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ILCA Conference 2019

Write up of the 2019 International Lactation Consultants

Conference by ALCI President Sue Jameson.


Attending ILCA 2019 was the usual mix of the very familiar and the very new, both in terms of content, and of attendees.  As a Partner Organisation our role  is to promote our country and it’s activities whenever we get the opportunity. It is also to encourage membership of ILCA to our members. Ger Cahill ( who is currently an ILCA Board Member) and I did this with gusto!  Socialising with many friends old and now – making new contacts with women from Aruba – a tiny island community in the Caribbean.


While ILCA has great aspirations to be a fully internationally representative organisation, the flavour is distinctly American. Conferences are by and large held in America, there is little in the way of translated materials and English is the conference language. The theme this year was ‘Engage’ and it was the aspiration of the conference planners to fulfill these objectives:


  • Apply skill development and global networking among lactation specialists in an inclusive environment
  • Recommend research related to human lactation and encourage its integration in clinical practice
  • Integrate greater development of cultural humility among lactation specialists
  • Use ethical, evidence-based practice that protects the well-being of breastfeeding/chestfeeding/lactating families in diverse contexts
  • Practice breastfeeding/chestfeeding as the biological norm for feeding and nurturing infants and young children
  • Provide equitable access to lactation, skilled lactation care, and the IBCLC® profession
  • Provide support of families’ informed decisions regarding lactation
  • Outline lactation-supportive practices in health care, social service, and community settings


The now familiar acknowledgement of the ancestral lands of the native peoples of  the area started us on our way for the four days and the Cherokee welcome was given by Mechell in her peoples’ language.


Our first event was the Partners’ lunch.  This was a great way for all the organisations to meet and greet, welcome the newcomers and hear what is happening across the globe.  Each table has a rep from the ILCA Board who could help to introduce members and give us all an opportunity to share. This was very successful and Mudiwah Kadeshe, the current president went out of her way to make us all feel welcome and included.


The first thing that strikes you is the scale of everything.  We were in a hotel with 47 floors, fully air conditioned throughout to such a degree that it was chilly at times!  Looking up from the atrium floor was a dizzying sight.  Looking down from the 47th floor was mesmerising as people scurried around like ants far below. To give a sense of scale, there were three other huge functions happening at the same time as ILCA and we never saw many of them except for the Philippino Nurses Organisation who were delighted to speak with us. An Indian wedding in the level below us went on for 24 hrs.


I was sharing with Daiva Snuikaite my colleague from Lithuania who was representing The European Lactation Consultants Association, ELACTA. Each partner organisation was allocated a table to represent their country.  Sadly, only ourselves, Lithuania, Australia, Mexico and Peru, had anything other than a few flyers placed on their table. We shared space with the group representing women in the Military which gave lots of opportunity to chat about the unique challenges facing them as parents.





So to the conference itself.  The range and quality of speakers on the issue of diversity and equity was impressive. There are a couple of Plenary Sessions each day where all the attendees come together to hear a presentation.  At the other sessions there are many concurrent topics on offer and it is often difficult to choose where to go.  I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer as a welcome and introduction person for three of these presentations. Two were very well known to us here at home, Cathy Watson Genna and Liz Brooks.  The other session I chose to introduce was Jan Tedder, BSN, IBCLC; and Elsa Quintana, BA, BCJ, IBCLC, RLC, CLE talking about one of my favourite topics – infant development and promotion of parenting skills.


The day starts early with the first sessions kicking off at 8.30am. There are regular breaks where attendees are encouraged to visit the trade stands. These ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.


Another strange offering was a device like a plastic tube to place under the breast to give the correct angle to the nipple – why on earth???  There was every variety of pump and gadget imaginable plus all sorts of add ons to regular pumps.  Milk storage devices, timers, and of course education opportunities – GOLD, iLactation, Sage publications, LER online, health- elearning, Bartlett & Jones to name but a few. Worth having repeated visits to the trade stands as they all had delicious choccies and other goodies to be sampled while chatting to the stall holders.


So let’s look at some of the sessions.  The theme for the conference was ‘Engage’ so the focus was on engaging with communities and ethnic groups who traditionally may not have had access to the skilled timely help that breastfeeding so often requires.


The main Plenary speakers covered the issues of  racism and exclusion,  supporting breastfeeding parents in times of crisis, diversity and legal matters pertaining to custody and care.


Achieving Health Equity in Breastfeeding: Naming and Addressing Racism and Other Systems of Structured Inequity  was presented by Dr Camara Jones MD, MPH, PhD . Dr Jones


Motivations for Entering the Lactation Profession: Perspectives from People of Color (Ifeyinwa Asiodu). As a researcher, registered nurse, and lactation consultant, her research is focused on the intersection of race, systemic and structural barriers, life course perspective, and increasing access to human milk and breastfeeding support.


What is the Role for IBCLCs in Emergencies? (Aunchalee Palmquist, Lourdes Santaballa)

Aunchalee Palmquist is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina. She is a medical anthropologist and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

Dr. Palmquist’s interdisciplinary work bridges critical biocultural anthropology and global public health. She conducts community-based participatory research and uses both ethnographic methods and mixed-methods approaches. Her work is informed by human rights frameworks and a reproductive justice lens.

Dr. Palmquist is the lead Lactation and Infant Feeding in Emergencies (L.I.F.E.) Initiative and the Humanitarian Maternal and Child Health Program. She serves on the WHO/UNICEF Global Breastfeeding Collective, the Emergency Nutrition Network IFE Core Group, the CORE group Humanitarian-Development Task Force, and the United States Breastfeeding Committee. Dr. Palmquist has previously served as an International Lactation Consultants Association liaison to the United Nations.

