Have you ever talked to a friend or family member who is pregnant and will soon hold a new baby in their arms about taking a newborn or baby basics class?  Sometimes you might get the response, “None of my friends took a class before the baby was born, I’m not sure why I should! Besides, I belong to a few moms’ groups on Facebook or Instagram so that should give me enough info, right?” Although there is some correct information on the internet, much of it is not evidence based.  And online parent groups, where consensus thinking rules, can be misleading and sometimes really dangerous. 

Offering prenatal classes that meet the needs of pregnant parents is so important.  Beyond childbirth education classes, specific classes that cover other topics beyond the day of birth will help parents succeed in other areas of their new-parent journey.  A newborn care class to go over the basics of sleeping, diapering, bathing, and more is one of those needed classes.   A baby care class may overlap with some of the information covered in other classes, such as childbirth and breastfeeding, or infant safety, but each class offers different levels of detail.  For instance, we talk about safe sleep in my breastfeeding and childbirth education classes, but not in as much depth as in the newborn care class.  And remember, repetition is a valuable tool in adult learning.  


In a classroom setting or virtually, we have time to show the basics of diapering, bathing, swaddling, and burping. But these classes can go beyond the needed rudimentary learning.   


I bring in a baby bath and the items that are needed.  We discuss getting all the materials together and setting up before starting the sponge bath.  Then we talk about water temperature, bathing products, where to set the bath, and how to care for the cord during the first few days until it comes off.  We also discuss keeping that the sponge bath routine up or changing to bathing the baby with a parent in a full bathtub, as long as there is another adult there to hand the baby into the bathtub and come back to get the baby out and toweled off.  The most important part of this discussion is always to NEVER leave the baby alone.  We discuss that the baby can drown in less than 2 inches of water and may wiggle enough to overturn a portable tub sitting on a raised surface.  


I have five 20-21” dolls of various ethnicities in the classroom. I found these online for a reasonable price.  Some educators open up the back of the doll and insert sand to make them weigh the same as a typical newborn, but I have not done that. I have newborn disposable diapers, as well as a couple of different types of cloth diapers and liners.  I also have a few of the popular “diaper rash” medicines available. This is also a time I go over circumcision care, so they have that information if they decide to circumcise. If it is a large class, I put the parents in groups to practice and share a baby; otherwise, each parent or couple can have their own doll. We talk about accommodating the cord when it is still attached, shielding the baby and yourself from inadvertent urine the baby boy may produce when exposed to the air, and understanding what a urine-soaked or soiled diaper looks like.  I have a poster to show this, as well as a slide on my PowerPoint.  We discuss the pros and cons of using different types of diapers.  If we are virtual, I suggest the parent use a doll or stuffed animal and a pack of newborn diapers to follow along.  


Swaddling is such a tried-and-true way to care for and calm a fussy baby.  Parents are usually first shown how to swaddle their baby by the nurse at the hospital.  Who could know more than the nurse?  But the reality is there is a lot more to know about swaddling.  I share the AAP’s stance on swaddling in the recent sleep bulletin. I talk about not using heavy swaddling blankets or some types of swaddle garments due to the possibility of overheating, especially when the baby is sleeping. I bring samples of lighter-weight blankets and saddle garments. We also discuss that babies roll over at different points, so anywhere from 1 to 4 months they will need to stop using any type of swaddle to reduce the risk of a sleep-related death.   

Breastfeeding & Burping: 

Partners and dads always want to know how to be more involved.  This is where we all practice burping the baby.  We talk about the difference between the amount of burping needed if breastfeeding or bottle feeding.  This is where we discuss getting a good latch when breastfeeding, and that they may not need to burp because they are not taking in air.  We go over positions for burping, as well as making sure your clothes are shielded from any spit up that may happen. I don’t discuss breastfeeding in detail but remind them to take a breastfeeding class prenatally.  

Soothing a Crying Baby: 

A crying baby can be one of the most unsettling aspects of a newborn.  While not all babies have long stretches of crying, some do, and teaching about what is normal is imperative because statistics show that crying is the number one trigger for shaken baby syndrome.  In class, we cover how to settle the baby so we can help settle the parents.  Parents are surprised to hear that the normal healthy newborn cries for up to 3 hours across a 24-hour period. Checking all the more obvious physical reasons that babies cry is the first step. So, we go over that list. Once that list is covered, swaddling, swaying, and vocalizing while holding the baby can be helpful, including skin to skin.  Recognizing when crying turns into the need for medical assistance is important. However, possibly most important is teaching parents how to cope when the baby is crying and won’t stop. This is the time to talk about shaken baby syndrome and how to prevent it by taking a break.  There is a part in the PowerPoint I use that covers this nicely.  


Expectant parents have some common big questions:  
  • How do I know the baby is getting enough to eat?  
  • Why do babies wake so much during the night, and can I do something to change that?    (Teaching about how the baby’s stomach size dictates how much they eat and how often they wake can be reassuring.  The parents will learn they are not doing anything wrong if their baby wakes frequently in the night) 
  • How do I know when to take my baby to the doctor or urgent care?  
  • What do I do if the baby is choking? 
  • Who is the safest person to watch my baby while I am at work?  
  • What do I need to put in a diaper bag? 

And so many more questions!  Even simple things can be vexing if they haven’t explored the topic yet. Take time to answer each parent’s concerns.  When parents come into the class, I ask them to fill out a 3 x 5 card with one or two of their main questions and collect them.  I post them on the board so others can see.  We make sure we cover all questions before the end of the class, and I always leave time for questions on each topic.  I ask how others would answer certain questions, because adult learners come with some ideas and experience of their own.  Then, I add to the answers as needed, pointing out what’s evidence based.   Finally, would a pediatrician be willing to come to the class to discuss newborn visits, warning signs and other important things? This is something to consider for variety and to add another objective voice! 

If you show videos that have real parents and scenarios in them, it will also help your students feel like they won’t be the only parents who struggle.  I love using a PowerPoint like Understanding Your Newborn PowerPoint Class.  It is great to show true-life examples and hear from experts like pediatricians and lactation specialists. Parents get to ask questions and share ideas after the video clips, so it keeps the class even more interactive. I love that the videos are embedded in the slides, so I don’t have to start and stop two different programs. For instructors who prefer video instead of PowerPoints, those are also available on DVD or USB.  And I like giving my students the coordinating book that has a web app with videos so they can go back to get information again in the future.  


How do we attract parents to these classes? Here are some ideas.  Will the doctor or midwife who is caring for the mother and baby prenatally recommend these classes and even hand out flyers or have posters with a QR code that directs the parents to the registration area of the hospital?   Can you promote the baby care class in the hospital tour or other classes?  Do you offer a grandparenting class? Maybe tagging on the newborn class will spur the grandparents and parents to learn together. Do you have people at your facility who use WIC? A poster in the WIC office or other places where expecting parents hang out might be helpful too. If you don’t offer classes in Spanish yet, it may be helpful to get the parents a book that has a video component so they can read and watch videos in their preferred language like the Understanding Your Newborn Book + Web App in Spanish.  


Many people feel like parenting will come naturally to them, but most of us know that it is more complex than that.  Your class will calm a lot of nerves and give concrete answers to many newborn questions.  It will really make a difference in their lives and instill the confidence they need to care for their newborn. 

If you have other great newborn class ideas or marketing ideas, please let me know and I will try to update this blog.   

Debbie Young, [email protected] 


AAP Safe Sleep Recommendations: https://www.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2022/american-academy-of-pediatrics-updates-safe-sleep-recommendations-back-is-best/ 

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