In order to evaluate the response to my work, in mid May 2013, I displayed it within the University. The work was assembled to create a breastfeeding room ‘set up’ complete with play mat and furniture for toddlers to play on.
I invited all the people I had spoken to about my work and encouraged new mothers to come along via Facebook. The feedback was really interesting. Although I had feedback forms and an online survey, it was face to face conversations from which I gained the most information.
Many women had no idea how much help was available but those who had problems found the support invaluable in their continuation of breastfeeding. No one was shocked by the amount of crafted breasts on show; in fact they were greeted with surprise humour and smiles.
“For me it was a very playful way to catch attention that is essential for a campaign to succeed. We live in a sexualised society, but these breasts did not evoke any sexual image.” –feedback from visitor
I was particularly pleased to have several mothers happy enough to feed their children in the space itself whilst their older siblings were entertained with the wall of boobs.
One respondent to the online survey suggested there could be more toys, I would like to take this further in the future, and design some more breast inspired toys plus a black and white pattern book for babies.
Many people commented favourably on the pattern, both in the large-scale format of the wallpaper, and the screen, without realising it was representing breasts.
My work was used (for free) by Nawal (El-Amrani, the Infant Feeding co-ordinator for the council) for the annual National Breastfeeding Awareness Week’s picnic in the Winter Gardens this year.
Initially she had wanted to commission me to make the breast shaped dome tent, but had her budget cut to zero.
Nawal suggested seeking funding to make the tent, and she may have been able to find enough money to rent it from me, but this proved impossible too. She has pointed out to me that other councils and organizations may be interested in renting it for similar events in other cities so I may well do this in the future.
As part of the National Breastfeeding Week my work was displayed in the Winter Gardens in Sheffield City centre. A breast feeding picnic had been organized and my work acted as a backdrop. Babies and toddlers enjoyed playing with the knitted breasts. There were many breastfeeding workers in attendance talking to passers-by and new Mothers. The picnic gained a great deal of attention from members of the public who were passing by, due to the wall of boobs as well as the many women who were breastfeeding.
The picnic featured in the Sheffield Star’ newspaper but interestingly it omitted to include any photographs of women breastfeeding. As the event was national it attracted many articles in the national press. A great many of these were very disparaging about militant breastfeeding advocates. This reiterated the point that all breastfeeding support needs to be non- judgmental and inclusive.
Again the feed back garnered from talking to new Mothers was positive with regard to making more breastfeeding room/areas feel fit for purpose.
There was a Breastfeeding World Record Attempt in Barnsley (part of the Big Latch On) this summer to try and get the most amount of women breastfeeding in one place. As this happened in a park, this would have been the ideal place to take the tent. I took along the ‘Pop-Up Restaurant’ sign and had this above where I was feeding.
I also took the sign to Sheffield’s Tramline’s music festival, and asked a friend to hold the sign above me as I fed Billy Bob. I think this might have looked slightly strange!
Would making the environments where women feed outside the home more pleasant help in some way to make new mothers feel comfortable with breastfeeding? Although ideally all women should be confident and encouraged to breastfeed in public, sourcing rooms and places available to breastfeed out and about in privacy may go some way to introducing them to breastfeed away from the home.
Anecdotally, although Asian women are more likely to breastfeed, they are more uncomfortable about doing this in public. This is why the private feeding rooms in public buildings are also very important. The privacy creates a freedom to leave the house where many women would feel trapped at home.
For example, Meadowhall has three such rooms. There is a quiet and comfortable room located off a corridor in the food quarter dedicated to feeding, with two sofas and a lock on the door. There are also two feeding rooms in the Mothercare store. One of these doubles as a changing room, with bottle heaters and hand washing facilities. The other has two reclining armchairs and a water fountain. Although both of these rooms are fairly comfortable and private, they look pretty ugly and uninspiring. If these rooms were ‘jazzed up’ a bit, they could act as examples of great breastfeeding spaces, for mothers too scared to come shopping when feeding and also to other organisations catering for a young female clientele.
IKEA is a great example of family friendly facilities. Rather than having a dedicated breastfeeding room the restaurant has a cordoned off section for feeding infants creating a private and fun environment for Mothers and children alike.
Kiddicare, as the name would suggest is a new company specializing in baby and children’s products. It appears to be leading the pack with regards to in-store facilities for nursing mothers.
