Pregnancy: Birthing, Breastfeeding, and Parenting Classes
Introduction to parenting and birthing classes
First-time mothers-to-be often have lots of questions and even some worries: How will I know I'm in labor? Will it hurt? Will my baby know how to breastfeed? How do I care for a newborn? Classes to prepare you for childbirth, breastfeeding, infant care, and parenting are great ways to lessen anxiety and build confidence. In some cities, classes might be offered in different languages.
Birthing classes often are offered through local hospitals and birthing centers. Some classes follow a specific method, such as Lamaze or the Bradley method. Others review labor techniques from a variety of methods. You might want to read about the different methods beforehand to see if one appeals more to you than others. That way, you will know what to sign up for if more than one type of birthing class if offered. Try to sign up for a class several months before your due date. Classes sometimes fill up quickly. Also, make sure the instructor is qualified.
You should discuss with your healthcare professional in advance of delivery about yor preferred birth method and plan.
Most women attend the class with the person who will provide support during labor, such as a spouse, family member, or good friend. This person is sometimes called the labor coach. During class, the instructor will go over the signs of labor and review the stages of labor. She will talk about positioning for labor and birth, and ways to control pain. She also will give you strategies to work through labor pains and to help you stay relaxed and in control. You will practice many of these strategies in class, so you are ready when the big day arrives. Many classes also provide a tour of the birthing facility.
Like any new skill, breastfeeding takes knowledge and practice to be successful. Pregnant women who learn about how to breastfeed are more likely to be successful than those who do not. Breastfeeding classes offer pregnant women and their partners the chance to prepare and ask questions before the baby's arrival. Classes may be offered through hospitals, breastfeeding support programs, La Leche League, or local lactation consultants. Ask your doctor for help finding a breastfeeding class in your area.
Many first-time parents have never cared for a newborn. Hospitals, community education centers, and places of worship sometimes offer baby care classes. These classes cover the basics, such as diapering, feeding, and bathing your newborn. The American Red Cross offers such courses as "Family First Aid" and "CPR Online - Pediatric."
You also will learn these basic skills in the hospital before you are discharged.
In some communities parenting classes are available. Children don't come with how-to manuals. So some parents appreciate learning about the different stages of child development, as well as practical skills for dealing with common issues, such as discipline or parent-child power struggles. Counselors and social workers often teach this type of class. If you are interested in parenting programs, ask your child's doctor for help finding a class in your area.
Did you know? Some hospitals and birthing centers offer sibling classes for soon-to-be brothers and sisters. These classes often help small children get ready for a new baby using fun games and activities.
Medically reviewed by Mikio A Nihira, MD; American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology
The National Women's Health Center: Pregnancy: Birthing and Parenting Classes
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