I am so pleased to have my longtime doula colleague and friend Sharon Muza as my guest blogger this week. She has agreed to make it clear to one and all the value and importance of taking childbirth classes. Thank you Sharon! - Melinda Ferguson
By Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE
It often feels like there are many things that people need to get done before a baby arrives. Taking childbirth classes is often low on the priority list and may even get bumped off in light of more demanding items. I would like to suggest that you move this line item up to the top. I feel that taking a birth class is an important part of preparing to welcome a new family member, especially for first time parents. Here are my top six reasons why taking a childbirth class should bea “must do” item when preparing for a new baby.
1. Develop community
There is something comforting about creating community with other people who are also expecting a baby around the same time as you. Sharing pregnancy challenges and joys, collaborating on resources and becoming friends with people who will have a little one the same age as yours can help you long after the childbirth class is over. I work hard in my birth classes to allow lots of opportunity for families to connect with each other through group activities, collaborative learning and extracurricular Facebook groups for the cohort. All of my class families continue to meet long after our “Meet the Babies” reunion is over. They share nannies, have Parent Night Out activities and support each other as their babies grow. Having this village is an unexpected benefit for taking a childbirth class that many families I teach didn’t expect.
2. Get up to speed on best practice
Best practice and evidenced-based care is constantly changing when it comes to labor, birth and postpartum protocols. In order to be able to advocate for yourself and your baby, it is helpful to know what your options are and how to facilitate a shared decision making discussion with your health care provider. This helps you to feel confident in the choices you make throughout your pregnancy, labor, birth and early parenting time. A good childbirth educator can help you to understand what to expect and give you space to clarify your values on the decisions you may face.
3. Connect with your partner
Many people find that they appreciate having a committed time each week to focus on this baby and connect with their partner as they develop labor skills and practice coping techniques that they will use during labor and birth. It is a chance to spend a few hours a week together connecting and preparing for the new arrival without the distractions of other current demands on your time and energy. Make a date out of it, with a meal together before or a treat afterwards to celebrate the exciting changes that are coming.
4. Learn about newborn caring and breastfeeding
A thorough childbirth class will include information on adjusting to life with a newborn, how to best care for your new baby and introduce you to valuable information on breastfeeding or chestfeeding your baby. Many people focus on the labor and birth and don’t often plan for what comes after. Of course, I acknowledge that labor and birth is important, but so is being prepared to feed your baby, navigate the early days and adjust to life with a newborn without making it harder on you or your partner. A skilled childbirth educator can help you understand what to expect after your baby is born, provide resources that you can tap into if you need help and offer you information on making the transition to parenthood as smooth as possible.
5. Practice useful techniques and positions for labor and birth
I always say that labor is a hard day’s work. But you have done a hard day’s work before. Doing a good job is always easier with the right tools and skills. Taking a childbirth class can help you to learn about positions that promote well-positioned babies, comfort and coping techniques that help reduce the pain of labor and birth and provide lots of hands on practice so you can try out the different things that might find useful during your labor. Your partner can learn about their role and build a toolbox of things that they can suggest to you and help you with during the big event.
6. Flexibility is key
Many people enter their labor and birth with an idea of their hopes and wishes for the experience. The plan may include pain medication or some may hope to give birth without the use of drugs. A good childbirth education class should be bias-free and can help you clarify how you would like your birth to go and to understand that flexibility is important when some things need to change from what you had originally planned. Your childbirth educator can help you to approach the experience with both realistic expectations and the understanding that flexibility has to be part of the process. When that happens, you can feel more satisfied with the experience after the labor and birth is completed.
Increase your satisfaction with your childbirth experience
Taking a childbirth class may seem like another thing to cram in before the baby comes if you do it at all. Enrolling in a quality birth class like my Lamaze Birth & Baby YOUR Way series can create community, confidence in your skills, connection with your partner and a clearer understanding of the process and your choices. You don’t need to rely on potentially unreliable or inaccurate information that is coming at you constantly from family or friends. I encourage you to make time to participate in this valuable opportunity to prepare for and celebrate your new arrival. Questions about what kind of childbirth class is right for your situation? Feel free to connect with me, and I am happy to share information.
About Sharon Muza
Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA) BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE has been an active childbirth professional since 2004, teaching Lamaze classes to over a thousand families and providing birth doula services to more than 450 expectant families through her private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is an instructor at the Simkin Center, Bastyr University where she is a birth doula trainer. Sharon is also a trainer with Passion for Birth, a Lamaze-Accredited Childbirth Educator Program. In September 2011, Sharon was admitted as a Fellow to the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators. In 2015, Sharon was awarded Lamaze International’s Media Award for promoting safe and healthy birth. Very active in her community, serving in a variety of positions that promote maternal-infant health, Sharon enjoys active online engagement and facilitating discussion around best practice, current research and its practical application to community standards and actions by health care providers, and how that affects families in the childbearing year. Sharon has been an engaging speaker at international conferences on topics of interest to birth professionals and enjoys collaborating with others to share ideas and information that benefit birth professionals and families. You can find Sharon blogging on Lamaze International’s Science & Sensibility and DONA International’s DONA Doula Chronicles. To learn more about Sharon, including information on Seattle area childbirth classes and other services, you are invited to visit her website, SharonMuza.com