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Parenting Classes to Take While You’re Pregnant

By Chaunie Brusie, B.S.N., R.N.
Reviewed by Terri Major-Kincade, M.D.
February 02, 2024
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You may have already thought of taking a childbirth class before your baby arrives. But it’s a good idea to be ready for what will happen after the birth, too. Life with a newborn can be a challenge, and a class can help prepare you.

I worked for many years as a nurse caring for both pregnant and postpartum patients. Our hospital offered different types of parenting classes to help parents learn skills they’d need to care for a new baby.

Every family’s needs are different. A good place to start is by checking to see what classes your local hospital or birthing center offers. Your ob-gyn, midwife, or pediatrician may be able to recommend some, too.

4 Best Parenting Classes to Take During Pregnancy

Here are some ideas for parenting classes to consider taking before welcoming your new baby.

1. Newborn Care Class

Kate Willers of Aurora, Colorado, took a general newborn care class to prepare for having her first and only child. “Though I’ve worked with children my whole life as a high school teacher, I hadn’t had much experience with little babies and wanted to do everything ‘right,’” she says. This was a free newborn care class offered at her hospital.

There’s a lot to know about newborns! A newborn care class often covers how to bathe the baby, how to handle minor health concerns like gas, how to change a diaper, and skincare.

You’ll likely get a short version of this course if you deliver at a hospital. It’s common for nurses to walk new parents through basic newborn care, including how to change a diaper, clean up those first sticky poops, or give a bath. But you may feel tired or overwhelmed after just giving birth.

Taking the course in advance helps you learn things early and ask questions. Then the walk-through at the hospital can be more like a review.

Even though Sarah Clemence of Denver, Colorado already had a child, she and her husband decided to take another newborn care class before welcoming a set of twins.

“Every baby is different, and there's always something new to learn,” says Sarah. “I'm telling you, I'm a total newborn care class groupie!”

Some hospitals and birthing centers also offer classes especially for parents of twins, triplets, and other multiples. If you’re expecting more than one baby, this type of class may help you prepare for having more than one newborn at a time.

Low-Cost and Free Newborn Care Classes

Parenting classes are offered at almost every hospital and birthing center, but there’s usually a small fee to take them. It might be hard to find a free in-person newborn care class. But that doesn’t mean it’s off limits if you’re on a tight budget.

Contact your health insurance provider to see if your plan covers the cost of a class. “Insurance often covers all or most of hospital classes,” says Kristin Revere, doula and newborn care specialist at Gold Coast Doulas. “HSA [healthcare spending] and FSA [flexible spending] accounts can also be used to cover this type of class.”

If you’re on Medicaid or state health insurance, your class may be covered, depending on where you live. According to a 2021 survey, infant care and parent education classes are covered in 13 states: Arizona, Colorado, North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, District of Columbia, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

You may also consider checking out one of the many free parenting classes online. For example:

  • YourBabyAcademy.com offers a free 2-hour new parents class.
  • CookChildrens.org has a series of short YouTube videos on topics like what to expect after bringing baby home and infant CPR.
  • Pampers.com offers a 9-class series completely free on their website, covering topics from pregnancy to newborn care and feeding.
  • Mother.ly offers a host of online classes, both paid and free. Its free baby safety course may be a helpful first-time parenting class, as it covers sleep, feeding and car safety essentials.

2. Infant CPR Class

“Knowing how to rescue an infant from choking and also perform CPR was 100% something I felt like I needed to do before my baby was born,” says Jackie Duncan, of Fort Worth, Texas. She explains that she has dogs and has felt helpless watching her pets gag or choke. She “did not want that same feeling” if something happened to her child.

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It’s used to rescue someone from a heart or breathing emergency. It can save a person’s life. Search the Red Cross website to find a course to learn how to perform CPR on an infant or child.

A pediatric CPR course teaches a caregiver how to manage choking and heart attack in infants and children. Some classes also cover first aid basics like how to control bleeding and shock, and handle injuries until help arrives.

Is an infant CPR class necessary?

Infant CPR courses are important for any parent or caregiver to be ready for an emergency. Some hospitals even require parents to take an infant CPR class before taking home a child with known medical needs or that has spent time in the NICU.

If you’re planning on taking an infant CPR class, Revere says it’s best to schedule it late in your second trimester or near the beginning of your third trimester. At about 25 to 35 weeks is a good time to take an infant CPR class.

While there’s certainly no hard and fast rule here, this timeframe will ensure the information is fresh in your mind when you give birth, without the worry of scheduling too late and going into labor before you learn this key information, says Revere.

3. Breastfeeding Class

Kate also took a breastfeeding class because she’d heard nursing a baby can be difficult. “I wanted to absorb as much knowledge as possible beforehand,” she says. The cost of the class was covered by her health insurance.

Breastfeeding classes can cover everything you’ll need to know to get started nursing your baby. They may include basics like getting the baby to latch and positions to try. They may help you understand how to handle issues with milk supply, feeding problems, and complications like clogged ducts and mastitis.

