Rebecca Emrick: LatchMaster: An iPhone Game to Simulate Breastfeeding

Student's Name: 
Rebecca Emrick
Advisor's Name: 
Sri Kurniawan
Home University: 
Hendrix College
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Breastfeeding provides prominent health and social benefits, both to the mother and the baby.  For a mother, a decreased risk of certain cancers, diabetes, and post-partum depression; for a baby, a heartier immune system, decreased risk of childhood obesity, and emotional benefits.  In the Healthy People Objective 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set a goal of over 80% of women attempting breastfeeding, and over 60% continuing to 6 months.

To increase awareness of the importance of breastfeeding, as well as to help educate women about breastfeeding, Rebecca Emrick developed and deployed LatchMaster (2011), a game for the iPhone to help women learn about nursing a baby.  LatchMaster was developed with the professional assistance of both a lactation consultant and a birth doula to simulate nursing a hungry baby as closely as possible.  Working with advisor Sri Kurniawan and graduate student Alexandra Holloway in the Assistive Technology Lab, Emrick designed the game with the goal of increasing awareness about breastfeeding and presenting educational information in an entertaining way.  User studies with nursing mothers will be underway in the fall.

LatchMaster emphasizes the importance of the wide mouth latch, where the baby accepts as much of the areola into its mouth as possible.  At the start of the game, the screen shows a breast and a baby’s profile.  Using the iPhone’s accelerometer, the game detects the position and tilt of the baby’s head.  As the baby’s mouth opens and closes, the player must tilt the iPhone to move the baby towards the breast.  The goal is to achieve a good latch, which occurs when the baby’s mouth is aligned with the nipple, and the mouth is open wide.  Otherwise, the player receives a bad, painful latch.  The iPhone can be attached to the head of a doll to provide a realistic feel and allow the player to practice positioning the baby.  The current prototype is seven pounds and has an adjustable head, allowing users to practice moving and manipulating a baby’s head.

Rebecca Emrick is a computer science major at Hendrix College, and will be entering her fourth year in the fall.

LatchMaster in use.