Lamaze: What’s in a name?

Lamaze Childbirth Education

It’s not very often that I talk about the thought processes behind what goes on here at BabyLove; running this place requires a myriad of decisions, from minor, like what kind of wipes to buy to use in classes (I almost grabbed scented, but I was worried about someone being allergic to the fragrance), to big things, like leases and buildouts and hirings and firings. Now, I don’t have a degree in marketing or web design, but I’ve had to figure things out as I go along. Would it be better if I hired someone? Yes, but in the end I’ve had to realize that I have to weigh the costs versus benefits carefully.

But today I’m grappling with something that seems so mundane on the surface, but I’ve been struggling with it big time: Do I keep the Evening Lamaze Series and the Weekend Lamaze Series as they are, or do I change the names to “Informed Birth: Complete Childbirth Class?”

To me, 8 years ago, when I was first struck by the idea that I was called to serve moms and their families at births, I researched childbirth educator programs along with doula certifications. Doula trainings are far more frequent, so I attended that first. As I looked through the various childbirth education programs, I looked at Bradley first. I’d had friends take Bradley classes, but when I met with a Bradley teacher, she was a little hostile to the idea of doulas, and having read Dr. Bradley’s “Husband-Coached Childbirth” when I was pregnant with my daughter, there was something that didn’t seem really like it fit at all with how I looked at birth. (Orange Juice? Really?)

I also looked at Birthing From Within as a possibility.  I loved the book, but the trainings were all really far away and would cost a huge chunk of change. I checked out ICEA, too. At that time, ICEA was based out of Minneapolis, but there were no upcoming trainings, and I just could not get a good feel for what ICEA was about.

I went back time and time again to Lamaze. It made sense to me; I’m really pragmatic, so I liked that it was evidence-based, not a method. This might sound kind of silly, but when I read books about “methods,” I’m really put off by the idea that they are selling the idea that if you do x, you’re almost promised you’ll get a good/natural/ vaginal birth. I have the same feelings when it comes to books about sleep and books about toilet training, for what it’s worth.  I can’t ever shake the feeling that someone just made something up, gave it a name, and started selling books.

I was also really in love with the support Lamaze has for Doulas; back then, the 6 Healthy Birth Practices were called “Care Practices that Promote Normal Birth”. The actual care practices haven’t changed, and having a doula has always been one of the steps to having a normal/ healthy birth. After my encounter with the Bradley teacher who thought doulas were a bad idea (Yes, I know now that she’s an exception rather than the rule), I liked how Lamaze dovetailed with my vocation as a birth doula. I loved all of the care practices, too, and liked how they provided a framework to help families have the best outcomes possible.

So to me, Lamaze means healthy. Lamaze means informed. Lamaze means helping families face birth more empowered. As you’ll hear others say, Lamaze is “not your ma’s Lamaze.” I worry, though, about what parents think about Lamaze when they are trying to figure out what kind of classes to take. Do they just think about breathing? Do they think the emphasis is on vaginal births? Do they picture rows of moms sitting on the floors being coached by a spouse/friend/ family member?

I worked really, really hard to become an LCCE. Back when I certified, there were a lot more things I had to do before I was allowed to sit for the certification exam than LCCEs have to do now. I had to write an entire curriculum on my own. I had to get that curriculum approved by the Lamaze trainer. I had to teach a COMPLETE series (to two families I found via Craigslist in the library of the senior center) and have the whole thing observed by an experienced and certified educator. Only once those steps were completed was I given the green light to take the exam. I also like to point out that the Minnesota Department of Health only recognizes ICEA and Lamaze certifications for MA reimbursement.

So, I don’t know. I’ve announced the name changes in the last newsletter. But it was just now, as I was fixing the names on a page on my website, that all of these thoughts started running through my head. What do you think? Seriously. I want your thoughts.

Do I keep the names “Evening Lamaze Series” and “Weekend Lamaze Series” or do I ditch them?




Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE
Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.


  1. says

    I go back and forth with the “Lamaze” name too. I honestly *love* our organization, our mission, our support of women and families and our advocacy. However, the connotation of the name “Lamaze” often feels dated and stereotyped. We, as instructors, know what the name means and what we teach, but our students do not until they’ve taken a class. Some people find the name a turn-off, others will Google the name because they know they are looking for a childbirth class and in that sense, “Lamaze” is akin to “Kleenex” or “Xerox”.

    The only way to improve the image of the name is to use it and teach excellent classes. But, it’s a Catch-22. Use it and turn people off because of what they think the name means or don’t use it and miss out on those students searching for a Lamaze class.

    I chose to call my classes Confident Birthing (Lamaze). I wanted people to know that it was my own brand of class, rooted in Lamaze.

    I don’t think there is a “right” answer here. Lots of food for thought, however.

    • admin says

      I *love* the name “Confident Birthing” so much, I actually spent a week trying to find a synonym for confident to use. Maybe you’ll let me call my classes “Confident Childbirth: Evening Series” and “Confident Childbirth: Weekend Series”? ;-)

      You and I have talked about this before; I think the blog post is a product of the slight panic I’m feeling about stepping back from calling my classes “Lamaze”. It’s scary!

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