Look for a class taught by a certified lactation consultant (C.L.C.) That instructor may also be an important resource for you after the baby arrives. You may also consider getting support from a breastfeeding doula.

If you have a partner, it’s a good idea to bring them along to the class. “It was beneficial in making my husband feel less helpless during the struggle of trying to breastfeed successfully,” says Kate.

4. Infant Sleep Class

General newborn care classes usually cover infant sleep. But if you’re concerned about sleep, you may also want to take a class that focuses on it.

Sarah says she was glad she and her husband learned about the importance of establishing a sleep routine, “which ended up being a game-changer during those long, sleepless nights.”

Practical tips like how to swaddle were helpful too. “My husband became a swaddling pro, and it was so heartwarming to see him embrace his new role as a dad,” she adds.

A specialized sleep class can be taken during pregnancy or after the baby arrives.

Other Helpful Parenting Classes

Taking any type of new parenting class is a very personal decision. Your options may depend on what’s available in your area and what fits your schedule, needs, and wants.

Other classes that may be important for your family could include:

  • Car seat safety: Learn how to keep your infant safe in a car. This includes how to adjust the seat properly and knowing what seat is right for their age and weight.
  • Babyproofing: Know how to make your home safe for the new baby as they grow.
  • Siblings, fathers, and grandparents classes: These classes aren’t for you—they’re for other members of the family! They help family members understand their new, unique roles and prepare them to care for the new baby.

Your ob-gyn, midwife, or pediatrician may be able to help you find the classes that will help you and your family feel most ready for your baby’s arrival.

Online Parenting Classes: Benefits and Drawbacks

There are lots of virtual and self-paced online parenting classes to choose from, but there are pros and cons to consider before you enroll in one.

Benefits of an Online Parenting Class

You may want hit “play” on an online newborn care class because of the following perks, Revere says:

  • They may have a low cost. Online newborn care classes are often cheaper than in-person classes. You may also be able to find free parenting classes online.
  • They’re convenient. Online classes can be taken from anywhere you have access to the internet. Some are pre-recorded and can be taken anytime, or even viewed more than once to help you remember the material.
  • Live sessions offer some of the benefits of in-person classes. Live online parenting classes may offer you the option of asking questions in real time and benefiting from the answers to others’ questions as well.

Drawbacks of an Online Parenting Class

There are a few reasons you may opt for an in-person class instead of an online one. They include:

  • Some topics are better learned in person. Topics like breastfeeding and CPR are often taught using a hands-on approach that can be lost in an online format. A new parent class may include practice swaddling, burping, and diapering using dolls. If you take new parent classes online, you may not get to work on these skills.
  • There’s no one-on-one support. Breastfeeding, for example, can be difficult to grasp by simply watching video. New parents can benefit from the one-on-one support of a lactation consultant or other expert when it’s taught in person. And an infant CPR class is better taken in person so the skills can be tested by an instructor, says Revere.
  • There’s little to no interaction with peers. While being with other expectant parents isn’t crucial, it can be nice to meet and mingle with them in a live class.
  • Limited ability to ask questions. Live online classes may offer the ability to ask questions but pre-recorded courses won’t have this option.
  • Some instructors are more experienced than others. Be careful to only take a course offered by a professional with licensing and/or certification in the topic they’re teaching.
  • Fees may not be covered. You’ll have to talk to your health insurance company to find out if your plan will cover the cost of a specific online parenting class you want to take. It may be more likely to be covered if it’s offered by a hospital. Some hospitals have virtual and/or hybrid classes, Revere says.

Revere says the number one thing parents should look for in a newborn care class is an evidence-based approach. That means your class should focus on tried-and-true practices that have been proven safe and effective, either through studies or by being backed by a medical organization, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

“Look for a class that teaches the basics without pushing a particular way to feed or care for your baby. Some classes are more attachment-focused for example,” Revere says.

You can find breastfeeding classes online at sites like Milkology or Tinyhood. La Leche League International also offers an online support group for nursing parents.

The American Red Cross offers an online infant CPR course for $37 if you prefer an online format for these topics.

How to Pay for a Parenting Class

Classes can come with a price tag. If you’re wondering how to pay for a parenting class, the good news is that there are a lot of different options.

Here are some ideas:

  • Ask at your hospital. Many hospitals offer parenting or newborn care classes. Sometimes they’re free for people delivering there.
  • Check your health insurance. Some insurance companies may cover the cost of parenting or breastfeeding classes.
  • Contact your local WIC or Medicaid office. If you use any federal or state services, you may have access to discount classes.
  • Put it on your registry. If there’s a class you’d like to take, add it to your baby registry! Some registries allow parents to ask for gift cards and/or monetary gifts. You could use those to purchase a class, if you receive them.

“Classes can be a great way to feel more prepared and confident in your parenting skills,” says Sarah. “A class can equip you with some helpful tools and knowledge to navigate those first few months with your little one. As a mom of four, I think it's definitely worth it!”

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