Gain Knowledge and Confidence for Your Birth and Parenting Journey
By Emily De Penning, MSN, CNM, WHNP-BC, Midwife – Virtua Midwifery
When you decide to have a baby, you begin a transformational journey in which you’ll experience a wide range of emotions—excitement, anxiety, joy, and doubt can all be a normal part of becoming a parent. You may also have a lot of questions along the way, like how pregnancy will make you feel, what labor and birth will be like for you, and what to do if breastfeeding is challenging. Many first-time parents also wonder—will we know how to take care of our newborn when we go home?
There's no right or wrong way to navigate your pregnancy, birth, and parenting journey, but it’s important for you to have the information you need to make the best choices for you and your growing family. That’s why midwives take the time needed to make education a big part of each prenatal visit. We want to hear your questions, have a conversation about what you’re feeling, and connect you to helpful resources to equip you for the journey ahead.
One of the most important steps you can take to prepare for birth, breastfeeding, and newborn care is to take prenatal classes.
The following will help you understand what you can expect from prenatal classes.
Preparing for childbirth
Everything you do during your pregnancy helps prepare you for your baby’s birth, including talking to your community and getting good nutrition and exercise. Childbirth classes are an additional tool to prepare you for what to expect during labor, birth, and postpartum. This includes:
- Learning about how labor naturally progresses and the benefits of having an unmedicated labor and birth experience
- Techniques for coping with labor and contractions, including positions that help with labor progression at each stage, breathing and relaxation techniques, and benefits of water therapy
- Education for support people in how to provide massage, help you move in labor, give encouragement, and advocate for your needs and preferences
The goal is to help you build confidence in your body’s inherent strength and for your partner or support person to feel like an equipped member of your birth team, able to help you, support you, and advocate for you during labor and birth. You’ll develop a deeper understanding of what to expect and what all of your options are, so you will feel empowered to make choices that are best for you and your family.
Every baby is different, so whether you’re experienced with breastfeeding or doing it for the first time, taking breastfeeding classes before your baby comes provides essential skills for breastfeeding success.
Through hands-on education and demonstration, we help you with your biggest concerns:
- How to know if your baby is getting enough breast milk
- How frequently and for how long you should breastfeed your baby
- What are the most comfortable positions
- How to get a good latch
- How to care for sore nipples, clogged milk ducts, and other concerns
- How to use a breast pump and safely store breast milk
- How to continue breastfeeding when you return to work
Your midwives, nurses, and lactation consultants will also help you get started with breastfeeding in the early hours after your baby’s birth and will continue to support you for as long as you’re breastfeeding your baby. Breastfeeding support groups also help you connect with other new moms to discuss the challenges and joys of breastfeeding.
You may feel uncertain about whether you’ll know how to care for your newborn once you go home—you’re not alone! Many parents feel this way. We want you to feel confident in your skills, covering all of the basics to help you in those early weeks, including:
- Car seat safety
- Cord care
- Diapering: knowing what’s normal (peeing/pooping)
- Safe sleep positions and bedding
- Skin-to-skin contact
- Soothing and swaddling
- How to know if something’s not right and when to call the pediatrician
It’s also important to connect with how you feel in the weeks after your baby’s birth. If you feel sad, depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, please reach out to your midwife for advice and support. It’s common to feel the “baby blues” as your hormones return to normal. However, if it lasts for more than two weeks or if your symptoms worsen, you should seek help.
We’re partners in your care and want to be sure you feel empowered with knowledge throughout your pregnancy, labor, birth, and into parenthood. Talk to your midwife about what classes might work best for you. If you ever have questions or concerns, your midwife is your most reliable resource for answers and support.
Get to Know Midwife Emily De Penning, MSN, CNM, WHNP-BC
A Midwest transplant from Iowa, Emily earned her master’s degree in nurse midwifery at the University of Pennsylvania. She also has a bachelor’s degree in both religious studies and Spanish. Emily is passionate about community health and was inspired to pursue a career in midwifery after working with a non-profit organization that supported families working through homelessness. When not catching babies, Emily likes to go on hikes with her dog Clifford.
Updated September 20, 2021