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June 3, 2009 > Childbirth and Parenting Classes Provide Vital Support

Childbirth and Parenting Classes Provide Vital Support

New Mom Talks About Classes' Social Support and Vital Parenting Information

Declan Howell, the first son of Fremont residents Heather and David, was born on New Year's Eve of 2007 at Washington Hospital. He arrived a little late - a week after his due date - but his parents were already ahead of the curve.

Heather and David had already taken the "Becoming New Parents" class, which provided them with tips, demonstrations and information about caring for a new baby in the first few months. Heather calls the class a "one-night introduction to parenting for people who are clueless."

The Howells didn't stop there.

"We also did the labor class, the latch clinic, Baby 'n' Me, Baby Massage and Baby Signs," Heather says.

The classes and programs are a great source of support for new parents without
family close by as well as those looking for sound advice and support in a friendly environment, Heather says.


Being a new parent is 'very hard'

"As a new parent, it's very hard," Heather says of the learning process. "So many of us are separated from our family by many miles and we don't have support from our family. These classes and programs fill that void. Also, for those with families close by, sometimes the advice you're getting from your mom may not be current and you may want other advice from professionals. I would have been lost without all the support."

The facilitators who support the childbirth and parenting classes and programs are "like family" to her, and Heather says their advice, understanding and support have been indispensable since becoming a mom.

The program she says made the biggest difference in the early months after her son was born was Washington Hospital's Breastfeeding Support Services & Lactation Center, especially because the services were close to home and offered at regular, convenient times.

"When he was born, my son had trouble with latch - and having that latch clinic saved my life," Heather says. "The Baby 'n' Me group was my No. 2 favorite because it really helps you build that community of mom friends and gives you that anecdotal experience that helps you judge from what other moms have experienced if something happening with your baby is unusual or not."


Baby 'n' Me offers advice, social bonding

The Baby 'n' Me group also served as a terrific way to form social bonds with other new moms, Heather says.

"Some of the Baby 'n' Me moms are my closest friends," she says. "We even formed a book club together. We had our one-year anniversary in April, and we meet every two weeks. Every other time we meet we read a parenting book. The group of Baby 'n' Me mommies have migrated into a new group, and we still have social events, outings and parties."

When Declan was 9 months, the Howells took advantage of Sign, Say and Play, which teaches preverbal communication through signing by using songs, activities and playtime.

"We had Declan in Sign, Say and Play when he was a little young, but I'm seeing it really paying off now that he's at 15 months," Heather says. "He uses the signs heavily, and they're a godsend. I have this great way to communicate. He knows how to sign 'all done,' and that's my favorite because I know when to take him down from his highchair. Now he's starting to sign and say 'done.' He signs 'all done,' 'more' and 'milk.' The signing makes for a very smooth relationship."


Bonding with Dad

Heather's husband David also got his own time to bond with Declan during the Baby Massage class, which teaches parents to bond with their babies during the birth to pre-crawling stage.

"Baby Massage offered a good opportunity for the dads to bond with their babies," Heather says. "It was nice that my husband could go to the class and it could be about daddy and baby in a close, physical kind of way. I think my husband really enjoyed it."


Advice for new parents

Heather says one of the biggest lessons she has learned as a new parent is to trust her judgment. The other is that help is available.

"I really think that we have these great community resources available," Heather says. "My advice to new moms is: Don't isolate yourself, and don't feel like you have to do it on your own. You have this whole community, other new moms - an incredible support system just waiting. I have a great wealth of information and friends as a result."

To learn more about Childbirth & Parenting classes and programs available to new parents, visit Washington Hospital's Web site at www.whhs.com and click on Women's Health."

For more information about upcoming classes, call (510) 791-3423.

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