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Coaches' Notebook: Games and Strategies for Lactation Education

by Linda J. Smith, BSE, FACCE, IBCLC
Available from LLLI, No. 1049-19, $36.95
Reviewed by Christine McNeil Montano
Easton CT USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 39 No. 3, June-July 2003, p. 55.

In Coach’s Notebook: Games and Strategies for Lactation Education, Linda J. Smith has gathered games and advice for presenting breastfeeding classes. This book is a source of inspiration and an aid for breastfeeding instructors. It is also a guide designing and delivering professional-style presentations that are spiced up with games and activities in lieu of a straightforward lecture.

Leaders could use some of these games at Series Meetings for a portion of the time, then use the remaining time for a more free-flowing mother-to-mother sharing discussion. Another idea is to customize the games by stretching them out—asking a mother to speak about her part of the game, voicing her opinions, and sharing her personal experiences.

Smith feels that using games adds an element of fun to the learning experience, increases the learners’ attention span, and aids with the retention of the presented information. Smith has combined auditory, kinesthetic, and visual elements to appeal to these three different learning styles.

Chapter One contains basic presentation skills combined with Smith’s tips based on her many years of experience as an instructor and a board-certified lactation consultant. Smith covers the structure, flow, and appropriate timing of each component of the presentation. Discussion about the use of breastfeeding props, and the pros and cons of using audio-visual equipment are also included. Experienced Leaders who are not confident with their current presentation style or who have had difficulty organizing their material into what they consider a smooth presentation may find this concise information useful. Leaders who plan to give presentations at LLL Conferences would benefit from the information in this chapter, as well.

The challenge of deciding what to present is acknowledged as a common stumbling block. With all we know about breastfeeding, it can be hard to decide how to limit content to fit within a certain time frame. Smith provides good tips about how to pare down everything we want to present. Suggestions about determining what is the most important information to cover versus what would be "nice to know" are included. Smith states that we should remember that breastfeeding is 10 to 15 percent instruction and 85 to 90 percent practice, and that students only retain 10 to 50 percent of the presented information. She wisely cautions against overloading parents with too much information.

In Chapter Two, Smith provides five icebreaker activities to choose from. Later chapters contain six games for use with the general public and 14 games for presenting specific topics or concepts in depth. The last chapter contains 10 games for any audience. These games contain "neat and nifty ideas from master teachers from around the world" that "convey the uniqueness of breastfeeding in creative and effective ways."

All of the games and activities in the book are well organized and easy to understand. Key information is easily scanned on the first page: the goal, the best audience for the game, the amount of time required to play, and how to play. Details such as trivia facts with source citations are included. Almost every game is complete and requires no research on the part of the presenter. However, thought must go into the planning of the presentation and some require game pieces, game cards, or other resources that need to be prepared ahead of time. Smith also recommends a practice run-through before the actual presentation begins to work out any kinks.

Some of the activities include learning the composition of human milk, really hearing what a mother is trying to communicate with sample statements, figuring out if a medication is compatible with breastfeeding, and how to evaluate research studies about breastfeeding. Games for the general public include a handful related to emotions such as exploring negative feelings related to feeding choices or past guilt about not breastfeeding. There is a breastfeeding trivia game complete with questions and answers. For games where the attendees discuss opinions or emotions, Smith includes the typical answers and details to elaborate on them. Some games require the players to use breastfeeding references to look up answers and come to conclusions.

Leaders or Peer Counselors who teach breastfeeding classes will find this an invaluable tool. Lactation consultants or nurses who make presentations to health care professionals about breastfeeding will also appreciate this resource. Only a few of the games in this book would be useful for LLL Series Meetings. However, any Leader who is doing a formal presentation about breastfeeding such as at a District Workshop, Chapter Meeting, or at an LLL Area Conference, could use the games in this book as a ready-made presentation. This book is not recommended for use in Group Libraries because it is specifically for use by breastfeeding educators. This book can save loads of preparation time by giving all that is needed to play these creative and informative teaching games.

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