In a bid to appeal to the more nervous mother/ expectant mother, I have looked at using repeat patterns to soften the impact of giant breasts.
Pattern and branding became important to the design to make the work recognisable when used in multiple places across the city.
I created soft furnishings and wallpaper designed to be suitable for ‘on the road’ displays and potentially for the decoration of feeding rooms in public buildings.
For the modesty screen and the cushions I used the screen-printing technique. A three-colour separation and single colour outline were used of the repeat pattern design. The outline design appears more successful as it abstracts the image of the breast.
Thankfully Mike MacGabbhan in the printmaking dept of SHU was able to help me with the screen-printing process, as I was too heavily pregnant to reach the bed properly!
All the fabric was sewn together my myself and my Mother.
Ideally, these kinds of rooms could be wheeled out across the city, perfect for breastfeeding mothers who have returned to work and either have their baby come in to feed during the day, or who have to express milk in their breaks. Both of which are fairly common practices. By law, breastfeeding mothers need to be given the time and space to continue breastfeeding in the work environment, but most workplaces do not have dedicated space for this. Many women working in schools, colleges and hospitals –large organisations, within the public sector- find themselves in cupboards, toilets and corners expressing in their lunch hour, unable to eat or read in the dark in such places.
As so much of my work is designed to be transported, it seemed right to print some branded boxes to carry the models.
One road I travelled, only to find myself in a cul de sac, was the attempted rebranding of the Sheffield Breastfeeding Friendly Awards. This is a council led initiative, designed to collate a list of premises open to breastfeeding women. These are primarily public sector buildings, including council buildings and libraries and children’s centres. Also included are a large amount of cafes and restaurants.
In an attempt to lure more businesses into joining the scheme, I began designing actual awards for the cafes etc to display. Currently the buildings are given window stickers to entice feeding mothers inside, but I wanted to give them even more of an incentive to join up.
I thought about barbers’ poles, with the stripe snaking down it being blue, like the milk straws of our youth. However, I came up with a more overt, silicone and acrylic breast, with a straw coming out of it, as an object; and a print and web based illustration of this for stickers and 2D signs.
One point worth mentioning here is that Nawal did not think the straw coming out of the nipple was appropriate, as it suggests the baby drinks from the nipple which, although the milk comes out from the nipple, the baby latches on and sucks from much further onto the breast. All subsequent designs will have the straw removed.
This area of work failed for two reasons. Firstly, the imagery was a shade too blatant, too obvious and lacking a bit too much in humour. Secondly, producing the models would be much too costly; the council would not have the funding to produce anything other than the window stickers.
For those Mother’s who have chosen to breastfeed, making information available on support is invaluable. Sheffield, particularly has a great deal of support available if you know where to look. Making this information easier to get both from road shows and poster campaigns could be very useful.
As making is my passion, it was a case of deciding which craft to use as appropriate.
Most midwives and health professionals dealing with breastfeeding use knitted breasts to illustrate positioning and attachment of babies –could this craft language be extended?
With the help of my mother, I knitted thirty breasts to be used as teaching aids like the ones knitting nannas make. They also make a fun display for feeding rooms/ breastfeeding pop-up displays.
Using CNC routed plywood I created a moveable wall with castors for the breasts to be displayed, with space for information to be stuck on the back using specially made magnets.
The knitted boobs were made using vaguely skin coloured yarns, to attempt to represent the human form. The majority were made to illustrate Caucasian skin but a few more were of various shades to represent black and Asian tones. The shades were probably representative of the population but also it must be pointed out that, culturally, white English women are least likely to breastfeed. Black and Asian women have feeding much more culturally entrenched, with support from family members making this normal and easier to achieve.
I have seen many of the grannies’ knitted boobs that health visitors etc carry around with them in bright blues and greens due to using up any spare wool they had. I did consider using this technique but preferred skin tones as it kept them life like enough to be viewed as body parts.
The pattern for the knitted boobs can be passed around, either for ladies to add to the wall of boobs, to create their own wall of boobs at children’s centres, or to donate for training purposes to hospitals.
These need to be housed in some kind of moveable structure, to both entice people close, and to create a space for quietly feeding and receiving information and support.
