August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month (and August 1-7 was World Breastfeeding Week) and Science & Sensibility covered the WBW theme "Breastfeeding and Work: Let's Make It Work!" in a post earlier this month. August's Brilliant Activities for BirthEducators will continue to increase the awareness about breastfeeding and breastfeeding education. I would like to talk about how I and the families in my class use a set of wonderful knitted breasts when I cover breastfeeding topics in my childbirth class. You can find all the Brilliant Activities for Birth Educator posts here.I currently teach a seven week series and cover the majority of the breastfeeding topics on the last week. The entire series is rich in information about breastfeeding, skin to skin, safe and healthy birth options, and other choices that support getting breastfeeding off on the best path possible. Week seven is the nuts and bolts of breastfeeding, covering topics like latch, how the breasts make milk, positions for breastfeeding, is your newborn getting enough milk and common problems that new families experience as well as other information.
For the breastfeeding class, I use these wonderful handknitted breasts that I purchased from a talented colleague here in Seattle. You can find similar patterns to make your own in the links below. Each breast is unique in skin tone, nipple and areola size, overall size and weight. Every family receives one breast and one baby. (I use these Ikea dolls, for their affordability, size and softness.) Using these knitted breasts and dolls allows the families to experience common breastfeeding situations in a comfortable and humorous way, while gaining experience positioning themselves and their babies for comfortable and supportive breastfeeding.
Nine Breastfeeding Teaching Ideas Using a Knitted Breast
- Having different size breasts with different size nipples and areolas gives me an opportunity to share that breastfeeding can be successful no matter the size of a person's breast tissue or breast anatomy. Large and small breasts can both feed a baby quite satisfactorily. My collection is quite varied.
- When a person uses their finger to press in on the tissue around the baby's nose in order to "make space for air"during breastfeeding, it can change the angle of the nipple in the baby's mouth and create unnecessary discomfort.
- Supporting the breast with the "c-hold" and placing the fingers well back from the areola will help the baby to have a deeper latch and pull more breast tissue into their mouth.4. Shaping and supporting the breast "like a hamburger" so the baby can get a good latch can reduce nipple pain and help the baby to transfer milk.
- The five most common positions to breastfeed - laidback breastfeeding, cross cradle, cradle, football and side lying can feel awkward, but with practice will become second nature. Everyone gets to try them using their "breast" and "baby". They can practice holding and positioning the knitted breast in the best way for each position.
- Placing lots of pillows for proper support for the dyad can help keep breastfeeding comfortable.7. A baby can nurse "around the clock" on the breast, with sometimes subtle position changes that allows the baby to stimulate and remove milk from all parts of the breast.
- There is a small bead sewn into each of these weighted knitted breasts. I can ask the families to find the little pea sized lump and can discuss how this might be a sign of a clogged duct, and how to resolve it.
- Hand expressing milk if parents are separated from their baby after birth, can help with overall supply and volume while supplying valuable colostrum for their baby. They can also use this skill to increase supply, or if they are experiencing engorgement. Learning this skill on the knitted breast in class is great.
Open Mouthed Ikea Doll
If you are extra creative, there is a great "hack" that can be done to the Ikea doll to make the mouth open and include a tongue, (which can even be "tongue-tied") to make the knitted breast/doll demo even more realistic. Find this clever idea created by Tova Ovits, CLC here on Galactablog.
I also use a knitted diaper that shows how a newborn baby's stool changes over time from dark meconium to mustardy breastfed baby stool. A great visual aid and always gets lots of comments from families. Thanks Betsy Hoffmeister, IBCLC, for making me such a great tool to use in my Lamaze classes.
At first, families may feel a little awkward handling the knitted breast, and may laugh if it is particularly large or small, or as an unusually large nipple. But over the course of the night, they become comfortable in handing the breast, confident in finger placement and are eager to try different positions and experiment with their own additional suggestions for comfortable and useful techniques. We all have fun, they leave class excited and ready to get breastfeeding off to a good start and knowledgeable in some of the basics to help them do so.
Knitted Breast Patterns
What interesting techniques and tools do you use to help your families during your breastfeeding instruction? Share your ideas and resources in our comments section below.