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The South African Conference

Vicky Reynell
Knysna South Africa
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 43 No. 2, April-May-June 2007, p.40

La Leche League of South Africa's (LLLSA) 11th Area Conference took place from June 29 to July 2, 2006 at the Kempton Park Conference Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa. Thursday, as pre-conference, was devoted to Communication Skills Training, with a choice of attending either a full-day workshop facilitated by Joan Truby, or for those who arrived later in the day, an afternoon session on Communicating with children given by Nan Jolly.

The keynote speaker, Chloe Fisher, a retired midwife, founder of the Breastfeeding Clinic in Oxford, England, and coauthor of the book, Bestfeeding, was awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by the Queen in recognition of her service to the community. Perhaps we should nominate a special LLL Leader for Woman of the Year (see editor's note at the end of this article.) It would be a well-deserved accolade for our organization. Chloe focused on the importance of correct attachment of the baby at the breast, and showed us how an unsatisfactory latch-on can lead not only to a poorly nourished baby, but to a colicky baby, displaying the condition that many pediatricians incorrectly call "lactose intolerance," and to mastitis in the mother. Her description of the baby with colic was an exact picture of my first baby in his first three months!

Other speakers gave sessions on the "Benefits of Exclusive Breastfeeding," "Mothering with HIV," the new World Health Organization (WHO) growth charts based on data from breastfed babies, the South African Health Department's micronutrient programs, and the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Our own Elaine Dawson and Rosemary Gauld shared two breastfeeding case studies. Elaine's case was on breastfeeding an adopted baby, and Rosemary's was on a baby whose growth appeared to be faltering. Jennifer Naude spoke on Galactagogues, Ute Gerard on Surgical Complications during Breastfeeding, and Jeanne Verster gave a helpful and interesting presentation on the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes.

That was Friday. Saturday's sessions were just as good. We heard about medicinal plants (with particular reference to South Africa's plant diversity, and to traditional medicine in Africa), and about plants and breastfeeding. There were sessions on natural family planning, and "Healthy Nutrition and Natural Menopause." Three different psychologists gave three different presentations: "Postnatal Depression," "The Psychological Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding," and "The Dance of Love and Discipline." A counselor from Compassionate Friends, the support group for parents who have lost a child, gave a gentle talk on bereavement. A talk on parenting and sexuality gave us valuable insights from a male point of view. A panel of La Leche League Leaders and guest speakers shared with us the choices they had made about combining parenting and a career. Carl Steyn, husband of a Gauteng Leader, spoke on "Delighting in Fatherhood," and the vivacious director of the Johannesburg Milk Bank encouraged her audience to donate time, money or human milk to the SA breast milk Reserve. "Music for Mothers and Little Ones" and "Baby Massage" were two interactive and fun sessions given by Leaders.

The highlight of Saturday evening was the Social Dinner. The dining area was transformed with flowers, candles, and star-sprinkled white tablecloths brightened with gauzy throws. Marie-Louise Steyn's warmly delivered speech shared the conference theme, Delighting in Motherhood. Later, there was a surprise for Rose Gauld to mark her 30 years as a Leader: photographs put together as a poster by Elaine, and a card full of congratulatory messages.

Sunday morning was devoted to Communication Skills Training (CST): a four-hour session in Assertion Powers facilitated by Nan. She showed us how appropriate body language, tone of voice, and words enable one to be assertive without being aggressive. Four hours have never gone by so fast. And then it was time to gather up our bags, say our goodbyes, and go on our way.

Thank you again to all the Gauteng Leaders and their families. They gave us a conference that we shall remember not only for the quality of the speakers and the relevance of their topics, but also for the special extra touches: the dinner menus which we can use as book marks, those clever containers of chocolates (I brought mine home unopened and it made me very popular with my family!), the fabric bags to hold the conference folders, the sweet feast after the AGM, and, of course, the pleasure of meeting old friends and making new ones. What a great conference it was!

Editor's note: La Leche Leaders are certainly special and deserving of the public recognition which a few have received. In 2002, Anne Devereux was awarded The Queen's Service Order (QSO) for Community Service on the occasion of the New Zealand celebration of Her Majesty's Birthday and Golden Jubilee (see the Aug-Sept 2002 issue of LV for more information). Please do consider nominating Leaders for such recognition!

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