USLCAThe USLCA conference was held in San Antonio, Texas, this year, and having just returned I feel rejuvenated, and excited about the year ahead! There was so much to learn, and I couldn’t help thinking about all the IBCLCs and others from our state who would have benefited from attending. I’d like to share with you 7 reasons you may want to consider attending the next national USLCA conference if you were unable to attend this year.

1. Seeing the Big Picture. Sometimes it’s a good idea to step back from our day-to-day world, and see the bigger picture in our profession. You’ve heard the expression, “Can’t see the forest for the trees?” This can happen when we become hyper-focused on our own work. Maybe you work in a hospital, or perhaps in private-practice or with the WIC program. Within those areas each of us can and should be educating ourselves to support our specific populations, but at a national conference we get to step out of our own sphere and hear about what is happening in all aspects of our profession across the nation. Seeing the “big picture,” reminds us that our individual work has a bigger purpose and value.

2. Meeting Leaders in the Field. Sure, you’ve probably read plenty of articles from Alison Hazelbaker, Alison Steube and Frank Nice, but have you met them? Being at a national conference allows you the opportunity to meet the leaders and researchers in our field. USLCA provided small table discussions at breakfast with these and many other leaders, and it was exciting to hear about their work and chat with them in a small group, and sometimes one-on-one.

3. Sharing Your Work. There are many opportunities to share the work you’re doing as well. You could present at break-out session or poster presentation. Or, in a less formal way, just sharing a meal or sitting next to other IBCLCs at sessions allows you to talk about the great work you do, and hear from others about their work as well. You’ll share emails and ideas and make connections that would otherwise not be possible. You never know who you might meet and where those connections may take you.

4. New Information. There’s always something new to learn! No matter who you are, or how long you’ve been practicing, you can always learn from someone else. This year the USLCA provided some amazing speakers. I learned more about licensure, tongue-tie, counseling techniques, baby behavior and perinatal mood disorders to name just a few of the topics – and I’m looking forward to applying this new knowledge back home.  Keeping up on the latest research and practices improves our practice and ultimately improves the care we provide to breastfeeding families.

5. Tools of the Trade. Most national conferences provide opportunities for vendors to showcase their products and USLCA conference was no exception. There were new pumps, gadgets, clothing, herbals and more. Our own board member, Lucia Jenkins was there to highlight Baby Café USA and hopefully her presence will spark the opening of future Baby Cafes across the country.

6. Renewed Energy. Let’s face it – sometimes our work can be discouraging. Maybe you work tirelessly to help a mom and things don’t work out. Or maybe you find yourself up against opposition to your ideas at every turn. Sometimes you may wonder if your work matters. Attending a large conference with hundreds of other like-minded people, and with speakers who remind us of the importance of our every-day work, does wonders for the heart and soul! You will come home ready to take on the world again.

7. Have Fun. Did I mention the fun part? Aside from conferencing, there is time to sightsee, or just hang at the pool with friends. There is plenty for families to do as well. I saw several family groups – one dad was toting around 6 children while mom attended the conference! Generally, national conference venues are of high quality and provide plenty for families to do. The USLCA venue this year, at the Hyatt Hill Country, was perfectly suited for this. There was a pool, a lazy river, a surfing wave pool, water slide, playground and bicycles to ride. There was also a child-care camp for children, allowing parents a little down time. So aside from learning, you are sure to have time for fun!

There are so many ways to educate ourselves today. We have local conferences of course, but there are also podcasts, online education, webinars, and videos to name just a few. So it’s easy to see why you might consider a national conference to be an unnecessary expense. But I urge you to consider planning ahead, to attend the next USLCA National Conference. I believe the event will be held in 2019, so you have two years to save up. Consider it an investment in yourself, in your future, and in the future of your profession.