Toddler & Preschool

Adventures in First-Time Parenthood

October 30, 2019

“It was important to me to get ready for all the newness that babies bring.”

There’s no handbook for first-time parents, but New Orleans offers the next best thing: new parent classes.

There is always a lot of excitement and activity surrounding first-time moms and dads, from picking out paint colors for the baby’s room to collecting tiny outfits and not-so-tiny infant gear. Yet, there are also many weighty topics that need to be discussed, from basic newborn needs to breastfeeding.

It can be overwhelming to navigate all of this new information. Fortunately, most of the New Orleans-area hospitals and parenting centers provide classes for these newbies who are looking to get a jump start on their new adventure in parenthood.

Ochsner Baptist, located in Uptown, offers a series of prenatal classes that are all free, but registration is required. There are a total of four classes, but participants can choose which ones to attend and in any order. Jenifer Ducoing, a registered nurse and one of the educators at Ochsner Baptist, says that the prenatal offerings are very popular with over 100 people registered for them every week.

Ochsner Baptist offers a whole series of classes for new parents, from labor and medical interventions to postpartum and newborn care. Photo by Leslie Chirinos.

The first in the series is “Labor and Delivery” and covers pregnancy, when to go to the hospital, and having a vaginal birth. The second class, “Medical Interventions,” walks participants through pain relief options, inductions, and cesarean section. “Postpartum & Baby Safety” is the third class and discusses care for mom after she has delivered the baby as well as newborn safety. The last in the series is “Newborn Care” and participants learn about how their baby is taken care of in the hospital and then given further recommendations for when they bring baby home.

New mom, Samantha Ross, took advantage of the prenatal series in its entirety at Ochsner Baptist, as well as their “Breastfeeding,” “Infant CPR,” and “Happiest Baby on the Block” classes.

“It was my first pregnancy, and I wanted to prepare for the delivery and for caring for my newborn,” she says. “It was important to me to get ready for all the newness that babies bring. I learned about all the delivery options available to me and what to expect in the moments before and after childbirth.”

Breastfeeding is well-supported at Ochsner Baptist with 80 percent of their delivering moms successfully nursing. Its “Breastfeeding Class” is free and gives new moms the basics, which includes the benefits of breastfeeding, latching on, and positioning of the baby.

The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans offers a “Snuggles and Struggles” class for parents and newborns up to 6 months of age.

“They talk about whatever is on their mind, and a lot of it tends to be the transition into parenthood,” says Lisa Phillips, a licensed master social worker and parent educator with The Parenting Center.

This is free, meets weekly at the center in Uptown on Calhoun Street, and is an on-going program with no start or end date. The group is meant to provide support to new moms, as well as socialization for their infants.

“I began ‘Snuggles and Struggles’ when my baby was 3 weeks old and it was the best decision as a new parent,” says new parent Betsy Winters. “I made true life-long friendships and had a safe place to talk, get advice, and sometimes just listen. It was wonderful to be surrounded by other people going through the same life experiences.”

The Parenting Center also partners with The Family Birthing Center at Touro and offers the “The Happiest Baby on the Block” class. Expecting parents learn techniques for calming a crying newborn and is open to any new parents, even those who did not deliver at Touro.

For soon-to-be moms seeking alternative techniques for labor pain management (or perhaps just wanting a calmer birth experience), Touro offers a “Hypnobirthing Childbirth Education Class.” Participants learn self-hypnosis, involving special breathing methods and visualization, to enable them to have a more comfortable delivery. There is a fee associated with this class.

Touro also has a free “Baby Food Making Class” taught by a Touro nutritionist. Parents not only learn how to make and store baby food, but also when and how to introduce solids to their infant. The class is interactive and participants are able to sample some of the baby foods that are made.

Tulane-Lakeside Hospital’s “Safe and Sound” class covers basic newborn needs, safety, and health, including a free car seat safety check.

While moms seem to be the primary parent supported with many of these classes, Tulane Lakeside Hospital for Women and Children offers a class specifically designed for first-time dads. “What To Expect…For Dads” is a free lecture with hands-on demonstrations of burping, diaper changing, and swaddling. They have a chance to hear from other veteran dads on their experiences in parenthood.

Marika Chauvin, a resident of Lakeview, took advantage of the prenatal classes along with her spouse.

“My husband and I took a series of four main classes at Tulane Lakeside,” she says. “All the classes had good pieces and parts and made us feel very prepared for our first baby. I don’t think I would have felt as prepared if I hadn’t gone through all the classes.”

Note: Most classes require pre-registration. Please visit the hospitals’ or The Parenting Center’s website for more information.

Sarah Herndon is a freelance writer, mom, and frequent contributor to Nola Family.

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