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Local Baby Care Classes

Infant massage, too

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It’s normal — and useful — for new parents to seek help in understanding how to care for their babies. After all, “The only time you’re a perfect parent is before you become one,” jokes parenting-group mentor Vickie Crews. 

Parenting classes across the region build skills needed to provide children with the most nurturing environment possible. They also link parents to valuable information resources and reduce new-mom isolation.  

Some classes start during prenatal orientation and continue after birth. Some are provided in conjunction with the receipt of benefits from the state. Others are run by religious organizations, private consultants and even commercial retailers like Babies R Us. A number welcome grandparents and other caregivers.

New parent skill builders 

Most parents aren’t trained in child development and many may lack effective role models. CHILD, Inc. is a nonprofit provider of parent education classes across Delaware. Classes like “Parenting Birth to Three,” “Children Come Without Instructions” and “Dad’s Parenting Class,” says statewide coordinator Denise Enger, cover such topics as early bonding attachment, language development, safety and well-being, stress and positive discipline. They are free of charge, available in Spanish and typically meet once a week for a period of six weeks. 

Classes are interactive, not lectures, taught by professional nurses, psychologists and social workers. Participants engage in role-play, analyze realistic scenarios and videos, and connect with each other and relevant community organizations to learn about the physical, cognitive and social/emotional aspects of raising healthy children. Many new parents attend because they are in at-risk situations, and Enger reports that participants are sometimes surprised by how much they enjoy and take away from the sessions.

Philly’s Pennsylvania Hospital offers fee-based, single-session classes in childbirth, infant CPR, baby care basics, breastfeeding and Dr. Karp’s “The Happiest Baby.” It’s also completing international accreditation under the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Supported by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, this international movement “is changing the whole culture of how maternity services are delivered,” says Debi Ferrarello, RN, MSN, IBCLC, director of parent education and lactation.

Emphasis is on best scientific practices for maternal/baby bonding and feeding. To that end, “Weight can wait,” is one of Ferrarello’s mantras, indicating a BFHI priority — putting mom and newborn “skin to skin” in order to help mothers establish their milk supply. 

For more than a generation, new moms and dads have enrolled in parenting classes at nearby Hall-Mercer Child and Parent Center. If it takes a village to raise a child, “This is one way to build your village,” avers director Jeanne Frantz. The goal of courses like “Exploring Parenthood,” “Sitters & Shakers” and “Creepers & Crawlers,” she says, is to “help parents become their own experts.” Most classes meet weekly for 9 or 10 weeks, with fees ranging from $270 to $400, depending on the topic. Hall-Mercer also provides a weekly breastfeeding group, free of charge on a drop-in basis.

Here, parents observe their babies and are directed on how to recognize cues. By engaging in developmentally fitting activities and play that stress the value of building home routines, they learn to problem-solve as well as differentiate between what’s normal behavior and what’s not. Frantz notes that when situations warrant, staff members make referrals to pediatricians, physical therapists and other specialists.

Next page: Infant massage & new parent networking

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