Get Ready for Baby: How Family Learning Classes Can Help

By Tracy Wright
Man kissing woman's forehead holding a sonogram

You’ve got your crib, cute baby onesies and an ample supply of diapers … so what’s next to get ready for baby? Before you pack that hospital bag, think about taking some helpful family learning classes to get you ready for both childbirth and baby! Thankfully there are many in-person and virtual options for you to learn more about everything from childbirth techniques to infant CPR and everything in between.

Childbirth classes

Childbirth classes are among the most popular classes. These classes typically offer topics such as birthing techniques, what to do if your water breaks, how to time contractions and when to alert your doctor or midwife, pain management strategies, understanding vaginal births and C-section deliveries and births with medical intervention, said the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

Many childbirth classes offered locally will also include a tour of your hospital’s maternity ward and birthing rooms. These classes may be available online or in person over a weekend or a series of weeks. Nurses or childbirth educators usually teach these classes.

Parents can also take classes specifically focused on a birthing method. Some of the more popular methods include Lamaze, Bradley Method and hypnobirthing.

Lamaze focuses on concentrated breathing to relax mom during childbirth. “The philosophy behind Lamaze is to make a woman comfortable enough during labor to make her own decisions,” AAFP said.

The Bradley Method is a 12-week course specifically designed to result in natural birth and “teaches relaxation methods for the expectant mother, but also includes a heavy focus on training your birthing partner to be more than just a spectator,” according to AAFP.

Hypnobirthing is a five-session class that teaches self-hypnosis techniques to help moms deliver their babies calmly, “letting their bodies do the work of childbirth,” AAFP said.

Post-childbirth classes

Beyond childbirth methods, other classes focus on the time after childbirth. Breastfeeding classes are usually offered before childbirth, but many hospitals and health centers will offer postpartum support and lactation consultation for mothers wishing to breastfeed. Newborn care will cover the basics of general care including what to expect immediately after birth, bathing, burping and diapering, umbilical cord and circumcision care, baby sleep tips, soothing techniques, signs of illness and baby safety.

Infant CPR and first aid classes give parents lifesaving techniques for baby “including performing CPR, what to do if an infant or child is choking, how to treat wounds and how to care for your child when a sudden illness strikes,” said AAFP. A postpartum care class can also be in order, which “is dedicated to preparing new parents for what they will face in postpartum and [preparing] to have plans, meals, care kits, and support in place for when baby comes,” said If you are adding another baby, some places offer classes for older siblings to prepare them too.

A Pennsylvania State University study found that a brief series of family learning classes helps first-time parents “better support each other through the stressful transition to parenthood and create a positive effect on birth outcomes.”

“Better support and lower levels of conflict between parents have now been shown to benefit parents’ mental health, family relationships and children’s well-being from birth through entry into school,” said Mark Feinberg, research professor at the Penn State Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development.

However you decide to prepare for this life transition, know that you are not alone. Reach out to other parents, family members, friends and professionals to alleviate anxiety and ask for help. Parenthood is hard – the most important thing is to do your best and give yourself grace as you figure it out!

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