If you are among the many excited mothers who have decided to Breastfeed their baby, you may have also chosen to take a Breastfeeding Basics Class. These classes are often mentioned by Practitioners and advocated for by professionals of all stripes – but what will you learn in a Breastfeeding Class?
Breastfeeding is just Breastfeeding, right? It’s natural and instinctive – or so you might think. Unfortunately, what is natural doesn’t always come naturally (if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve seen THAT phrase time and again!).
As will all skills, there is a learning curve when it comes to Breastfeeding, and issues that can sneak up on you. A Basics Class can help ease the transition from ‘decision’ to ‘action’ – and provide answers for all those pesky questions that always seem to arise at 3am.
So… what will you learn in a Breastfeeding Class?
While every class and every instructor is different, most classes follow the same basic pattern
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
This section of the class is an introduction to the beauty and benefits of breastfeeding. From bonding to nutrient content, potential health out comes to cost savings, the numerous perks of Breastfeeding are covered. Some classes deliver this message under the banner of “Risks of Not Breastfeeding” – due to education guidelines and what we are actually taught in school, though I will confess that many of us stick to the benefits.
Anatomy and Physiology of Breastfeeding
Breastmilk is an amazing substance – and it’s formation in the body is an astounding process that makes this session of the class a captivating glimpse into our bodies inner most workings. From the array of changes your breasts undergo during pregnancy to the stages of Lactogenisis, you will walk away with a clear understanding of just how your body performs the magic of Lactation.
More importantly, you will learn why Babies have such a high Suck Need. Here is a slide that I use in my OWN classes:
Positioning and Latch
Here we get into the nitty-gritty of Breastfeeding, and how to maneuver yourself and your baby for optimal results. You will learn the various common positions, how to hold your babe during nursing and what a proper latch looks like. Tip: Look for flanged out lips, also known as “Fish Lips.”
You will also learn what Hunger Cues are and how to spot them, so you both can enjoy a calm nursing session long before the end stage cue, crying, happens. (This doesn’t count so much in the middle of the night, when often the first cue you HEAR is crying.)
One of the most frequent questions I hear from new mothers is “How do I know my baby is getting enough milk?” Unfortunately, we are not born with dash marks on our breasts that can tell us just how much our babies are drinking, but luckily, there are other signs that we can learn. Weight gain, Input / Output (how many nursing sessions, length and the number of dirty or wet diapers), etc. Many classes, including my own, will pass out ‘Wet / Dirty’ Logs that you can use to record this information – and take it with you to the Doctor or Consultant.
In the following example, it shows Day 3 of life. Normally, on this day, the stools will be a greenish color.
Many soon to be mothers have heard of crafting a Birth Plan, but have you thought of creating a Breastfeeding Plan as well? Knowing what you want, and how you wish to proceed in regards to feeding your newborn, can make all the difference.
Instructors will explain Skin-to-Skin, the Golden Hour, how to approach Visitors and any special requests you might make of the Hospital Staff. you’ll also learn methods to continue your breastfeeding plan at home, including Baby Wearing and going-out.
This is also the time most instructors approach what to do in unforeseen circumstances. An unscheduled C-Section, an unplanned for Hospital, Pre-term birth or even a NICU stay. Breastfeeding plans are just that, plans – they may need to change, revise or even be scraped all together if the need arises. Please know that, while rare, things happen, some far beyond your control.
The most important part is the health and well being of both you and your baby – a fact your instructor is sure to emphasize. Back-up plans can be crafted or talked about that can help ease your mind in case the unforeseen becomes a reality.
The previous topic eases gently into common concerns and questions, a section of the class that normally takes up a large quantity of time. What do you do if Breastfeeding Hurts? Just how do you approach a NICU stay? What about Jaundice? Is Engorgement the same as Fullness? What if the Latch is wrong? All these questions, and many more, can be answered here.
Pumps and Equipment
Many Moms must prepare for the eventual return to work, and for a Breastfeeding Mother, that normally means pumping and storing. The various types of Pumps will be presented, with some classes offering actual models of the pumps for you to look at and touch. Guidelines for pumping and methods of storing milk – along with the tools needed, will be talked about in depth.
Many instructors, myself included, create a separate class that delves into this topic further, one that offers more information and answer more questions than a standard 3 hour breastfeeding class allows.
Work of School
While I am listing this as a separate subject, this section of the class is often combined with the previous topic, “Pumps and Equipment.” This will continue the conversation about pumping and storing, along with Legal Rights Breastfeeding Mothers have, both Federal and State specific. You’ll also learn what actions you can take if those rights are violated.
One of the most common Breastfeeding Myths out there is that a Mother must make ideal or near perfect food and drink choices in order to make the best milk for their baby. This is simply not true – though proper food choices DO help you to maintain your OWN health. This section of the class discusses things you should eat, shouldn’t eat, and just how much water you should really be ingesting, (hint: Drink to thirst.)
Medications will also be talked about, as well as Birth Control options, if the mother so wishes.
Myths of Breastfeeding
I LOVE this part of the class. Not just because it fits so well with Maternal Nutrition, but because I always learn something new! Mothers come to me with baffling myths and misconceptions, some I know and others that are so new to me, I have to look them up!
Somehow, the natural act of Breastfeeding has become shrouded in lore and misunderstanding, often leaving New Mothers confused or following old advice that ends up hurting more than it helps. Once, Lactation Professionals advised moms to ‘toughen up’ their nipples while pregnant in order to prepare them for feeding. Uh… OUCH! No… don’t do that. There is no need. Your nipples are delicate, treat them with care!
It Takes a Village to Raise a Child
This is double true when it comes to breastfeeding. While the main players in this dance are the mother and child, they are not the ONLY ones in this – and that village is vital. From partners to medical professionals, friends to other family members, having a solid support group behind you is important.
This section of the class goes over what a partner can do to support the Breastfeeding decision, as well as what others can do to contribute. It also offers other resources, like local support groups and online communities that can be joined for support.
Tying directly into the previous section, Resources expounds on the concept of support, offering numerous local and online resources where help can be found. Book are also discussed, ones that can be references during pregnancy and after birth. Here are some of my favorites: Recommended Breastfeeding Books
Question and Answer Free Discussion
As the 3 hour draws to a close, there is normally a session when all those burning questions can and should be asked. If you have thought about anything during the course of the class, ask it here. Your instructor wants and needs to know what you are curious or confused about – so they can help you. It is their goal, and their job, to prepare you in the best way they know how for the journey ahead.
Tips to get the most out of a Breastfeeding Class:
- Take a pen and paper – take notes!
- Ask questions!
- Take and keep all resources or handouts provided
- Understand that most classes last about 3 hours
- Bring your partner or other trusted person with you if you can. Pregnancy brain drain is a real thing (I’ll bet you already know that! lol) They may pick up on something you miss, or retain the information a bit longer.
- Have fun!
This is just a basic outline of a Breastfeeding Class, some may be presented differently and offer either more or less information.
If you have any questions, please leave me a comment. I would love to talk to you!
Have you taken a breastfeeding class? What was it like? Did it follow this basic outline, or was it different? Did it help? What kind of information do you think was missing from a class, or this guide? Let me know!