to combat my early pregnancy queasiness. Then, when Cathy’s workshop filled before I could find a seat, one of my fellow participants scrambled to get me a chair, and another insisted I take hers. Another day, I watched Karin Cadwell gently help a presenter place an ice pack on her neck to combat a headache. These little things matter.
During one of his presentations, Dr. Cristiano Boccolini showed a set of satirical graphics that illustrated the perseverance and hard-work it requires to do and present research. I am so grateful for the presenters’ generosity in sharing their work with us. The work of maternal child health advocates is a labor of love; they do it to elicit positive change, to save lives and to influence our quality of life.
This year, the generosity and kindness of the conference participants was confirmed by a record sale of famous milk ducks. The milk ducks raced for their friends, the Lucky Iron Fish to fight anemia. By Thursday morning the ducks were sold out, a first in milk duck history. Conference-goers raised enough money to purchase over 107 Lucky Iron Fish, enough for an entire village!
On my way back to my hotel one evening after the conference, my taxi driver informed me of another conference being held down the road from the Breastfeeding Conference. He told me that the people he had driven from that conference seemed miserable, and they told him that they hated attending every year. How sorry I felt for those conference-goers! I feel so lucky and proud to have the opportunity to network with such a brilliant group of maternal child health advocates. Thank you all for making the 22nd Annual International Breastfeeding Conference such a special experience.