Recently our local children’s hospital, the IWK, contacted me with an unusual request. The Family Newborn Unit was asking for a knitted breast to help demonstrate breastfeeding techniques to new moms. (Here is a printer-friendly Marianne Brophy’s Knitted Breast pattern.)
As a mother of two and a breastfeeding advocate, I loved this brilliant idea and was thrilled to get involved. Working on this project brought back the memories of challenges that I faced as a mother of a newborn.
Often breastfeeding comes naturally to a nursing couple, but not always. Sometimes new mothers need help. Because the stakes were high for me, I didn’t mind to learn the techniques using my own body that was looked at and touched by strangers of both genders. I vividly remember the moment when I decided that I simply couldn’t be distracted by the uncomfortable feelings. My child’s needs came before my comfort. Also, I simply didn’t have a choice.
That’s why I want the families and the breastfeeding professionals to have a choice. They can use a realistic, pliable model to talk about the women’s anatomy and the breastfeeding process. Both mothers and health professionals can feel and manipulate this knitted breast to make their learning experience most useful and comfortable.
I have made a number of samples and brought them back to the hospital to test (they passed). Please let me share some of the insights I gained while experimenting. First of all, you don’t have to use only pink yarn but skin tones are preferable. I made two different kinds to reflect differences in skin colours.
The darker yarn was a bit thicker so I had to modify the pattern slightly. I cast on 60 instead of 66 stitches, and had 10 instead of 11 stitches in each decrease section.
They turned out the same size but even if they were slightly bigger or smaller, it wouldn’t matter. Breasts come in all shapes and sizes. After stuffing the breasts with the filling material, I traced a yogurt lid to make a few cardboard circles for the flat bottom.
If you follow the pattern exactly, you will notice that the top (the nipple part) is shaped like a hat. It provides a lot of flexibility. With the top pushed in, it can represent an inverted nipple that sometimes makes it more challenging for a baby to latch on. It can be used for demonstrating techniques of teasing the nipple out.
If you knit more than one model, you could make a variety of shapes. Draw the yarn through stitches below the last ones (about three rounds down) to create a firm nipple or skip a few last stitches to create a flat nipple, like this one. You can also experiment with the different size areola by joining a contrast yarn sooner or later in the pattern.
Dear knitters, let’s knit some breasts for the new mothers and their babies to help make their breastfeeding journey as smooth as possible.
You can drop off your knitted breast models at:
IWK Volunteer Resources
5850/5980 University Avenue
Halifax, NS B3K 6R8
or mail them to:
IWK Health Centre
PO BOX 9700
Halifax, NS B3K 6R8
Thank you and happy knitting!