A Breastfeeding Education Activity Package for Grades K-12


Students will realize how choices regarding nutrition, drugs, alcohol, tobacco and environmental factors can affect pregnancy and lactation


Passing It On is a unit that blends well with the tobacco, alcohol, and drug curriculum. It should also be used in conjunction with a unit on nutrition. This can be done in health or home economics or by the regular classroom teacher. Lesson 1 examines the nutritional differences between a pregnant and lactating woman.

In Lessons 2, 3, and 4 the effects of substances such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and medicines on a pregnant woman, fetus, and newborn baby will be studied. Lesson 5 examines the issue of whether or not breastmilk is better for a baby as well as identifying diseases that can be contracted or prevented through breastmilk. Lessons 6, 7, and 8 examine some environmental hazards to a fetus or newborn as well as some hereditary factors which can cause birth defects.

Resources for PASSING IT ON

Into Adolescence Learning About Reproduction and Birth. Catherine Golliher, Ph.D. Network Publications. Santa Cruz, California 1989.

Usborne Facts of Life Babies. Robin Gee. Usborne Publishing, Ltd. London, 1991.

Good Nutrition for Breastfeeding Mothers. Dori Stehlin. Food and Drug Administration.

Healthy Foods - Healthy Baby (Maternal and Infant Health, Philadelphia Department of Public Health, 500 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA).

Hawaii Health Food Guide. (Nutrition Branch, Hawaii State Department of Health).

What You Eat Affects Your Baby (Nutrition Branch, Hawaii State Department of Health).

"Pregnant? Drugs and Alcohol Can Hurt Your Unborn Baby." Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Program Aid Number 1464. October 1990.

"A Good Start. Nutrition During Pregnancy." Education Department of the National Livestock and Meat Board, 444 Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 1988.

Toward Healthier Babies. A Catalog of Public Health Education Materials. March of Dimes, White Plains, New York 1990.

"Mama I Want To Be Healthy." Childbirth Graphics Ltd. Rochester, New York 1992.

"How Your Baby Grows." March of Dimes, White Plains, New York 1991.


Our health and well-being can be affected by nutrition, substance use and abuse, and our environment.

Before You Start:

  • This unit is designed to be used after the health curriculum on drug, alcohol, and tobacco prevention education. It is designed to help students become aware of the fact that what they do now can have a lasting effect on their future from a health and nutritional point of view. It is through a realization that choices made today could produce lasting positive or negative effects on oneself or one's offspring, that helps students value abstinence from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and sexual activity.
  • Students at this age are beginning to grow rapidly and they may have little concern for their nutritional health. Their primary focus for eating may revolve around what tastes good or what will fill me up rather than being concerned about whether or not something is nutritious.
  • This unit probably will not change most students' eating behavior permanently. Perhaps it will, however, provide another glimpse at why we need to make healthy choices. When a person understands why something is positive or negative, (s)he is more likely to adopt the value that is being taught. Through continual efforts in education, we can provide opportunities to reinforce health and well-being until at some point a child cherishes a value so much that (s)he acts in accordance with his/her beliefs.
  • In addition to nutrition education, this unit examines environmental dangers that also can affect us now or in the future. Prevention education related to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and sexual activity can help students resist pressures to engage in unhealthy behaviors. In doing so, we promote the health of this generation of students as well as the next.
  • Breastfeeding education becomes an important element in practicing nutritious eating habits and abstaining from harmful substances especially for females but also for males.
  • Some might question why males need to learn about breastfeeding education. Though males do not breastfeed babies, they can have an important influence on their partner's decisions about breastfeeding and success in doing it. They will be in settings where breastfeeding takes place (education, home, employment) and, thus, can play a supportive role in breastfeeding.
  • By studying breastfeeding as well as other factors that can affect each of us and unborn children, students can better grasp the importance of practicing healthy behaviors now and in the future.
1. Eating for Two Art, Home Economics, Health, Nutrition
2-4. I'll Never Give My Baby Drugs Health, Science, Language Arts, Art
5. Is Breastmilk Better? Language Arts, Science, Health
6-8. Watch Out! Science, Math, Health, Language Arts

It is important for all people to eat nutritious meals.

