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Why knitted breasts just don’t do it for me

by Ann Charles on April 5th, 2013
Knitted breasts - one pink, the other brown

This post might be quite controversial.

But I have to admit a secret to you.

I have a real thing about knitted breasts.

Not in a pervy way.

I just don’t get why we’re still using them to teach parents about breastfeeding.

Obsession with knitted goods

It’s not just knitted breasts.  Go to an average antenatal class, and parents will also be greeted by an enthusiastic course leader waving about a knitted vagina, amongst other woollen offerings.

You can also buy knitted uteri and even a ‘knappy‘.  Yep, knitted poo, people!

(I have a secret admiration for this.  Someone sat down, worked out how to do a pattern and even looked up the colour charts for the right poo levels.  That’s dedication to the cause of ante-knittal education.)

1970s retro

They have their place, of course.  Pretend boobs can be a great visual tool for demonstrating a baby’s latch, and knitted ‘vaginas’ can show how the cervix draws up during labour in a fairly non-disgusting way.

Plus it’s normally better to use a prop than for a course leader to point at their own bodily anatomy.

But we have iPads nowadays.  Are knitted goods really the most effective way to get the message across?

The ‘heritage of knitting and birth’

I mentioned my reservations about woolly teaching aids to a Midwife, once.  She got all offended and went on about the ‘heritage of knitting and birth’.  (This can be summed up as: Midwives knitting during labour is an age-old tradition which keeps their hands busy and reassures labouring women that all is well, whilst allowing the birth attendant to keep a gentle eye on the woman.  Plus you get a hat for the baby at the end.)

I have nothing against knitting.  My mother has a bit of a track record with making gorgeous baby cardigans for friends with newborns.  I would be delighted if a Midwife brought a knitting bag with her during labour.

My point is that the world of pregnancy and birth is pretty alien to most people.  It can be frightening to face the prospect of transforming from being an individual or a couple with high levels of control over their lives to full-time parents.  We’ve lost touch with what it takes to bring up a child – and many professional people don’t encounter knitted products in their every day lives.  Surely there is a slightly cooler way of explaining the amazing-ness of our bodies without resorting to handicrafts*?

Rite of passage

I am prepared to be told I have got this horribly wrong.  I am prepared to change my mind.

However, right now I can’t help but think that it’s just a massive rite-of-passage conspiracy into parenthood.

I bet those antenatal teachers have got loads of ways of explaining how women’s bodies work.

But bring out something weird and act like it’s totally normal?  That’s the way to get the group to bond.

Have I cracked it?

What’s the weirdest prop you’ve come across at an antenatal class?  Please put it in the comment below and explain how (or if) it helped.  And then feel free to share the post so we can gather more randomness!

Original photo by vinzcha.

*Yes yes, I know handicrafts are cool again.  I’m just jealous because I’m rubbish at them.

From → Education

  1. Ha ha – brilliant! I remember being utterly baffled by the appearance of the knitted boobs. In fact I can’t even remember what the message was, I was too busy thinking about who the hell had spent the time and effort making them.

    But wait – midwife knitting while you’re in labour?? I’d have said “sorry, am I boring you?!”

    • I certainly admire the skill of creation 🙂

      Knitting in labour – there has been a loooong tradition of this (and some academic research). Michel Odent – a famous French obstetrician – recommends it.

      The idea is that the Midwife is doing something which means she can watch the mother and be attentive, but is also calm and relaxed. So it’s better than reading a book or looking up stuff on the internet (focus is not on the Mother) or hovering about and staring and asking questions all the time (focus there would make the Mum anxious). If a medical professional gets bored, there is a risk they want to ‘do’ something, which can lead to an unnecessary intervention.

      (Doctors attending homebirths used to be advised to take a book and sit on the stairs – the idea being that they were in the house but out of the way and only brought in if needed.)

      Some people think that the knitting thing works best when a woman has a good individual relationship with her Midwife. Unfortunately, most women giving birth in hospital won’t have met their Midwife before and don’t get continuity of care throughout pregnancy 🙁

      Of course, if any woman doesn’t want someone to knit in the corner, then it’s always fine to ask someone not to. Each individual (and each birth) is different.

      And I don’t think any Midwife would knit through the entire thing! It’s more for establishing some calm during a long labour.

      There’s a bit of a round up of it here:

      I’ve also read that some universities are teaching knitting to student Midwives, but I can’t remember which ones (knitting in labour is almost another blogpost, lol).

  2. Jane permalink

    We had a knitted gut at the high school… once you’ve seen one of those. Well.

    • Knitted gut? Brilliant!

      I wonder what it is with knitted body parts. Cheaper / better for the environment than plastic models?

  3. introducing…… the knitted placenta (warning: cannot be unseen!)

    • Brilliant!

      OT but $3? For a handmade item? I wish women would stop undervaluing themselves. I may not be a knitted body parts fan but they still take time, skill and materials to make 🙁

      • Penandra permalink

        The $3.00 is for shipping. Contact the Etsy shop-owner for the price of the item (made to order).

  4. Darling it’s a woollen placenta. it’s not like it has a myriad of uses!

  5. We may have a winner…

    (I almost want to make a radio feature or podcast about the people behind these creations – I am in awe!)

  6. James Lyndsay permalink

    Weirdest prop? Tube of yoghurt. Genuinely nauseating (though not knitted).

    • Dare I ask (though clearly it was memorable – I had a friend who was traumatised by a tub of Dairylea [cervix dilation] [not knitted either])…?

  7. Penandra permalink

    I appreciate your blog entry — and the comments and links! I am intrigued by the idea of knitted boobs for educational purposes, and thought that an interesting use for “knitted knockers.” I actually found your post while I was looking up a pattern that I apparently did not have bookmarked (but now have “pinned”). I knit “tit bits” for friends who have had mastectomies.

    • Ow wow, Penadra – I’ve never heard of those before – do you have a link? I am not very good at craft, so always appreciate the effort and love that goes into making these goods. Thanks for stopping by!

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