Written by: Leah Frederick & Katie Coyne, IBCLC, CLC, RD, RN, Certified Doula, for Robyn
You are expecting! Now what?
Being newly pregnant brings so many emotions to the surface. Excitement, anticipation, and perhaps some anxiety. Whether growing your family was as easy as pie, or took your family many years to achieve, there is a lot to think about and plan for. Lucky for you, there are an immense number of experts out there to help you through the process. But where to start? Many pregnant people put a lot of thought and time into learning about childbirth. Childbirth education is so important to feel prepared, empowered, and have the basic education to advocate for yourself. While childbirth may be the central focus in pregnancy, there are a few more essentials we recommend to our clients. When we sit down with expectant parents we take the time to learn more about their background, support system, and desires for birth. The classes we then recommend are tailored based on their experience with infants, how much they know about the postpartum period, and if they are prone to anxiety/depression.
So what do you absolutely need to learn about? Here are some classes we suggest every family take.
In this class, an experienced childbirth educator provides an in-depth session or a series of classes that spread over a period of weeks, to gain the skills, knowledge and comfort measures to prepare for labor and birth. Some educators specialize in a particular type of birthing style - like Hypnobirthing, The Bradley Method, etc. We typically recommend exploring a few different options, if you are able. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basic (especially if you are not hiring a birth doula). At Stork, our clients have the opportunity to customize their childbirth education experience in the privacy of their own home, whether that be with an educator with safe social distancing practices or even virtually via online classes. If you don’t have the time for a class series that spans over weeks, or if you simply need a refresher, we can work around your schedule and our educator will adjust the agenda and topics accordingly. Each family is unique and we enjoy personalizing and customizing our childbirth classes.
With any childbirth education class, the educator will help you focus on building confidence in your body’s ability to give birth. In birthing classes, you will learn the stages of labor, when it may be wise to call your practitioner, as well as red flags to watch out for. A birth class should also discuss labor positions, comfort measures, massage, relaxation techniques, breathing techniques and other options for pain management and relief. Stork’s educators are familiar with many types of childbirth education methods such as Birthing From Within, Hypnobirthing, Prepared Childbirth, and more. It doesn’t matter if your birth plan includes a planned c-section at a hospital or if you are birthing in a tub at a birthing center or your home - it is so important to feel prepared for childbirth.
Infant CPR + Choking
An infant CPR/choking class is a *must* and our clients typically combine this class with newborn preparation for one comprehensive class. Safety is first on every new parent's list and each family should be trained on emergency resuscitation of their child. At Stork, we have a Registered Nurse teach you the basics of infant and child CPR and the heimlich maneuver so you can have confidence should an emergency situation arise. If you take this class virtually, we recommend you have a CPR doll or baby doll to practice the techniques you learn. It is best to have an experienced educator watch you practice to provide feedback and correction, if needed. And we always suggest bringing along grandparents or any other caretaker who may be watching your new baby as well.
For most people, the need to prepare for childbirth is obvious but we see so many families forgetting to prepare for caring for their infant. Once the baby is in their arms, they suddenly feel overwhelmed and ill-prepared. The first weeks of having your newborn home can be mystifying and wonderful all at the same time so parenting classes focusing on newborn care and preparation will help you take on this new responsibility with confidence and preparedness. This class covers all you need to know about baby care for the first weeks and months at home, such as feeding patterns, diapering, swaddling, bathing, soothing, normal sleep, skin issues, and more. You will also learn when you may need to call the baby’s health care provider (pediatrician). At Stork, this class is also taught by a Registered Nurse.
The research has shown that breastmilk is one of the best gifts you can give your baby. But it certainly is a learned skill. And imagine learning this new skill while sleep deprived! This is why we recommend all parents who plan to breastfeed, even short term, take a class. The gold standard for any breastfeeding support is from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). There are many different certifications one can receive but this certification requires the highest level of education, training, and hands-on experience. An IBCLC will cover the essentials of nutrition while breastfeeding, how to get the best start, feeding patterns/frequency, how to tell if the baby is getting enough to eat, latch and position techniques, and introducing the bottle. We feel so strongly about all family’s receiving this class that, at Stork, we include a private breastfeeding class in our birth doula package.
That may seem like a lot of education but remember that we are bringing a new human into the world! Once you have these basics under your belt, there are other areas of preparation, if time and budget allow. Here are a few others:
Postpartum Expectations and Planning
We've heard so many parents say “I had no idea it was going to be this hard” enough times to tell you that knowing what to expect once you are home with your baby, during that 4th trimester, is oh-so-important. Taking a class to touch on all aspects related to postpartum recovery will also help your partner learn how they can best support you. The educator will prepare you for recovery from a vaginal or Cesarean birth.
Stork has a doula certified to teach a specific postpartum planning workshop called “Life with Baby” (created by Amy Tucker and Erin Fassnacht) - this workshop is individualized for each family but it provides parents with information, practical tips, and a planning template for self care, support, and emotional wellness during the postpartum period. Our doula walks families through creating their postpartum plan and will even come to their home to assist in some of the logistics of where the baby may sleep initially, changing stations, etc. She also includes a postpartum check in to reconnect with families after their little one has arrived -- giving some tips on postpartum recovery and infant care.
Having a little one join your family can oftentimes completely rock your relationship, especially for first time parents. Even couples with really great foundations find the adjustment period can be difficult. Whether you take a class or seek a therapist who may specialize in this area, it’s wise for both partners to recognize and prepare for the changes that may come. The goal of Stork’s 2 hour class is to emotionally and psychologically prepare couples on becoming parents for the first time. Our expert parenting coach educates and guides you on ways to support each other during your exciting transition as parents and help you work on effective communication skills. She provides a non-judgmental and non-clinical ear to allow vulnerability to discuss topics to strengthen your relationship.
Of course, there are so many other classes expecting families can take. Anything from pumping and returning to work or baby wearing, to introducing solids (baby-led weaning, puree, or a combo approach). The last thing you want to do is take too many classes while pregnant, not allowing any of it to actually sink in during the prenatal period. We suggest focusing on the delivery of your baby and the first 3 months home. After your little bundle has arrived and you have had time to adjust, you can focus on everything related to older infants - from healthy sleep habits to eating solids. No matter how you enter parenthood, whether through giving birth, adopting, or blending families, it is a transition. And with all transitions there are ups and downs and adjustments. Preparing for these adjustments allows you to better enjoy those baby snuggles, rest, and recover.
Robyn is a digital platform for aspiring, expecting and new parents. With a community of 80k, they are uniquely positioned to learn and respond to the challenges families face on their path to parenthood. They have a curated network of 200 maternal wellness professionals such as birth educators, doulas, lactation consultants and more who offer complementary support. They also offer virtual classes that are modern, inclusive and parent-centric.