Whether you’re a novice mom or seasoned pro, there’s a good chance you’ll be scared out of your wits at some point during pregnancy. What has to come out of where? Luckily, women have been birthing babes since the beginning of time and have passed wisdom and personal experience down through the ages. There are a variety of courses on everything from prenatal nutrition to labor day breathing techniques to postpartum parenting skills. So how do you know which class is the right pick for you? Read on to find out what the typical syllabus for each class includes. And then sharpen your No. 2s, mamas—you’re definitely going to want to take notes on this material.
Many hospitals and community centers offer general classes that guide new parents through the logistics of pregnancy, labor and delivery. These basic courses focus on everything from what to eat during your nine months to how the big day will unfold. Classes are usually free, but often have a large number of attendees and fill up fast. Make sure to book your spot early so you don’t miss out on the opportunity for an informative overview of the entire process.
President of Lamaze International Michele Deck, RN, MEd, BSN, LCCE, FACCE, shares why moms-to-be enroll for childbirth classes with Lamaze: “To become educated about their bodies, to know what’s good care and what’s not, and to become an active participant in the process of birth, not only physiologically but by making decisions that are good for them and good for their babies.” In addition to education, the course also teaches coping strategies for how to act, react and deal with contractions. The class is appropriate for moms going the natural route, as well as moms planning for medical interventions such as epidurals. Classes vary in length and price but are widely offered across the U.S.
The Bradley Method
What can you expect from a Bradley Method class? “A unique type of childbirth education that strives to fully educate, rather than just prepare, both expectant parents for a natural, normal childbirth—that is, childbirth free of unnecessary interventions where the partner plays a very large role,” explains Gillian Foreman, childbirth and babywearing educator, doula and lactation consultant with Uptown Birth in Manhattan. “It’s 24 hours of total class time, doubling the class time of most methods, to provide an incredibly wide range of information, labor rehearsal, hands-on techniques and understanding.” Students study a range of topics from relaxation techniques and the anatomy of birth to the benefits of massage during labor and strategies for handling postpartum challenges such as depression, breastfeeding and newborn care. Classes cost anywhere from $200 to $400 depending on the location and instructor.
H2O births are on the rise, and understandably so. “The benefits of laboring in the water are obvious—more control of the process … deeper relaxation and partner participation,” says Barbara Harper, RN, CLD, CCCE, DEM, author of Gentle Birth Choices. “[It’s a] drug-free experience creating a true altered state of consciousness through the body’s increased hormone release.” In water birth class, students learn the benefits of the process and the safety guidelines for use of the water tub. They also have an opportunity to ask questions in an open, honest environment. “Doulas, childbirth educators, midwives and many parents participate in certification workshops to obtain the most up-to-date research, practical information, and hands-on practice sessions,” says Harper. Water birth workshops generally range from $100 to $150 dollars and vary in length.
CPR and first aid
Becoming certified in infant CPR and first aid is a wise idea and will likely be a requirement if you are taking home a baby who spent time in the NICU (since preterm infants are at a higher risk for breathing complications). Parents watch instructional videos, participate in safety discussions, and gain hands-on experience administering infant CPR using a practice dummy. Other topics covered may include choking and SIDS prevention. CPR certification typically incurs a cost, but free noncertified instruction is often available at community centers, hospitals and fire departments.
Almost all hospitals offer classes on how to properly care for your new baby. Topics include postpartum care, infant care, diapering and feeding, temperature control, bathing, car seat safety and more. These classes are available to pregnant and new moms and are usually a requirement before leaving the hospital with baby. The good news? They are almost always free.
In recent years, women have acknowledged the fact that breastfeeding isn’t as easy as it looks, and hospitals and communities have stepped up in providing the resources moms need to succeed. Breastfeeding classes are available through hospitals, community centers, one-on-one sessions with lactation consultants and even online courses. Each option provides moms with tools and techniques to successfully master the latch and nourish their babes. Most of the classes are free, some are covered by insurance, and others vary in price and length depending on the level of instruction you seek.
Birth classes are a great way to prepare yourself and your family for the life-changing event that’s about to unfold. Take as many classes as you’d like (and as time and budget allow) to ensure you’re armed with as much information as possible.