Have you heard the saying, “babies are born tiny, so you can both grow together?”
Any expecting parent will tell you that’s an overly-simplistic reassurance to the anxiety and anticipation of starting a new family.
As new parents, we want to do our best to prepare for our newborns. We don’t always have our own trusted parents nearby to help us figure out the ins and outs of looking after our babies, and if we took parenting classes in high school, we rarely remember more than the horror we felt when either we or our assigned partners accidentally dropped our boiled egg “baby” in the campus quad.
Parenting classes give us the confidence to prepare for delivery, get through the first few weeks of new parenting, and handle the challenges that are part and parcel of new parenting. Some classes can even help us save our child’s life in an emergency, or help us take care of ourselves when lack of sleep, hormonal changes and overwhelm threaten our ability to cope.
1. Birthing classes
There are many different types of classes available to help parents get through pregnancy, including labor-specific Lamaze and Bradley Method birthing instruction. Your doctor, midwife or birthing center can speak with you to recommend organizations and instructors appropriate for your birth plan so you can learn how to detect problems with pregnancy, signs of labor, labor breathing techniques, and self-care during pregnancy.
2. Infant CPR & First Aid
What would you do if you found your baby unresponsive in the middle of the night? It could take many minutes for first responders to arrive on scene under the best of circumstances. Infant CPR and first aid is an important investment of any parent’s time. Contact your local American Red Cross chapter to locate classes near you, or to find out if you can take a course online.
New mothers planning to breastfeed their babies are turning to organizations like La Leche League for guidance, peer support and education relating to bonding, nutrition, and motherhood.
Hospitals know that new mothers who learn breastfeeding skills in advance of childbirth tend to have more success once their baby arrives, and offer classes to expecting parents. When selecting your birthing center or hospital, ask if there is a lactation consultant available to assist with first feedings after your baby’s arrival.
4. Early childhood parenting classes
Do you want advice on dealing with a newborn that screams all the time? Do you need tips on handling a toddler who says “NO!” to everything? Maybe you just want to know how to understand your small child when she isn’t equipped to communicate the way we’re used to. Early childhood parenting classes give new parents the skills they need to keep their homes safe and sane for the entire family, and provide a strong foundation for your child’s emotional, physical and social development.
How do you find parenting classes? Your doctor can point you in the right direction, or you can seek referrals through your faith-based organization, local community centers, public library or your school district. You can also shop for online parenting classes online, an option that might work well for your busy schedule.
5. Co-parenting classes
Whether you and your baby’s other parent live together or are co-parenting separately, it’s important to learn how to operate as a team. Children add stress to relationships, and parenting changes the dynamic between romantic partners.
Family courts often order separated parents to attend online or in-person co-parenting courses, but it makes sense for new mothers and fathers to take the initiative to learn these skills before relationships deteriorate.
6. Mindful meditation classes
This recommendation probably deserves to be #1, because the mental health of new parents is crucial to the well-being of the child. Mindful meditation skills help us keep our stress and anxiety in perspective, and helps us take the best advantage of a new parent’s rare moment of “downtime” to regroup, refresh and rethink.
Whether you pursue coaching for mindfulness through a therapist, podcast or meditation class, don’t forget to maintain your mental and physical self-care as a new parent. None of the above courses will help you provide for your child if you don’t make your own well-being a priority, but all of these types of parenting education do empower you through skills, support resources, and knowledge so you can welcome your first child into the world with more confidence and ease.
Congratulations on your new family!