YouTube for Breastfeeding: Video Sharing as a Counseling Tool

By Jessica Lang Kosa, PhD, IBCLC

youtube-logo2“Do you have any suggestions for how to get a deeper latch?” asks the mom on the phone. I’ve been a LLL leader for years, so I have a lot of experience with phone counseling, but certain questions always leave me struggling for words while illustrating my point with animated hand gestures that are invisible to the caller. Even the best description of a physical technique just doesn’t do it justice – a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video, well that’s priceless. Hence, my YouTube channel.

YouTube is a video sharing website that allows anyone to post videos. They can be restricted to only certain viewers, or can be made public. If a video is public, then other users can share it around by marking it as a favorite, emailing a link, or adding it to a playlist (a collection of videos). The copyright agreement that video creators agree to allows only for open sharing within YouTube – not for downloading the video. Links to a video can also be embedded in a Facebook post, blog, or other social media, but the link goes back to YouTube. A user can simply view other people’s videos, or can create a channel – essentially a homepage, where the host can present their own videos and links and comments on other public videos. Accounts and channels are free. Creators of a video can choose to show an ad at the beginning to generate revenue (both for themselves and for YouTube), and this is what keeps it viable.

As a teaching tool, this is incredibly powerful. A mother calls to say she is engorged and can’t get the baby to latch. I can send her to a video demonstrating reverse pressure softening. Any time I teach a client a technique – hand expression, laid-back breastfeeding, supplementing at breast – I can also give her links to videos. Learning theorists say that we all remember information better when we receive it through multiple routes; verbal, kinesthetic, and visual all reinforce each other. I can also diversify, by offering both my own videos – reminding her of what I taught her in person – and other public videos, usually offering a slightly different approach. She can see for herself a real range of practices, and experiment to find what works for her. One of my favorite things to teach new mothers is nursing while babywearing. Since there are zillions of different carriers, and many ways of nursing in them, collecting a lot of examples in a playlist is super useful.

I’ve posted several videos I made myself; all are short simple ones shot with an iPhone. One of the first videos I posted was a live demonstration of hand expression by a colleague. Within 48 hours, it had thousands of views, and had been flagged as “inappropriate” and removed by YouTube. I fought YouTube, and got it reinstated, now marked “18 and over” and “For Health Education Only.” I also disabled the comments – most of which were coming from people who were not my intended audience.

After that, I switched mostly to videos using props rather than actual breasts. In addition to reducing the troll traffic, props have several advantages. For one thing, they simplify. For another, it’s easy to make a point very quickly. My demo baby (a teddy bear) can be moved around into several different positions, including those that would be uncomfortable for a real baby. Seeing a real baby latch is valuable too, but with my bear, puppet, and knitted breast, I can illustrate the key points several times over in less than a minute. Another lesson I’ve learned is that a 1-minute video is generally more useful than a 10-minute video.

Since my goal in posting videos is to have an easy teaching tool, I have not put ads on my own videos. But it’s an option, and a popular video can make some significant ad revenue. For those who just want to use videos to support their work with mothers, the first step is to create an account, and browse. Search terms like breastfeeding, twins, pumping, whatever you find yourself describing often. When you find something you like, click “Favorite”, or “Add to Playlist.” For a playlist, you will have a chance to create a new playlist, name it (such as “Twin nursing positions”), and add a description. A playlist is good for when you want to organize multiple videos on a topic. Then, you can email or text links to individual videos, or a playlist, or your “channel.” (Or to my channel, which can be found HERE.) This is not a time-consuming process, and it’s free. And it’s much easier than describing that invisible latching baby over the phone.

Jessica head 4Jessica Lang Kosa is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in private practice in the Boston area.  She offers home visits for comprehensive breastfeeding help, and teaches courses in breastfeeding support for professionals who work with mothers and babies.

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