Lesson 1 Home Economics, Health, Nutrition, Art

Advance Preparation:

Vocabulary Word

  • Lacation: Process of producing milk, breastfeeding.

Activities: Lesson 1

  • Using the Recommended Daily Allowance Chart provided, compare the amounts of nutrients needed for an adult female compared to a pregnant and lactating female. What are the similarities? the differences? Why do pregnant and lactating females need more nutrients? What might happen if these nutritional needs were not met? (Research suggests that little harm is done to a fetus if the mother does not eat correctly. However, there may be serious problems for the mother as the nutrients may be "robbed" from her body to provide for the nutritional needs of a child. A nursing mother needs to follow nutritional recommendations so her milk will be nutritious for the baby.)
  • Using the Food Guide Pyramid, compare and constrast nutritional needs of various age groups. What do all groups need (well-balanced meals low in sugar, salt and fat)? What kinds of foods should people eat most? (Foods on the base of the food pyramid -- grains, breads, cereals, pasta, fruits and vegetables.)
  • Prepare a collage showing the nutritional needs of one of the following age groups:
    • baby (from birth to 1 year)
    • toddler
    • preschooler
    • school-age child
    • teenager
    • adult male
    • pregnant female
    • lactating female
    • senior citizen


  • Complete worksheet on Increasing the Nutritional Value of Meals. Foods may be added or deleted to improve a nursing mother's diet. Note to teacher: Generally a nursing mom should increase her calorie intake by 500 calories per day. She should drink plenty of fluids most health professionals recommend continuing vitamins and minerals supplements from pregnency through the nursing period. Foods rich in iron are specially important because iron is needed by the nursing infant and it is found in breastmilk. The nursing mother needs to maintain her energy level during breastfeeding and not become anemic.
  • >Vitamins B and C are water soluble which means that excess amounts are excreted through urine. It is important to eat foods containing vitamins B and C each day.
  • Vitamins A, E, D and K are fat soluble and excess amounts are stored in the fat cells of the body. Foods rich in these vitamins should be eaten at least every other day.

  • Discuss some reasons why nutritious eating habits are important for people of all ages. Is there any merit in developing nutritious eating habits now versus waiting until later in life? Why or why not?

There are harmful substances that harm babies during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding.

Lessons 2, 3, & 4 Health, Science, Language Arts, Art


Vocabulary Words:

  • Embryo: a developing baby from conception to the end of the third month.
  • Fetus: a developing baby between the 12th week to the end of pregnancy.
  • Placenta: an organ that carries food and oxygen to the baby and waste products from the baby back to mother.
  • Hormones: chemical substances produced by the body which control certain processes.
  • Glands: group of cells that produces chemical substances which affects other body parts.
  • Withdrawal: term used for symptoms that appear when a person stops using a drug.

Advance Preparation:

  • Find an illustration of an embryo/fetus or purchase Usborne's Facts of Life Babies by Robin Gee.
  • Photocopy crossword puzzle.
  • Order pamphlet, "Pregnant? Drugs and Alcohol Can Hurt Your Baby" from USDA or "How Your Baby Grows" by March of Dimes.
  • Arrange a visit from a nurse who works in a nursery with newborns.
  • Gather art materials to make posters for WIC agencies.

