This month's Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators idea is a bit on the creative side. Some people are crafty enough and have the skill and know-how to crochet and/or knit items that can be used in childbirth classes. Other people, like me, possess none of that skill but are smart enough to identify those people in their life who do. Either way, here are some great ideas for teaching items that can be made with some needles or a crochet hook and some yarn. Our Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators series is a monthly post that shares ideas and teaching activities that you can use in your classes. If you would like to submit something for future publication, please shoot me an email. You can read all the posts in this series by clicking here.
I have been doing a lot of teaching this week, and as I was cleaning up the classroom, yet again, and putting teaching supplies away, I realized how many items I have that were knitted or crocheted by talented people that really add to the richness of the experience in my childbirth classroom. Once I tallied things up, there were more handmade items than I expected to find. I wanted to share them with you today. If you have the skills and know how to create these teaching tools, that is fantastic! The yarn is easy to find and most of these things can be whipped up fairly quickly. If you lack these skills, you can reach out and find people who can help you. Please consider paying a fair price for the materials and their time.
This is a classic and really one of the first things that a new childbirth educator will probably want to acquire. Choose your colors and patterns and make sure it fits the "fetus" you will be putting in it and away you go. I probably use this most every class, and mine was made by my mother, who has since passed away, so it has even more meaning for me. Here is one pattern, but you can find many options online. Demonstrating anatomy as well as how the cervix dilates and effaces during labor is easy with one of these uteruses (uteri?) in hand!
Stages of stool
This knitted diaper is an easy way to show expectant families exactly how their newborn baby's stool will change from meconium to transitional stool to normal breastfed baby stool over the first days of life. It always gets a laugh and really helps reassure them that these changes are normal and to be expected. Thanks to Betsy Hoffmeister, IBCLC for making mine for me from this pattern.
I love these knitted (or crocheted, I cannot remember?) and weighted breasts for teaching about breast/chestfeeding. I have a set of 12, all different sizes, shapes, and colors so every family can have one during our lactation class. Each breast is different, demonstrates a whole bunch of skin tones and different sizes of nipples and areolas. Each one comes with a special bead inside that clearly demonstrates what a clogged duct might feel like, when they find it. We use these for breast/chestfeeding our dolls, learning hand expression and so much more. These were made by my colleague Emily Banning, here in Seattle, but you can find lots of patterns for these online. Here is one I like. I also have some tiny crocheted breasts that I use when I talk about hormones. They are about the size of a walnut and I love them! Made by a former client, Melissa.
I use these crocheted mini-placentas in my classes to talk about how retained placenta can inhibit mature milk from becoming available in adequate amounts. This one is smaller than my hand, but the entire item could be made much bigger or even life-size, to demonstrate what people can expect the placenta to look like. Sewing on some gauzy material could even represent the membranes attached to the placenta. Here is a pattern for purchase, though you may be able to find another offered for free. Mine was made by my former client, Melissa who is great with the crochet hook.
The Sharon Doll
Another talented former client crocheted this doll that is about 12 inches in height. She named it the "Sharon Doll" and I use it all the time to demonstrate open pelvises, pushing positions, great positions to labor in and more. The classes love her, and they enjoy getting creative with her long legs and arms. This is one of my favorite teaching tools ever. I originally saw something very similar that my friend Teri Shilling uses for teaching, and asked Carrie (client) to make me something similar. She did it from scratch without a pattern. She is amazing.
There are many items that can be knitted or crocheted and used as teaching aids for your childbirth classes. This can be an economical and effective way of acquiring teaching props, especially if you are able to knit or crochet. A quick search on Pinterest or Etsy or some well-known knitting and crocheting forums will no doubt turn up hundreds of ideas. These are some of the items that I own and use regularly. Are there any favorite knitted or crocheted items that you use in your classes? Share your ideas and patterns with us in the comments section below.