What do you want out of a newborn class?
April 16, 2012 2:47 PM   Subscribe

A friend and I are putting together the curriculum for a "After the birth: the first six weeks with your newborn" class we're going to start teaching in a few months. We've got a bunch of ideas, but we want to make sure we're covering everything. We'd love your input.

I'm a labor & postpartum doula; she's a paramedic raised by a midwife who's going into midwifery. I have a fourteen-month-old; she has an eight-week-old. Our aim is to teach a class that helps with that feeling of, "Oh, crap, what did we do?" that happens when you bring the baby from the hospital or the midwives leave. Our shared parenting philosophy is: Do what works for you. If it's not working, try something else.

We already know a good chunk of what we want to talk about in this class, including:
- sleep
- feeding (including breastfeeding, bottlefeeding, pumping)
- relationship changes (both with partner and with other family/friends)
- postpartum depression & baby blues
- babywearing/car seats/strollers
- going back to work
- maternal physical changes
- food for the parents (how do I make sure I eat?)
- swaddling, diapers, baths, general newborn care
- info for partners -- what it's like to be the non-lactating partner; how to deal with their emotional stuff
- various resources for dealing with the things that come up during that time

What are we missing? What would you have wanted out of a class like this?
posted by linettasky to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I think this is SUCH an awesome idea! Maybe basic infant first aid, choking, CPR, things like that? And maybe some basic ideas about when it's best to call the doctor for a sick baby and when you can treat the baby at home? Or at least recommendations for an infant CPR class if you guys don't feel like that's something that can be fully addressed in your class.

If I lived in your city, I would totally take this class if/when I had a baby!
posted by Aquifer at 3:13 PM on April 16, 2012

Could be under the relationship changes part, but what about support network? My wife and I have very little family near us which made things a bit more difficult than some of other peers who have lots of family around. Also maybe what to expect/how not to expect too much from them.
posted by Big_B at 3:15 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yup, how to make new friends -- that was a big one for me.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:26 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Managing the expectations of in-laws. Sometimes Grandma comes in, expecting to be fully hands-on, recalling that's the way it was when she had her babies. Many times nowadays fathers are much more involved in the nitty gritty of infant care in a way that she might not expect, and that can lead to some hurt feelings. Grandparents can be well-intentioned but mighty clueless, or even downright problematic.

Alternatively, understanding that it is OK to ask for help, and to be a little demanding. My recollections of the first weeks with a newborn are foggy at best, but I remember being so tired that I didn't have the energy to argue with people.

And it may seem obvious to you, but I know a few parents who didn't get the memo about germs. Let the inner germophobe come out for the first three months, at least. Later on the runny noses and slight fevers are no biggie, but a fever in a newborn is really something to be avoided, so be mindful of where they take the baby. Spinal taps on little babies = sadface.

Finally, local resources for New Mothers' groups- those were a lifesaver for me, a fantastic resource and a source of new friends.
posted by ambrosia at 3:30 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is a great idea and your topics are excellent. Definitely discussing support networks and how to cope if you don't have one - this is something people don't really think about or realize they'll need until oh crap we have a baby and this whole thing is pretty isolating!

And coping with the isolation - realizing that you can't be home alone all the time, that you need to get out and make friends, that you need to meet other families so you can stay in the loop with local playgroups and so on. Giving new parents ideas where to go and what to do with small babies so that they remember to leave the house and maybe even socialize would be so super helpful. With that first baby you tend to think you can't leave, you can't take the baby anywhere without a huge diaper bag of preparedness, and it seems so overwhelming, what will you do if the baby cries, etc. Encouragement that it's really not so big a deal - you can handle this - would be empowering, I think. I would have found a class like that really helpful when I first became a parent.
posted by flex at 3:39 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

This sounds fantastic. I would include the category of "things that are totally normal yet terrifying if you don't know they're normal." For example, the sometimes irregular/ragged breathing of a newborn.

Also, kudos on the inclusive language (e.g. "info for partners -- what it's like to be the non-lactating partner"). It would be great if none of your materials assume the parents are a mom and a dad. It sounds like you're very aware of that already.
posted by kalapierson at 4:19 PM on April 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

How to find good childcare? I went back to work 9.5 weeks after giving birth so I had to find a daycare provider while still fully new-mom-zombified. Some tips (like, a list of questions to ask care providers, what to look for, how to decide what kind of care (center, sitter, in-home daycare and the best places to look for care providers) would have been very useful to me.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:25 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not a direct answer, but it wouldn't hurt to read through the first six weeks of The Story About the Baby. NSFW, but it is a detailed diary by a first-time parent of his experience.
posted by maxim0512 at 4:43 PM on April 16, 2012

Info about vaccinations! Very hard to read up on the schedule and get informed during those first two months!

Info about baby sleep patterns. At first they sleep whenever, but by the time it dawned on me to start working towards nap patterns, I was too zonked to read about it.

Ideally make one-sheet takeaways for later consultation.

