Justine Fieth, La Leche League Great Britain
As I prepare my bag for the monthly LLL Group meeting, I collect a condom, some chocolate, some chewing gum and a clothes peg (or clothes pin)—an unusual collection! As an LLL Leader, I often have random or unusual items in the bag, nestling next to my woolly (knitted) breast. On this occasion, I’m preparing a plan for Series Meeting 1: The Importance of Breastfeeding.
We have a large Group in LLL Cambridge and can have up to 20 mothers in a room, so sometimes facilitating discussion can be tricky. We normally do this particular topic as a discussion, but once a year the meetings are more interactive and Leaders use a “magic bag of tricks.”
What I love about this meeting is that every time we do it, mothers bring up new ideas that were not mentioned before but that are important to them.
Setting the scene
After the usual introductions and meeting notices we say:
“Today we are going to take a lighthearted look at what’s good about breastfeeding. In this bag are lots of items that represent something about breastfeeding. It could be something that is good for you or good for your baby, or some other aspect of breastfeeding that is convenient or advantageous.
“What’s useful to remember during our discussion is that rather than breastfeeding having special advantages or benefits, breastfeeding is a normal event, one that your baby and your body expect. Babies are born to breastfeed!
“There may be times, and that might include today, when you are facing challenges and sometimes it is hard to see the positive aspects about breastfeeding. Please do bring these challenges to the discussion. You may talk with one of the Leaders afterwards if there is something specific you would like covered. Please don’t go home with unanswered questions.
“So let’s pass the bag around, delve inside and pull something out. See if you can guess what it represents about breastfeeding. There is no right or wrong answer. If you would rather not take part, please pass the bag to the next person!”
What’s in the bag?
The items included in the bag are listed below, next to the idea they represent:
Knitted breast—represents reduced breast cancer and positive impact on maternal health
Empty medicine bottle—symbolizes the antibodies, immune factors and health benefits breastfeeding has for baby
Stethoscope—reduced chest infections, reduced allergy and asthma (fewer visits to your doctor)
Blu Tack (reusable putty-like substance to attach to a dry surface) or Velcro—represents bonding, and the idea that breastfeeding can fix anything from hunger to being fussy or tired
Calculator—symbolizes intelligence (breast milk is perfect for human brain development)
Chocolate—you can have extra calories while breastfeeding
Washing up/household sponge—to represent the idea that breastfeeding doesn’t require any washing up or sterilizing
Condom—opens a discussion about the contraceptive value of breastfeeding
Tampon—represents a delay in the return of a mother’s periods, which may or may not be seen as a benefit
Coins—breastfeeding is cheap!
Old lady figure—breastfeeding protects against osteoporosis in later life
Chewing gum—breastfeeding helps with a baby’s jaw and muscle development
Toy fridge or picture of a fridge—breast milk is always the right temperature
Flower—breastfeeding is good for the environment
Clothes peg/pin—breastfeeding creates nice smelling nappies (diapers)
Car—it is easy to travel or pack for a journey when breastfeeding
Aeroplane—when traveling breastfeeding occupies and feeds the baby
Glitzy handbag—there is no need to carry lots of bottles or feeding accessories around when breastfeeding
Children’s vitamins—breast milk has everything a baby needs
Children’s book—breastfeeding leaves one hand free to entertain older children, drink a cup of tea or phone someone
Cow—symbolizes the right milk for the right mammal
Watch—represents saving time; watch the baby not the clock
Water bottle—represents perfect hydration whatever the weather
Star—symbolizes easy night times, the ease of getting baby back to sleep, and the ease of getting back to sleep yourself.
- Lead the way by being the first to remove an item from the bag or start with a Leader Applicant or confident member
- Ensure that the discussion doesn’t slip into a negative discussion bashing formula or bottle feeding
- Collect all the items back in again, so that they don’t go back in to the bag to be picked a second time, and are not borrowed by a toddler
- Finally, it may be helpful to explain to your husband or partner why you are putting a condom in your bag as you leave the house!
Justine Fieth has been a Leader in Cambridge, United Kingdom, since 2011. She co-leads the local Group and is co-Editor of the LLL Great Britain (LLLGB) membership magazine, Breastfeeding Matters. She is one of the LLLGB social media team working mostly on Facebook. Justine works as a postnatal doula and is one of the co-founding Trustees of Cambridge Breastfeeding Alliance, which runs a weekly breastfeeding drop-in for mothers and babies. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children.