Lourdes Santaballa is a community activist and organizer, with a background in domestic violence, affordable housing, and economic equity advocacy. A La Leche League leader from 2009-2017 and IBCLC since 2011, she was the founder of the lactation program at sePARE, providing coordinated services to low income families, leading it to receive the ILCA Care Award and received the Wilson-Clay Hoover Award for Research. Lourdes is currently completing her master’s degree in clinical nutrition. In October 2017, following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Lourdes founded Alimentación Segura Infantil or ASI, an Infant and Young Child feeding program focused on increasing breastfeeding, leadership and training in marginalized communities in Puerto Rico.




Getting Breastfeeding Right from the Start: Enhancing Maternal and Newborn Competence

Catherine Watson Genna as we know,  is particularly interested in dyads with medical challenges to breastfeeding. In addition to mentoring lactation interns, she uses her clinical photos and videos in presentations to healthcare professionals on assisting breastfeeding babies with anatomical, genetic or neurological problems. Catherine currently participates in research, investigating biomechanics of the lactating nipple and aspects of sucking and swallowing in breastfeeding infants. Again no stranger to us Cathy has visited and spoken in Ireland on many occasions.


A Case for Normalizing First-Hour Hand Expression for All Mothers: Selective Studies Supportive of a Mother-Centric, Volume-Centric Approach to Improving Breastfeeding Outcomes 

Jane Morton has had a long, fulfilling career as a general paediatrician. She has also had a long-standing interest in breastfeeding, from understanding its clinical benefits to practical solutions for mothers having difficulty in providing breastmilk to their infants. Over the years, she has conducted research on human milk and breastfeeding and has designed and implemented systems and policies to help breastfeeding mothers. She produced award winning videos on this topic, including “Breastfeeding: A Guide to Getting Started”, “A Preemie Needs His Mother: Breastfeeding a Premature Baby”, “Making Enough Milk, the Key to Successful Breastfeeding” and “A Mother’s Touch, Breastfeeding in the First Hour”. She designed an educational website for expectant mothers for the goal of preventing common breastfeeding problems, www.firstdroplets.com. It is well worth looking at this site as it contains many nuggets useful to all of us.



Breastfeeding Policy and Advocacy 

Laurence Grummer-Strawn is the coordinator of infant and young child feeding at the World Health Organization. He is an epidemiologist who has published over 150 scientific publications. He is recognized internationally for his work on breastfeeding policy, and development of the WHO Growth Charts. Dr. Grummer-Strawn was the scientific editor of the US Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Breastfeeding. At WHO, Dr. Grummer-Strawn leads the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, the Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, and the Global Breastfeeding Collective.


Litigation and Lactation: Protecting Breastfeeding in Legal Proceedings (Divorce, Immigration, Custody)

Liz Brooks is well known to us here in Ireland, having spoken at ALCI in the past. She is a lawyer/litigator and private practice lactation consultant who offers a lively explanation of the overlap between clinical lactation support, ethics, and the law. Breastfeeding helpers (like IBCLCs) can struggle with ethical, moral, and legal conundrums in their everyday work settings. With plain language and humour, Liz explains how everyone can work ethically and legally, and offers pragmatic tips for immediate use in daily practice. Great to hear Liz again as she is always worth an hour of anybody’s time – and of course the free gifts and chocolates!


Speakers covered a diverse range of topics during concurrent sessions including those shown below. The dilemma is always what to go to.

  • Adelante!: A Community-Based Approach to Improve Child Health in a Latinx Community (Paulina Erices, MS, IBCLC, RLC)
  • Breastfeeding Without Nursing: Reducing the Prejudice Against Exclusive Pumping (Fiona Jardine, MA (Cantab), LLM, MLS, ALC)
  • Breastfeeding Rates, Self-efficacy, and Satisfaction in Low-income Mothers (Wilaiporn Rojjanasrirat, PhD, RN, IBCLC)
  • Clinical Skills Session: Using Role Play to Identify Strategies to Provide Cultural Responsiveness and Sensitivity in Lactation Care (Stacy Davis BA, IBCLC, CLEC)
  • Clinical Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies: Skills for the Lactation Consultant (Lourdes Santaballa BA, IBCLC, IYCFS, Aunchalee Palmquist, PhD, MA, IBCLC, & Angela Malloy, MAT, CLC, IBCLC)
  • When Knowledge is Not Power: Considering the Appalachian-American Cultural Power Code (Joni Gray, Ed.D, M.A., B.A., CLC, CLS)


I tried to choose to attend sessions that were relevant to the Irish context so while looking at specific communities in USA and other locations with no similarities to ourselves was interesting, it was generally not transferrable.


Meeting potential speakers is another reason to attend events, to see them in action! Meeting the big names in the Lactation field is always an honour and to be able to spend time with them chatting and sharing information is magic.


The big question I am always asked on returning from big events is often ‘ well, did you learn anything new?  The answer is always an emphatic yes – as learning comes in many forms.  It may be a tit bit of practical skill shared over a lunch table or a new way of looking at a familiar situation. There is always room to  learn and it is a sad day when someone feels they have nothing left to learn, even from the very familiar.


Conferences are about so much more than learning.  They are an experience for both mind and body. Cultural exchanges, shared anecdotes and case histories form the bulk of our social chatter around meal times and of course there is the opportunity to see the sights of other cities and experience different cultures. I thank the members of ALCI for giving me this opportunity.


Sue Jameson






Further Reading


Presenting at the ILCA 2023 In-person Conference in Las Vegas:  A Personal Account


ILCA 2023 Conference Presentation: Building Policy Coalitions


WHO/Unicef Congress