Product recs. The class I took was very crunchy; we had one whole lesson on "you don't need any stuff." Well. Our kid had trouble adjusting and was really helped by a swing. I wish we could have had a short list that suggested best swing, best formula, best bottles/pump, etc. In case they turn out to be helpful.
posted by xo at 4:45 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

How to Clip Tiny Tiny Fingernails Without Making Them Bleed.
posted by fancyoats at 4:49 PM on April 16, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Anything that inspires confidence. People who were able to do that for me were some of the most helpful. I think a lot of new parents worry about whether or not they are capable and qualified to take on a huge, unknown, ever-changing and essentially never-ending challenge. But the truth is that 99% of people do fine and people resourced enough to take your class will do better than that.

New parents get bombarded with advice but really they are going to be the experts. It's so important to learn to trust yourself. Even now (my baby's ten months old) I get a lot of input from older and more experienced people that I automatically give credence to (oh Mrs. So-and-So thinks my baby's hungry, omg, how could I not have noticed that?!) when really I am the one most tuned in to my child and these people are almost invariably incorrect.
posted by gentian at 5:30 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Earlier today I saw an awesome student poster presentation on Postpartum Depression and I'm so glad you've included this. According to the presenter it can even happen when people adopt! She gave a checklist to identify people at higher risk and a list of common signs, be sure to include something like that.
posted by mareli at 5:39 PM on April 16, 2012

Developmental stages!

I know every child is different, but it would have been so reassuring to learn (for example) that most infants' sleep patterns change around four months. It wouldn't have fixed the sleep deprivation, but I would have appreciated knowing it was a common stage of development, not horrible proof I was Doing It Wrong and ruining the baby.
posted by Space Kitty at 6:38 PM on April 16, 2012

Thank you for doing this! Fantastic idea. Absolutely wonderful, and fills such a gap in the market I think.

I do not have children, so my feedback is based on my experience as a friend and family member of people having kids.

1) it would be fricking awesome if there was some kind of session I could do as the close family member/friend that would give me some basics to help support my friends/family when they have a newborn and the first few months. That would help the baby unfamiliar people feel like they could be the support their friends/family needed. I guess this is the opposite to those questions or comments on the internet where the parent says 'we were the first amongst our friends to have kids and bah! we didn't know what was hitting us.'

2) A gentle, critical evaluation of the baby-raising themes out there today. It would be useful to have some things like 'your baby isn't broken if you do or don't do xxx'. Or,'here are the ways your particular baby may deviate from what is in the book as 'proper baby behaviour'. An understanding of the elasticity in developmental stages would have been useful for some people I know.

3) Choosing daycare is a fabulous suggestion. I heartily second it.

4) Relaxation/Calming techniques for life with kids

5) Counsellor/Psych/Other qualified person to talk upfront about the stressors involved in a newborn and its impact on the parents. Things to look out for, things to discuss, methods of dealing with issues as they arise and everyone is batshit tired.

6) Infant first aid, and common infant ailments

You're awesome for doing this, and I hope you have great success!
posted by pymsical at 8:08 PM on April 16, 2012

> it would be fricking awesome if there was some kind of session I could do as the close family member/friend that would give me some basics to help support my friends/family when they have a newborn and the first few months. That would help the baby unfamiliar people feel like they could be the support their friends/family needed.

Seconded! You can address this from the new parent side, too. Please tell them that their childless friends will help if they talk to them. You're not bothering me, you're not going to freak me out, you're not boring me. And if you do have to cut a visit short because the baby goes on an inconsolable jag, I'm not mad at you.

Corollary, especially for parents of toddlers: Someone does not need to have children of their own to understand how to watch a kid for a few hours. Your child stops crying 2-10 minute after you leave and is totally fine until you get back. I swear.

On the flip side, helping explain some Baby 101 to childless friends who are Not Paying Attention. The ones who keep saying "ohhh, just bring the baby!" and then fail to understand that if the child is in a phase where they want constant engagement, it means that one of you will be needing to interact with the baby during the whole visit with mom and the conversation is going to get interrupted and sidetracked. Accept this as the new normal and embrace it, or don't and quit making mom feel bad for not visiting with you.
posted by desuetude at 9:00 PM on April 16, 2012

I think you've got the basics. As a new mom (10.5 week old), I have been looking for ways to identify products that are less likely to harm my baby. For example, apart from mitigating, environmental damage, I'd like to know which wipes and diapers and bottles and pacifiars and floor cleaning solution and laundry detergent and sunblock and shampoo actually work but are least likely to give my health problems down the line. I don't have time to do a bunch of research and don't really know where to start anyway.

How to cope when the baby wants to be held all day long (I.e. you can wear the baby in to the bathroom in the moby).

Maybe baby-tying? That was a skill I learned on the fly that was helpful.

Fussy time is normal & how to cope.

