One of the hallmarks of BabyLove classes is that our childbirth classes are honest-to-goodness Lamaze classes. As a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator for almost the last 4 years, I am very proud of this. But I know what you’re thinking: Lamaze just teaches people to breathe. I’ll still find this accusation being made from time to time by parents, care providers, and even other educators. I’ve got to say, nothing could be further from the truth. So, here are the 4 things that you need to know about modern-day Lamaze:
1) We don’t teach you a dozen ways to breathe
OK. So back in the 50s when Lamaze started, yes, breathing was the emphasis. But women gave birth in a very different way back then. Most women by this time gave birth in a hospital. They were alone. They were forced to stay in the hospital beds. Most of them were given large amounts of drugs (often through Twilight Sleep). Forceps (kind of like salad tongs to pull out the baby) and episiotomies (a cut to make the vaginal opening larger) were the norm. It would take years to roll back these aspects of the birth environment, but breathing was the first thing to change. Dr. Lamaze, after watching women give birth in Soviet Russia, decided that if women were taught how to breathe “properly”, they could give birth without pain medications. And they did–but starting in the 80s, the emphasis on breathing in Lamaze went away.
Today, we know women still have to breathe (news flash!), but all of those patterns that your mom memorized are no longer taught. We do talk about how you can use your breathing as a distraction and as a way to help with relaxation, and we practice this. Really, though, it’s not very much different than breathing in non-pregnant, day to day life. I bet you work on focusing and controlling your breathing when you are stressed out, worried, hurt, or angry. It’s a life skill that works well during birth, too. It’s a tool, but it is by no means the only thing to use during birth.
2) You aren’t “coached”
Again, go back to the reality of birth in the 1950s described above. Remember that part about moms being left alone? Well, in the 1970s, dads were finally starting to be allowed in the delivery room with the idea that they would be there to tell moms how to breathe. The first dads were required to show proof of taking Lamaze classes to be allowed in (with the rare exceptions). A coach tells a mother what to do, but instead Lamaze now focuses on helping women and their support people feel confident in the process of birth and help them understand the tools that can help throughout the process of labor and birth.
3) Lamaze classes are evidence-based
When I started looking at programs to become a childbirth educator, I was very impressed by the amount of current information I had to know to become a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. You’d be surprised how that isn’t always the case. The process of birth hasn’t changed for a very long time, to be sure, but what we know about birth, interventions, and breastfeeding certainly has. As evidence showed that other things– freedom of movement, giving birth without routine interventions– had a larger impact on birth outcomes, Lamaze moved away from breathing. As evidence changed, Lamaze changed too. Lamaze International does an awesome job of keeping us updated, helping us understand how new information affects families, and implementing new information into the curriculum. As Brittany prepares to sit for the Lamaze exam next month, I’ve enjoyed being able to vicariously study myself and improve my knowledge base. Being up to date drives me and staying current makes me a far better teacher. And because Brittany and I are both dedicated to always reading, always trying to learn more, that’s something the families we serve will always benefit from.
4) The Healthy Birth Practices
I love the 6 Healthy Birth Practices. Notice we’re talking healthy. And I mean a healthy mom, both physically and emotionally as well as the standard goal of a healthy baby. After focusing on the normal process of birth in our classes, we talk about the role of various interventions in birth. An intervention is anything from an IV,, to an induction to an epidural, to a cesarean. We talk about when they are done, and what kind of effects they will have on your labor. No two labors are the same, so a cookie cutter approach isn’t a good idea. What you will understand is what you will have to think about when planning your birth for what you want it to be, and what things you might have to consider along the way. The 6 Steps serve as an amazing guide to keep it all simple and focused on the best possible outcome for you and baby.
If you’re interested, you can read more about Lamaze International’s updates here. And if you are curious about the history of Lamaze, including information on the women who brought Dr. Lamaze’s teachings to the US, you can find that here. And as always, you can look at our current classes and find our contact information at www.BabyLoveMN.com.