In Halifax, our health care offers a series of pre-natal classes for pregnant women and their partners. There is an "extended" series where you go once per week for around 8 weeks and there's also a "condensed" version where you go for two afternoons. I had heard from several people that they didn't get much out of the classes that they participated in, which I think were the "extended" 8 weeks classes. So, hubby and I decided we would opt for the two afternoon "condensed" version to get the info they felt was the most important, the ins and outs of knowing where to go etc. when the "big day" arrives.
Friday was our first of two parts which covered "Parenting, Infant Care & Breastfeeding." I think the bottom line here is that I am a big dork. :-D I enjoyed the first session very much! I was interested the entire time and took advantage of having the public health nurse there to confirm everything I had already learned for myself. I guess I needed some sort of "validation" for some reason. I think hubby "learned more" than I did because I have been reading and learning more on my own than he has. He's more of a "listener learner than a "reader learner." He thought it was worth our time as well which says a lot!
We covered many topics over our 3.5 hour period and the main message taken from the class was the benefits and importance of breast milk and breastfeeding and how far research has come to confirming this fact with more and more amazing findings each and every day. The benefits truly are astounding and can't be denied. She stated right up front that they were "shameless breastfeeding supporters" and had available "101" reasons to breastfeed on a handout sheet. This information simply wasn't available when I was a child. The nurse commented herself that had she known then, what we knows now, she would have breastfed her children and she is quite certain that their challenges with asthma and allergies may have been avoidable. Interesting.
It definitely helped me feel better about my decision to breastfeed when you get a sense about how much more it is supported by our health care practitioners and community in general and how far that support has come over the years.
I believe every person is entitled to make their own educated decisions as a parent and they should be respected. I am very happy about mine.
I think a big reason why I was pleased with this emphasis in breastfeeding in particular is because I have been concerned about determining what information I have learned during my pregnancy actually is applicable to me and the birth experiences here in Halifax, today. Much of the information I have learned about pregnancy and birth have come from American sources. I read Canadian and American books, but my favourite pregnancy podcast PregTastic was by far, one of the most informative and practical resources that I have come across and I have taken great pleasure in being able to just listen to them in the car to and from work every day. You name the topic, it's covered and discussed amongst the "every day" pregnant women on the podcast panel and an expert on the subject. Not to mention, the podcasters come back to share their birth experiences after they've had their baby. Very valuable information in my opinion. But because it is based out of San Diego, California, and our health care systems are different, I was never sure what "birth and breastfeeding" anecdotes and information I was hearing from that actually apply to me, here, today.
Consequently, I think the main thing I had become concerned about has been my decision to breastfeed and the pressure that many new moms feel from nurses while in the hospital to supplement with formula before really given a chance to allow the mom's milk to come in. This is a common occurrence and while in some cases is indeed necessary. But in many cases it is not medically necessary, but an attempt to calm a crying baby. As a new mom, you want to be able to "trust" the advice from your nurses and doctors, of course, but I have learned how to be a bit more critical of these recommendations and not just accept them as "right." One thing that has stuck with me about the formula supplementation is that it takes around THREE weeks for the baby's stomach and digestive system to "recover" back to normal after receiving just one formula supplementation and since I'm choosing to breastfeed, that doesn't sit right with me.
I felt bold enough to ask the nurse (who had worked at our woman's and children's hospital for many years and now focuses her job on these topics now as a public health care nurse), "Do I need to worry about being pressured to supplement my baby with formula in the hospital when it's not medically necessary?"
Her answer, quite frankly was, "Yes, but you will find that your experience will be much better than some of your friends from even recent experiences because they are now being trained in this area much more and really bringing a better awareness on that subject." I was relieved to hear her honesty because it validated my concerns. Up until that point, I thought I was creating anxiety possibly unnecessarily based on an entirely different health care system and experiences. She didn't really have any advice beyond that, but assured me that things have progressed MUCH more even just recently on that topic and it can vary from nurse to nurse. Fair enough. You want to be able to trust your health care providers with their recommendations. I mean, they are the professionals and experts, aren't they? You want to trust that on the face of it, but I'm gaining more confidence to question the motivation behind something like that when it is important to me.
She went into how to identify when your baby has had enough to eat, proper latching (including videos) etc. and in general, I found it all interesting to hear.
Skin to Skin Contact
Again, another topic I have learned so much about over the past few months that made me a little anxious about how it was received and supported. The research on the benefits of skin to skin contact (often referred to as " Kangaroo Care " in pre-term infants) is also showing amazing benefits. This also goes along with the growing popularity of "baby wearing" using infant carriers and slings to keep the baby close to the Mom or Dad's chest providing a sense of security, helps them normalize their body temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate, improved cognitive development, improved sleep patterns JUST to name a few.
During this class, this concept was emphasized as extremely important and supported out our hospital to begin as soon after birth as possible and they encourage it which was a HUGE relief to me. This is a completely different approach than our preceding generations. I keep getting messages not to "spoil" my baby by picking them up too much etc. or I will "regret" it later on. It has bothered me to feel like I will be criticized. But I guess I have to get used to being criticized as a parent and just let it roll off my back because we all are in charge of our own decisions and I will do what I think and feel is right. I'm not going to be a people pleaser.
The nurse reiterated that it is impossible to "spoil" an infant when their needs are fundamental especially in the first 9 months. It was interesting because there was a father of one of the mothers who attended the class with her (grandfather of baby) who brought up the point of "spoiling" the child and how it would cause them to never want to be put down or be separated from the mom or dad. I was sooo happy that he brought it up because it was the EXACT perspective that I felt I would be conflicting against and was curious how she would respond to it in the class. The nurse quite frankly dismissed his assumptions stating that what we know now is different from what we knew "then" and she said the practice has actually shown to produce much more secure children and adults.
The Baby Blues & Post Pardom Depression
She also spent some time to discuss the kinds of symptoms that a spouse should look out for to identify if the new mom could be experiencing the baby blues and post pardom depression and showed a video. It wasn't something I never gave much thought to before then, but appreciated the value it was drawing attention to it because that is something that the partner really needs to pay attention to aside from the new mom herself.
She touched upon the standard healthy nutritional guidelines to follow during pregnancy which I felt was a bit of a "too late" topic in a sense simply because most people in this class were quite far along in their pregnancies. It certainly didn't hurt to address the topic I suppose.
In addition to the these topics, there were many more, all of which I found helpful, lists of phone numbers, web sites and some resource materials too. Being a first time mom, I know that I will do just fine. I tend to lead a laid back personality and I believe in common sense, but it's nice to get as much peace of mind as possible to gain some confidence in such a huge important amazing experience ahead of me. I chose to detail this post in an effort to sort things out in my head and how I felt about it all mostly as a learning experience. It will be interesting for me to see how my perspective changes after the baby arrives which is another fun reason to document my feelings in this way :-)
Part 2 on "Labour and Delivery" (eeeek!) which is next Friday may provide a different kind of post! lol I doubt I'm going to leave that class feeling as good as I did from this one! lol