GOLDen opportunities for learning about the early years

Conferences… Ever since I was an experienced volunteer breastfeeding counsellor (somewhere around the last years of the previous century), I have been eager to increase my breastfeeding knowledge. I upped the ante once I decided to become a lactation consultant IBCLC and in the years after, I got totally hooked on attending lectures, conferences, symposia and whatever kind of training I could reasonably take part in. Such a wealth of experience was out there! Once you are an IBCLC, you have to collect CERPs, Continuing Education Recognition Points, to prove that you take care of remaining up to date with the most recent insight from science, the latest developments in the field, and the most important aspects of ethical practice. In 2008 or 2009, I discovered the GOLD Lactation online conference. In those years, GOLD, as an acronym, stood for ‘Global Online Lactation Discussion’. It was a great way for IBCLCs from all over the globe to attend high quality lectures, even if their own nations hardly offered any training opportunities because there were too few IBCLCs in the country to organise that in such a large-scale and impactful way.. With a stable internet connection, everyone could attend GOLD and get to know colleagues far away, working and learning together  on the very same topic! Such fantastic value for money!

I remember how excited I was each year, and how I carefully planned a couple of days without any other obligations. In those days, there used to be three live time blocks, spread over only two or three days: a morning block, an afternoon/early evening block, and a night block, so as to facilitate all time zones! We used to share about our circumstances in the chat, such as being awake as the only one in a silent, nightly house, while others had just dropped off the kids at school or were cooking the family evening dinner. We would joke about GOLD Lactation being the only conference where you could show up in pyjamas with a blanket wrapped around your shoulders and a hot tea or a wine to keep you awake! A one-hour lecture, a one-hour interval for some after-chat, a bathroom break, and a drink refill and… on it went! There would be four or five lectures in a row and I would preferably attend all of them live in those two days, so as to have the benefit of asking questions and exchanging with colleagues. Afterwards, I would make a selection of the ones worth listening to a second time. In those years, I also took up the role of the Dutch group coordinator; this year again, 2021, I was able to register a beautiful group of colleagues wanting to follow GOLD Lactation and we enjoyed many good speakers once more.

Several times, I gave a short presentation myself in the Cultural and the Hot Topic-sections, addressing characteristics of the Dutch breastfeeding situation. Online conferences weren’t as common as they are today; GOLD providing such a possibility to attend trainings was still quite new and we were always amazed at how smoothly the whole technical part went. Not much has changed there – the technique is still a wonderful part of how GOLD works! Therefore, I’m really pleased and excited to be part of the upcoming Early Years-symposium! The GOLD Learning Early Years Online Symposium 2021 is a brand new event created specifically for healthcare professionals working with families with children ages 0-3 years. It takes place live on October 4 & 5, and includes 6 speakers sharing the latest research on early childhood brain development, the importance of healthy relationships, and the impact of healthy childhood environments. I will have the honour of being one of those six, with one of the others being Robin Grille. I looked up my notes from 2010, when he spoke on ‘Attachment, the Brain… and Human Happiness’. A few great lines: ‘Long before there is a vocal language, there is body language’, ‘The amygdala thinks much faster than the rational brain’, ‘The heart is more and more thought of as the second brain’, ‘Answering dependency creates independence and autonomy’. Robin ended by saying: ‘I dedicate this seminar to a better world!’ What inspiration we can get from listening to one another’s wisdom and paying it forward! GOLD does a great job facilitating this and bringing people closer from all corners and walks in life.

An important aspect of Robin’s presentation in 2010 and of the latest insights in neurophysiology is that breastfeeding is part of a wider, more vital process, namelijk attachment-focused parenting. There is no artificial substitute for responsive, compassionate connection between infants and their adult caregivers. Therefore, my own presentation this year, ‘Building Strong Children: The Power of Buffering Protection Through Responsive Parenting and Caring Communities,’ is full of information on the power of Positive Childhood Experiences. I’ll be speaking about reframing conversations to focus on caring connections that promote healthy brain development and stress regulation. I will also deal with the differences between a pathogenic and a salutogenic approach in healthcare and in life more general: do we focus on what to avoid to prevent falling ill… or do we focus on what to seek out in order to remain healthy? And what is the role of power relations in all this? You are invited to join us and learn about the impact of loving relationships, why humans actively try to connect with others, and how we can support the development of lifelong resilience. I’m thrilled to be speaking on this important topic and I hope you can be with us! Registration is open and includes both live and recorded access to all presentations: . See you there, maybe!


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