“There’s no such thing as ready. You just jump on a moving train and you try not to die.” – What to Expect When You’re Expecting (2012)
When I was pregnant with our first born, my husband and I excitedly prepped for his arrival. We nested, made the baby registry, and even scheduled some birthing and baby courses to be more prepared for his delivery and care. However, all of that went out the window when I went into labor at 27 weeks.
Needless to say, I never got a chance to take a tour of the maternity ward, or find out how to appropriately breathe or push when going into labor, or even know what to do or expect once he was born. It just happened.
This brings up the question, do you really need to take baby courses?
These were considered to be a rite of passage for many soon-to-be parents back in the day. Remember the partner Lamaze classes? They were originally created to clear any misconceptions about childbirth and the delivery process.
Now, much of this information can be found in books, online, on social media, and in stories from friends and family. In fact, a 2005 survey found only 10% of women considered birthing classes to be essential. Why the decline? Factors such as popularity of epidurals, rising C-section rates, and lack of time have influenced this.
However, some argue that a childbirth class is worth it. Classes given through your hospital are generally taught by an experienced nurse who can answer questions and weed out any misinformation you may have heard.
Verdict: If it makes you or you partner feel more comfortable to take a birthing class, then go for it. You probably won’t learn a “Super Secret Easy Way” to get through labor, but if it helps calm your nerves and feel prepared, then that is a benefit in itself. We do, however, recommend taking a birthing class if you are looking to do a water birth or any other alternative birthing plan.
I personally had a lactation consultant from the hospital right after A was born. She demonstrated how to use the breast pump as well as breastfeeding basics. From my point of view, a breastfeeding class was not necessary because the hospital provided this education one-on-one.
However, if you would like to gain an in-depth knowledge of breastfeeding, go for it. Research in 2017 indicates that breastfeeding is more successful when the mother took education specific to breastfeeding before the arrival of baby.
Verdict: You can’t really practice breastfeeding until you actually give birth. If a class seems awkward, contact a lactation consultant through your hospital or online for a more personal session. Lots of birthing centers will also have information and contacts.
We also suggest going on YouTube as soon as you receive your breast pump. There are tons of videos for each pump make and model that will help you figure out the different functions and commands. This was much more helpful than just reading about flow and letdown in the instruction manual.
If you have never had experience taking care of babies, babysitting, or just don’t feel comfortable handling a 8 lb. mini-version of yourself, you should take a course. During our son’s time in the NICU, we had to complete a checklist of basic care skills (changing diapers, bathing, breast/bottle feeding, CPR competency, etc.) to prove that we could care for him after his hospital stay.
Many first-time parents have never cared for a newborn. These pre-baby parenting classes cover the basics from swaddling to bathing and everything in between. They may also go over the stages of child development and practical skills for dealing with common first-year issues. You’d be surprised how many useful tidbits of information stick with you after one course. Bonus: You get to meet other soon-to-be parents that are in the same boat as you. No pressure to be the best, no shame in knowing less.
Verdict: Yes. Baby basics can be tricky if you don’t have previous experience. Do you have to take in-person classes to learn the basics? No. You can find online courses, webinars, and Baby 101 videos in the comfort of your own quarantine.
In the end, it is up to you and your partner if you feel it necessary to take these courses. They can provide comfort in knowing what to expect and build confidence. But, if you choose not to or can’t, that is okay. There are many ways to access information and get the answers you are searching for.
If you still need the assurance, your doctor and the hospital are great resources. Midwives, doulas, and birthing centers also offer services and classes to accommodate your preferred birthing plan.
What are your thoughts on baby courses? What classes helped you the most? Let us know in the comments!
“Childbirth Classes: Why They’re (Still) Important to Attend“, Dana DiFilippo. American Baby, July 2008.
“Birthing, breastfeeding, and parenting classes“. Office on Women’s Health, January 30, 2019.
Wouk, K., Tully, K.P., Labbok, M.H. (2016). Systematic Review of Evidence for Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative Step 3: Prenatal Breastfeeding Education. Journal of Human Lactation 33(1): 50-82. doi.org/10.1177/0890334416679618