When you are pregnant there are endless decisions to be made for yourself and baby and it can be incredibly overwhelming. Knowledge is power and taking baby preparation classes allows you to feel more confident when it comes time to making those decisions.
While there are endless baby books you can read, classes are much more fun and and good for anyone who doesn’t have hours to spend reading, which is probably most of you. Hospitals and birth centers offer a number of reasonably priced classes and some of them are even free. Our OB has a wellness center he runs that offers a range of classes and that’s where we took ours.
Classes are the perfect place to start building your new parent community. It is comforting to be surrounded by other couples who are also experiencing this new life change and most will be due right around the same time as you. I am still connected to moms we met in our classes. In the first couple of weeks at home with your newborn, many new moms feels isolated and alone. Building a community through taking classes can help a Mom feel supported and can help lower the risk of postpartum depression. Plus it’s fun to have other Moms you know you can text at 3:00a.m. while you’re both nursing.
I signed up for and brought my very sweet and obliging husband to every applicable class. Part of this eagerness to learn stems from my love of learning and part of it honestly is a control factor. Motherhood, and especially labor, was such a massive question mark so learning allowed me to feel more in control. I know many parents-to-be can relate to this and feel much more at ease having a better idea of what to expect.
Here are most of the classes we took and what I got out of them:
Newborns 101 – This was my favorite class. We learned what to expect from the minute baby is born to how to care for the little bundle of joy once home. Babies are born with the potential to have all sorts of weird but completely normal things going on from being covered in vernix, being cross eyed, having purple feet and hands and the list goes on. We went over every decision to be made in the hospital after birth which gave us time to research and decide what we would want to do for each option.
We learned many techniques like how to swaddle, change diapers, how to care for the nether regions, and how to do bath time (it’s more complicated than you think). We watched parts of Happiest Baby on the Block which is a video that teaches ways how to calm a crying baby. This video is great and I recommend watching it. Overall this class really helped calm the scene that would play out in my head of leaving the hospital and bringing baby home and thinking, “What the hell do I do with him now?!”
Breastfeeding – The breastfeeding class provided a lot of insight into how breastfeeding works and helped me understand the time commitment. Newsflash, you will be sitting on your couch most of the day so start recording all the Real Housewives now so they are lined up and ready for you. Look, we all have goals of reading Anna Karenina but when you have a new baby, you need something that is easy on the brain.
The teacher really drove home the point that nursing shouldn’t hurt. This is so important and true. If your nipples are in pain, call a lactation consultant immediately. Lactation consultants are very well trained angels sent down from heaven to help all of your booby woes. Many book out a few days so seriously, don’t wait. Many insurances cover in home visits. This is the one class I think you can let your husband/partner stay at home for, mine came and it’s really aimed for the breastfeeding parent.
Hypnobirthing – This is a five part class that helps prepare couples for labor by teaching techniques including breathing, visualization, labor positions with the goal of removing fears surrounding the labor experience. It focuses on creating a very positive birth with no negative terms being used. More on that later. You are given homework and exercises to do at home with your partner as well as tapes to listen to with affirmations and meditations.
This class is not for the faint of heart as you see a lot of close and personal birth videos. At first I thought it was helpful but by the end I was thinking, “Oh great another vagina, enough already!” All joking aside, I think it’s important for a man to see a birth before experiencing it on his own. It’s so cute when a Dad-to-be says, “Oh I will be staying up by her head.” Yea, good luck with that. You will definitely being seeing everything, and I mean everything and you won’t care because your partner is birthing your child and it’s the most amazing event ever.
My husband’s favorite part of the class was the lady who gave birth in the ocean with a dolphin. While I am good at defending all the alternative woo-woo stuff, there is no defending that birth.
Anyway, when it came to my labor, the most helpful things I utilized were the breathing, labor positions, and affirmations. I tried my best to stay positive but most of that flew out the window when I was in severe pain and the repeated declaration of “Holy sh*t” seemed to work well. A reminder that this was my personal experience and many women have wonderful results using hypnobirthing techniques.
If you are aiming for an unmedicated birth, I would recommend looking into taking this class. I don’t think this class is necessary for planned C-sections. If you are going in knowing you want an epidural, this class may still be helpful if you have fears surrounding labor but it is a large time commitment so consider that before you sign up.
Infant CPR/First Aid – This is very important for parents to take as well as anyone intending to take care of your baby. Our son is quite the eager eater and has choked a couple of times. While we knew basically what to do, I did panic and forget exactly the steps to take. Now we keep a step by step guide upstairs and downstairs in our house. The American Heart Association and Red Cross have these printable guides online that you can download for free.
Hospital Tour – While this isn’t a class I did want to mention tours. Hospital tours are always free. You can fill out pre-admission paperwork while you are there and you will leave knowing the procedures of getting admitted when it comes time. The last thing you want to do when you are in labor is go to the hospital and be told you need to fill out forms before they can admit you.
Tours are also a good idea to get a feel for the hospital. I was super excited to tour a particular hospital and was ready to switch physicians and when we toured it we changed our mind. The hospital felt quite out of date and I didn’t feel comfortable there so we went in another direction.
Additionally, consider the type of birth you are planning when choosing your OB or midwife and the hospital they are associated with. Some hospitals are known for very high c-section rates and some are well known for having nurses that are well versed in unmedicated births and natural birthing techniques.
Even if you aren’t really concerned with the place where you will be giving birth, I’d say still take a tour. They all have different procedures for example ours has a specific entrances to use between certain hours of the day and it’s good to know the drill ahead of time.
One last takeaway is to take the classes/tour fairly close to your due date. I was so eager and took some of the classes four months in advance so by the time the baby came, I didn’t remember the specifics and had to find my handouts for reference.
Here’s to learning!