We have all heard the saying, “We spend months or years preparing for the wedding and no time is spent preparing for the actual marriage”. The same can be said for how we approach educating expectant parents for the postpartum period. Parents will spend weeks preparing for the labor and birth but seek out little to no education for what comes after. This responsibility can inevitably fall to the childbirth educator, which can be especially difficult given time constraints in modern childbirth classes. In addition, we have all heard the common themes of “parents are so focused on the birth, that they tune out during postpartum” or “they will get that information in another class”. I know that while we all try to incorporate postpartum information in class, most of us can agree the challenges are real. We each try our different ways to discuss the physical and emotional shift during postpartum, baby blues and postpartum mood disorders, and maybe even some baby care and breastfeeding. So, what can we do? How can we START the conversation in a fun, engaging way that will demystify this time with a new baby, prepare parents better, and take the stigma out of postpartum mood disorders? Adult learners thrive with instructional variety, autonomy, and practical application. A few simple ways to incorporate postpartum information in your classes are:
- Talk about it during the entire class. Relate labor comfort skills to life skills (relaxation, visualization, breathing, etc.). Discuss prioritizing, planning, getting help, etc. during pregnancy, labor, AND postpartum. When talking about how partners can support mom during labor, talk about ways they also support during breastfeeding. Something as simple as when you are using a birth ball to demonstrate labor positions, talk about how you can bounce on a birth ball with a fussy baby to calm them. Or when you are given the clear to exercise, using a ball can be a gentle way to get back into fitness. Just like hiding pureed veggies in your kids’ smoothies, you can piece together an effective and thorough postpartum education just by sneaking into the entire prenatal curriculum. This doesn’t add time to the class but becomes a part of what you are already doing.
- De-stigmatize postpartum mood disorder. Talk about it throughout class. Use examples. A great opportunity can be when you talk about the emotions of labor, use humor, use easily relatable content so it allows families to discuss that difficult emotions are not something to hide, but to rather be aware of and recognize. Talk about resources, discuss the baby blues and the difference between normal emotions and postpartum mood disorder. It is better to talk about it freely as it relates to current emotions (anxiety, fear, worry), and take the embarrassment away right from the start.
- Do a postpartum activity that helps them plan ahead. Put your families in groups or have them do it in class as a couple. This activity can be a great icebreaker or to get organized after a break. I suggest even doing this “out of order” rather than waiting until the end when they have tuned out and are ready for class to be over. A great postpartum activity is a contract or “worksheet” that can help them identify problems even before they begin. Have them brainstorm things like: Who will do the dishes in the first 3-4 weeks? Who can I call at 3:00 PM if have questions or need someone to talk to? Who can I call at 3:00 AM if I have questions or need someone to talk to? What can my partner and I do that is “just us” together in the first 3-4 weeks to stay connected? Who can help watch baby so we can take a shower or take a nap? What tasks or responsibilities can be put on hold—no matter what—in those first 3-4 weeks?
In addition to knowing innovative ways to teach about postpartum, it is important to have a list of resources in your area to refer families for added support and guidance. Educate on postpartum doulas, encourage families to get help from support groups, moms’ groups, and community resources. The more knowledgeable you can be about what you have available to you, the more your families will trust and engage with you about that pesky part that comes after labor called parenthood! So, how have you added postpartum information to your classes?
LCCE, FACCE, CCCE, CHBE, Faculty
Nikki has been a childbirth educator, doula, prenatal yoga instructor, and Happiest Baby educator for more than a decade. She has been actively involved in perinatal education in both the hospital and private settings and is thrilled to be now be part of the CAPPA faculty. She worked in the Center for Women and Infants Education and Lactation Department for Saint Joseph Hospital in downtown Denver, Colorado for more than eleven years. In addition, she is the Operations Coordinator and Family Educator for Birth Center of Denver, which is Colorado’s first and only hospital-owned freestanding birth center. Nikki also had the privilege to work for the most recognized name in family education materials, InJoy Health Education. As a consultant for content as well as an account manager for hospitals all over the Western US, she gained a deeper understanding for the importance of strong perinatal education programs in hospitals, birth centers, and beyond.