Activities: Lesson 2

  • Hold up a diagram in a book or pass out a worksheet illustrating a fetus in the uterus. Explain where the following body parts are located: uterus, fetus, umbilical cord, placenta, and amniotic sac. (Usborne's Facts of Life BABIES by Robin Gee page 8 and 9.)
  • Explain how food and oxygen are passed on to the fetus through the placenta. Briefly describe the functions of each of the body parts above. Also describe how waste products from the baby are transferred.
  • Teacher lectures on functions of various organs listed above:
    • The human body needs food and oxygen to stay alive and healthy. In addition, it needs to be able to get rid of waste products. Similarly, a fetus needs food and oxygen to grow and develop and also needs to be able to eliminate waste products.
    • While a baby is inside its mother's uterus, it does not eat or breathe. Rather, food and oxygen is passed on through an organ called the placenta. It is through the placenta that waste products are passed from the blood of the fetus back to the mother's blood.
    • Early in the development of the embryo the placenta is formed. A group of blood vessels are formed and they mix with some blood vessels of the mother. These blood vessels are separated by a layer of cells which acts as a barrier to prevent many harmful substances from entering the baby's body. However, not all substances are blocked.
    • The umbilical cord is attached to the baby's navel and it connects to the placenta. Blood travels from the placenta through the umbilical cord and into the baby's body. Waste products are moved from the baby's body through the umbilical cord, back to the placenta and then passed into the mother's blood.
    • Therefore, it is important for the mother to eat properly and be careful about what substances are taken into her body. She should avoid tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs and even many medicines. It is important for a woman to check with her doctor before taking any medicine.
  • Teacher reads aloud pages 9 and 15 of Usborne's Facts of Life BABIES by Robin Gee. After reading, have students complete the crossword puzzle activity to practice vocabulary in this lesson.
  • Teacher reads pamphlet "Pregnant? Drugs and Alcohol Can Hurt Your Unborn Baby" available from U.S. Department of Agriculture. Discuss possible effects of drugs, alcohol, etc. while pregnancy or nursing.

Activities: Lesson 3

  • Have students do a research project and prepare a brief oral report on the possible side effects of certain substances on a fetus or infant. They may use resource books, experts, magazine articles or pamphlets from organizations like The March of Dimes. Some possible topics include:
  • Tobacco - reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to unborn baby. Possible effects include low birth weight, premature babies, stillborn babies, and miscarriages. Also more at risk for catching infections. Some experts believe babies of fathers who smoke are more likely to experience problems as well.
  • Crack/Cocaine - possible chance of AIDS if you share needles. The baby may become addicted to drugs and experience withdrawal. This may cause him/her to be shaky and hard to care for. The baby could also be born too early, too small, or too weak.
  • Caffeine - a stimulant. Passes into breastmilk and can interfere with baby's sleep.
  • Alcohol - Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can result in low birthweight, physical deformities, mental retardation, behavior problems, and stunted growth that does not catch up. This damage is permanent and does not get better with age or special education programs. Fetal Alcohol Effect is when some of these problems occur because of lesser amounts of alcohol consumed by the mother. This damage is permanent also.
  • Other substances could include marijuana, heroin, stimulants, depressants, aspirin, over the counter drugs, prescription drugs, etc.

Processing Questions After Oral Report

  • (a) Which substances can be harmful to babies?
  • (b) Can the substance be passed along through breastmilk?
  • (c) What recommendations would you make to a pregnant or lactating woman?

Activities: Lesson 4

  • Interview a nurse who works with newborns. What kinds of health problems does (s)he see among newborns? How could these problems be reduced? What kind of special care do they need? Why is low birthweight a problem?


Prepare posters and deliver to a local WIC agency to inform people about the dangers of harmful substances on unborn children and infants.

Breastmilk is the best food for babies, in most cases.

Lesson 5 Language Arts, Science, Health



  • Oxytocin: a hormone that makes muscles contract to send milk down ducts and out the nipples.
  • Let-down reflex: process of milk being released due to oxytocin.
  • Prolactin: a hormone that is produced when a baby sucks causing more milk to be produced.

Advance Preparation:

Read pages 34 and 35 ahead of time in Usborne's Facts of Life BABIES.

Activities: Lesson 5

  • Students brainstorm advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding.
    • Advantages include: best nutritionally in most cases; provides immunities to some illnesses; changes to meet baby's needs as (s)he grows; inexpensive; convenient; no bottles to sterilize and it is always the right temperature; provides bonding between mother and child; helps mom relax; helps mom's uterus to get back down to normal size; helps mom lose weight gained during pregnancy.
    • Disadvantages include: mom ends up feeding baby most often; mom needs to be careful about what she eats and drinks; may be inconvenient if mom goes back to work.
  • Teacher reads pages 34 and 35 of Usborne's Facts of Life BABIES by Robin Gee to class. It shows a cross-section of a breast and explains how breastfeeding works. Be sure to show the illustrations for better understanding.
  • Discussion Questions:
    • (a) When does a woman become able to produce milk?
    • (b) Why is she able to produce milk?
    • (c) What is oxytocin? How does it produce the "let-down reflex"?
    • (d) What is prolactin? How does prolactin influence the milk supply?
    • (e) What are some reasons a woman might not breastfeed her baby?
    • (f) What are some reasons why she should?
    • (g) What should a breastfeeding mother do in order to produce good quality milk?
    • (h) Can any diseases be prevented through breastfeeding?
    • (i) Can any diseases be passed along through breastmilk? (HIV can be transmitted through breastmilk if mother is HIV positive.)
  • Review ways that HIV/AIDS can be transmitted (blood, mucus membranes, semen and vaginal secretions, breastmilk).
  • Ask: Are there times when breastmilk is not recommended? List answers on board.
    • mother uses drugs or alcohol (including some prescription drugs)
    • if mother is HIV positive, has AIDS or some other communicable disease (tuberculosis) that can be passed through breastmilk