Also, (and this part could even be funny) maybe a segment on mythbusting? For example, we at my new moms' group agree that:
- the moment of the birth was not the most thrilling wonderful moment of our lives (but we still like/love our kids). Extenuating circumstances may trump the euphoria.
- in fact, not all of us fell in love at first sight with this little stranger (not all of us loved our babies the first few months even)
- not all babies love cars. Or walks. Or strollers.
- some newborns (or fourth trimester babies) actually do have what passes for a bedtime (I.e. they actually need to be in bed by 8 and can't really be lugged all over the place just because "newborns sleep all the time")
- some newborns actually sleep 4-8 hours at a stretch, contrary to popular belief (several of the babies in my new moms' group started this around 4 weeks). I would have found this reassuring to know when I was pregnant.

Maybe emphasize that baby advice will frequently be contradictory. I.e. "you can't spoil a newborn" v. "start sleep training ASAP or else your baby will not know how to fall asleep on his/her own at 3 months and you will be screwed when they wake up every 45 minutes."

Along the lines of keeping it light, I found this article hilarious because it's true: 30 Practical Tips About the Horrors of Raising a Baby That You Will Never Learn from Movies and TV

Seconding emphasizing that they will be capable.
posted by semacd at 10:10 PM on April 16, 2012

I had planned on a hospital birth with no drugs or interventions, and ended up with an emergency c-section. Since I had not planned on a c-section, I went into it completely blind, and it was terrifying. Everything went well, but I'm still pretty upset about not getting to "birth" my son, and have had some emotional fallout to deal with re: having a c-section. Some info on rolling with the punches/when the plan goes out the window might be nice, as would some info on recovering from major surgery postpartum. Let me tell you, not being able to drive, push a stroller, wear my baby, or even have a damn bath for SIX WEEKS is making this early part of parenthood more isolating and stressful than it would otherwise be.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:46 PM on April 16, 2012

How to swaddle in those awesome flannel blankets which everyone should steal from the hospital.

A list of Things Which Seem Horrible But Which Are Probably OK, including "the first few poops," "returning some of the useless-but-cute gifts you receive in exchange for more onesies," and "telling the grandparents no."

Some encouragement for calling out the people who come over and say "I would love to help" when secretly they only want to hold the baby. These people should be allowed to hold the baby for a while, and then put to work doing laundry or dishes or something.

A suggestion to get some food in the freezer ahead of time -- or other arrangement to get fed when you're worn down -- so you keep a decent diet. My sainted wife brings a big meal to every family with a new baby just so they have something on their table that they don't have to think about.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:18 PM on April 17, 2012

One of the best pre-baby classes I took was similar to this, but mainly focused on basic infant care. I found it really, really helpful because although I read a lot ahead of time, it was nice to be in a room of other parents-to-be diapering our fake babies and pretending to give them a bath - the physicality of it made it more useful to me. It made me more confident in handling a real-life baby.

+1 to your mention of discussing what it's like for the non-lactating partner. My husband liked that sort of advice (get her a drink or a snack! adjust pillows! bring her X thing she forgot on the other side of the room!) and I found it indispensable when I was stuck with the baby in a pile of pillows on the couch.

Basic babywearing would be great - how to tie a Moby wrap / buckle an Ergo / tie a Mei Tai.

As arcticwoman said, maybe a short segment on ways to handle a birth that didn't go as planned? I could have benefited greatly from such a talk, especially one that included resources for someone to talk to about my feelings re: the birth. Bonus points if I could talk to them later on (like, a year out) when I felt like I understood my feelings better.

On preview: Setting expectations with visitors, even if they are family. Mom should not have to "entertain" or feel like she has to take care of visitors, and should be able to deflect well-meaning but outdated or opposite-parenting-style advice if necessary. Nobody should stay for hours upon hours (unless Mom wants them to), and should have a job while they are visiting. That could be anything from throwing in a load of laundry to showing up with a pre-cooked meal, to holding the baby so Mom can shower. No freeloaders.

You really sound like you've got all your bases covered, so I mostly want to say I'd totally take a class like that and I bet it will be really popular.
posted by meggan at 1:23 PM on April 17, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all so much! This added to our list nicely, and gave me some ideas to think about. We really want to make sure we are going outside our own parenting comfort zones and covering all the bases, so I appreciate the reminder (especially!) to talk about Cesarean births.
posted by linettasky at 1:49 PM on April 17, 2012

Stealing my husband's acct here... I attended a wonderful drop-in group run by a grandmotherly pediatric nurse for almost two years, which is where I learned Everything I Needed to Know about Babies. Interestingly, she didn't do too much "formal" education; the group was very free form and mostly consisted of parents (mostly mothers) asking questions. It was a safe place to ask your most neurotic questions and get support. The only thing she would be sure to say every time was make sure your baby is getting vitamin D drops. Otherwise, she would open the floor and field questions. The topics that emerged are mostly covered above, but I might add ideas on how to play with your baby, sleep regressions, breast feeding issues like milk supply and ways to increase it, and reassurance that you're doing it right/your baby is normal (she did a lot of benchmarking, which was really helpful [e.g., I'm not the only one whose baby has green poop]). The other thing that was so great is there was a sign-in sheet where you listed your contact info and neighborhood and that was photocopied and handed out in an effort to connect new parents to others in their neighborhoods.
posted by camcgee at 10:02 PM on April 17, 2012

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