October 29, 2019
Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators - Newborns Are a Weighty Subject!
By: Sharon Muza, BS, LCCE, FACCE, CD/BDT(DONA), CLE | 2 Comments
This month’s Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators is all about using “weighted” babies in childbirth classes. In this post, we look at three easy ways to incorporate a life-size baby whose weight of 7 ½ or 8 pounds approximates the average weight of a newborn in the USA. Using a doll with a the same weight as a newborn really helps new families to have some practice with something that will be similar to their own newborn in just a few weeks. I use the weighted dolls many times throughout my class series to help prepare families for life with a newborn. To find all the Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators posts with amazing activities for childbirth educators, follow this link.
- 7 ½ - 8-pound weighted dolls in a variety of skin tones (I purchased mine here)
- A variety of baby carriers suitable for a newborn
- Knitted breasts in a variety of sizes and skin tones
Note: It would be ideal to have one weighted baby, one breast and one carrier for each family to work with.
Activity 1: The newborn
The first time I use the weighted newborn is in the early part of week one. We are discussing pregnancy anatomy (and the class has already created their own masterpieces) and I invite class members to guess what is the weight of the average newborn in the USA, (7 ½ pounds) and in our home state of Washington (8 pounds). I then pass around a weighted doll so they can feel exactly what that feels like. The class “oohs” and “aahs” at the heft of the doll. It always feels very “heavy” to them. I suggest that a real baby of the same weight feels lighter because the doll is total “dead” weight and not contributing to the support of their own body. We talk about how much of the baby is head, and how babies are positioned inside when they are head down, breech or transverse. Nonpregnant people are in awe of their pregnant partners who have the amazingly hard job of growing and birthing a full term baby.
Activity 2: Baby wearing
Week six we talk about the remarkable newborn and meeting the needs of this new baby. This includes a discussion of the fourth trimester. The class learns how wearing a baby meets many needs of a baby adapting to life on the outside and every family has their own practice Moby wrap and weighted baby in order to experience putting the wrap on and positioning the baby safely and comfortably. Both the pregnant and non-pregnant person get a chance to feel what it is like to carry their newborn in the wrap. I encourage the partners to wear their baby throughout the remainder of the class so they can experience what it might be like for an hour or more. There is a lot of picture taking and laughs as each family gets to know “their” newborn through baby wearing during class.
Activity 3: Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding
On week seven, I cover breastfeeding/chestfeeding the newborn. Out comes the weighted dolls again along with knitted breasts. As families learn the most common positions for nursing, I encourage the pregnant person to continue to hold the weighted doll in the proper position for about 20-30 minutes. I then ask them to try another position for another similar amount of time. We may even maintain a third position for a final 20-30 minutes. Throughout the experience, families are feeling how easy it is to fall into a “sloppy” way of holding the baby that quickly gets uncomfortable. They and their partners learn the importance of proper pillow placement and good body mechanics. The weighted dolls really make this point crystal clear.
How this activity is received
Families really appreciate having the weighted dolls to use during class. Their classroom experience helps them realize what their own newborn might feel like in their arms. The opportunity to handle the doll as if it was a real baby helps them to begin to navigate how life might change when their baby wants to be nursing, held and in their arms for long periods of time. Just like their dolls were new babies, I encourage them to treat them as such. No putting the baby down on the floor under their feet! They pass the dolls off to partners when they have to go to the bathroom and everyone juggles eating their snacks during the break with an 8-pound baby in their arms.
I believe the experience of having the weighted dolls for every family has been worth the investment and storage hassles of having 80 pounds of newborns to handle several classes in each series. Do you have weighted dolls for your classes? What else would you (or do you) do with them in your classes to help families feel confident and ready to parent their newborn?
Photo credit: Jessica Peterson, LCCE, One Tree Photography
TagsBreastfeeding Childbirth education Newborn Babywearing Brilliant Activities For Birth Educators Series: Brilliant Activities For Birth Educators Sharon Muza Chestfeeding