Nawal El-Amrani, the infant feeding co-ordinator for Sheffield council, cares passionately about getting women the right kind of information to encourage the upkeep of breastfeeding. She is responsible for disseminating all information to health visitors, midwives and peer support workers about correct breastfeeding techniques.
Incidentally, the language used was very important, I was told by Nawal that my use of the word ‘advice’ was not appropriate, as this can suggest the midwives’ ability to solve the mother’s feeding problems rather than guiding them to solutions.
What better way to grab people’s attention than by a giant breast? Initially I thought making a fabric boob stretched over a framework could do this.
This idea progressed into the concept of being able to get inside the breast, hence the ‘titty tepee’. Although the model looked pretty cool, the shape and colours were not realistic and striking enough for it to be recognised as a breast from far away.
I developed a design for a collapsible tent, more like a dome tent that could be made and transported to various venues, including parks and festivals. This was definitely more identifiable as a breast, and would be big enough to fit at least five or six people comfortably. The size meant that this could be used to house a support worker along with some comfortable chairs for feeding in good weather, but also for the information displays and such, during bad weather.
After working out costs and metres of fabric needed, it became clear that the prohibiting factor was not the cost, but the size of the structure. When dismantled it would be huge, as this, like the wall of boobs, would be CNC routed plywood.
The shape needs to remain the same, but the framework would be much better made from fibreglass tent poles like a traditional dome tent.
As mentioned, I would like to use this tent to travel to parks, festivals and shopping centres, where there may be mothers with problems with feeding. They may like help, or desire privacy. This also could be taken to sites to pre-empt potential parent’s worries regarding breastfeeding- for instance having a pop-up information point in places where there is a high incidence of teenage pregnancy.
I had grand ideas about other possible permanent structures being used for spreading imagery of breasts as non-sexual objects.
I would love to see the cement dome in Heeley with a painted nipple; seen from Google Earth it would look rather fun and incongruent.
Instead of having a permanent coat of paint on, it could be wrapped a la Christo. This could be extended to any dome like structure, although I may have trouble persuading the Imam that the Wolsey Road Mosque would look good with it.
Serious research needs to be done into how something as overt as a nipple shaped tent would be treated by the target audiences. Would it be something that would be an alluring sight, bringing people towards it out of curiosity, or would it be a repellent to the more shy or self-conscious?
Although I have had positive feedback on the design from Nawal El-Amrani, I am unsure how the younger women would feel about it.
All this knitting inspired me to make a more accurate model of breasts. These breasts carried by health professionals are essentially teaching aids, so it seemed appropriate to make an anatomical model of the breast.
An understanding of how the breast is constructed could help to reduce the chances of developing or alleviating mastitis. For this to be successful, it needed to be anatomically accurate. Amazingly, it was only recently that the make up and function of the breast was studied in depth. The constituents of breasts were wrongly illustrated, as they had not been studied properly. Unicef now uses an illustration wildly different from that taught in medical circles even five years ago. (See appendix 8) As a consequence, I have had to adjust my knitted model, as I based it on images found on the Internet that were not up to date with current thinking.
This model, due to its size, it designed to be used in a permanent clinical setting, explaining to mothers how the milk is formed and stored, as well as to show how, where and why problems including mastitis may occur.
Talking to Nawal from the council was useful in many ways. It introduced me to a new level of bureaucracy that she encounters frequently with the council, and also the strict guidelines about information dissemination imposed through the Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative.
Nawal is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about what she does, but is restricted massively by budgetary and bureaucratic restraints.
So as to ensure a coherent and continuous level of care, all feeding information must be the same. Unicef officially does not encourage the use of nipple shields, breast pumps or other methods, which anecdotally have helped mothers through difficulties with feeding.
Although these methods work for many women, they are not encouraged and therefore should not be mentioned in printed or web materials for women. This is very much the same with formula milk. Gaining information about correct formula feeding is incredibly hard work, if going through the official channels.
Another set of work embarked upon which I would like to pursue further is the ‘pop up’ restaurant sign placed in various outdoor and unusual places. I designed and made a Las Vegas style sign complete with LED lights. This was suitable to be transported and displayed wherever women choose to breastfeed. For example park benches, train carriages and beaches. This follows the current trend of pop up restaurants and shops in London. Photographs of the sign in these locations could be used as a print campaign. Removable stickers could also be produced to be applied where women have found themselves feeding.