Though there are some reasons why a person may not breastfeed their child, generally it is healthier for the baby to be breastfed.

Note to teacher: With mothers who are HIV positive, there is about a 30% chance of the baby contracting AIDS through pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. The concern regarding HIV through breastmilk has led some health professionals to discourage breastfeeding in general. If a pregnant woman suspects she could have HIV, she should be tested. However, the public at large should not be discouraged from breastfeeding their babies. The risk of breastmilk HIV transmission is no concern for a monogamous couple who are not HIV positive. The exact risk of an HIV positive mother infecting her child through breastfeeding is uncertain.


Pretend that you are writing a letter to your big brother or sister who is expecting a baby. The young couple has not decided whether to breastfeed the baby. Convince them through your letter that breastfeeding is a better option (most of the time).

Teratogens can have harmful effects on an embryo and/or fetus. Some birth defects can be prevented.

Lesson 6, 7, 8 Science, Math, Health, Language Arts


Advance Preparation:

  • Order Into Adolescence: Learning About Reproduction and Birth Network Publications.
  • Photocopy materials for Lessons 5 and 6 mentioned above.
  • Invite an obstetrician to visit the class. Prepare questions with students.
  • Invite a guest speaker from the March of Dimes to discuss prevention of birth defects.
  • Prepare essay directions and scoring criteria.

Activities: Lesson 6

  • Using Into Adolescence: Learning About Reproduction and Birth (pages 91-95) define the following: embryo, birth disorder, developmental disabilities, genetic disorders, congenital, teratogens (diseases, physical agents, or chemicals).
  • Complete Developmental Disabilities and Birth Disorders from Into Adolescence: Learning About Reproduction and Birth, pages 91-106. Content in this unit includes: an examination of selected birth disorders and developmental disabilities and their causes, steps to FDA drug approval and a story about Dr. Frances O. Kelsey and her determination to keep thalidomide from being sold in the United States.
  • Complete "A Call to Action" from Into Adolescence: Learning About Reproduction and Birth (pages 107-127). Content in this unit includes: prevention of birth disorders and a study of infant mortality rates. Students will be able to graph and compare infant mortality rates among various countries.

Activities: Lesson 7

  • Review harmful substances that can affect a baby while being breastfed, i.e. aspirin, medications, tobacco, alcoholic beverages, etc.
  • Invite an obstetrician to speak to the class about healthful practices a mother- and father-to-be should practice. Ask the doctor to speak about possible consequences of unhealthy behaviors (smoking, drinking, improper diet, etc.). Also include information on the affects of certain illnesses and diseases on an unborn child or infant like rubella, flu, chicken pox, etc.

Activities: Lesson 8

  • Invite a guest speaker from the March of Dimes to speak to the class on birth defects. Have students prepare questions ahead of time. Focus on what contributes to birth defects. How can they be prevented? How does a child with a birth defect cope? What special needs might this child have? (Note: It is important for students to realize that not all birth defects can be prevented. However, when possible, we should do all we can to contribute to our own well-being and good health as it can affect us now and/or in the future.) Can a child with birth defects be breastfed?


Students write an essay on one of the following topics: (1) why teens should avoid drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; (2) why a couple planning to have children should avoid the misuse and abuse of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; or (3) preventing birth defects; (4) the importance of abstinence from sexual activity prior to marriage/monogamous relationship.