I’m officially 37 weeks pregnant, which means it’s any day now – yay! Over the past month or so, we’ve taken four prenatal classes to help ourselves prepare for our new addition. Not only have these been helpful, but they’ve also highlighted differences in how our parents raised us vs. the current day recommendations. So if you’re curious on how things have changed, or you’ve recently had to have the conversation with the grandparents of your child, then this one’s for you. Let’s dive in.
As prepped as we can be
Being first time parents, we lack real world experience. Neither Christian nor I have babysitting on our resumes and we have very little experience with newborns. I think that lack of experience was making us feel a bit insecure about her arrival. A little fear of the unknown. Speaking for myself, I was nervous I wouldn’t know what to do. Like bathing a newborn. I’ve never bathed a child, let alone a newborn. While we have computers in our hands with our phones and could google anything in the moment, the last thing I want to do is google things as the baby is crying and we’re trying to figure it out in real-time. So as we look ahead to our baby girl joining our family, we’ve been trying to gain as much knowledge as we can through books and prenatal classes.
We’ve taken four in-person classes at the hospital I’ll be delivering at including Labor and Delivery, Understanding your Newborn, Breastfeeding and CPR/Child Safety. Each of these classes were three hours long! I know, that seems insane and I’m not going to lie, in most instances, they could have made them shorter for sure. For example, in the Breastfeeding class, the first twenty minutes was about the benefits of breastfeeding. Yeah, no kidding. We’re all sitting here for this class because we plan on breastfeeding – you don’t need to sell us on it. That’s twenty minutes we could have gotten back.
Make no mistake. I’m not naive. I know taking these classes doesn’t make us parenting experts. I know that in reality, we’ll be faced with many scenarios that weren’t covered in class and will need to figure it out. However, I also see a ton of benefits of these classes. Mostly it’s the confidence. After taking these classes, I feel like I have a baseline of information to use as a starting point. Now when I’m on the pregnancy or mom forums, I actually know the answers to some of the questions. This information creates a sense of confidence I didn’t have prior and has made both of us feel more ready for her arrival. Honestly, that feeling is priceless. I see a lot of first time parents not taking classes though and that surprises me. It almost feels like a no-brainer. Yes, they cost some money, but there are options that are covered by insurance or provided by the city that are free to the public. Either way, in my view it’s a “why not?” kind of thing. It seems much more productive and helpful that crowdsourcing everything via social media.
Has inclusivity gone too far?
Before we jump into the generational differences on childcare recommendations, one thing I noticed was how the language has been changed in these classes to be more inclusive and less judgemental. As a general rule of thumb, I’m in full support of reducing and removing judgment from the pregnancy and parenting conversation. Listen, I’d love to say it should be removed entirely, but let’s also be honest, there are times we’re going to judge.
For example, when women tell me they didn’t drink at all with their first pregnancy and then by the third they had a drink every single day – I’m judging you a little bit. Or when I see a question on a message board that asks if it’s safe to smoke while pregnant, I’m judging you. But for the most part, we do need to mind our business and not be so judgemental of others during this process because everyone is just trying to do their best.
When it came to these classes, they were very non-judgemental for the most part. During the labor and delivery class, there was no pressure or judgment on if you want an epidural vs. natural birth or if you have a planned induction or want to wait until the birth happens naturally. There was also no judgment if you breastfeed after delivery or if you want to send your baby to the nursery for some rest after birth. All of this made it a very welcoming environment to learn and I really appreciated the specific effort taken to make any decision something that was just that – a personal parental decision.
On the flipside, in some instances, our desire to be more inclusive was interesting to me and raised the question, “Are we taking inclusivity too far?” I can think of three areas specifically that came up during class.
First, shifting from husband/spouse to partner or support person. This one I’m all for. What’s important during pregnancy, birth and recovery is that you have support. But who this support is should be broadened from just husband or spouse. This support person could be anyone that is actually going to give you helpful, positive support throughout the process. This can be a spouse, but it can be a family member, a very close friend – you name it. What matters is you get the support you need, and putting the label of spouse or husband makes a lot of assumptions that could be unnecessary pressure on the mother. So this change, I approve.
The second one is using birthing person instead of mother. This may be controversial, but this one bothers me. Logically, I understand why this change exists. I understand that the trans community or someone that identifies as a male but has female anatomy could birth a child and we want to include them in the conversation. But as a woman whose rights are in question specifically regarding the pregnancy process and who’s struggle is often diminished in the labor, delivery and postpartum conversation, this one hits me emotionally. Being able to create and birth a human being is an awesome responsibility and in and of itself isn’t inclusive. Not everyone can do this. The term mother has a significance that I don’t think it is fair to take away from those of us that do identify as women and mothers. We get a lot of our accomplishments taken away or diminished already in society, I believe we should be able to retain this one. But here’s a recommendation for inclusivity that I believe is a good compromise and respects all parties. If you are someone that doesn’t identify as a woman, but has the ability to carry and birth a child, then you can be called a birthing person, but I don’t think that term should apply to all. I do not want to be referred to as a birthing person. You can call me a mother.
Lastly, changing breastfeeding to chestfeeding. The rationale is the same as a birthing person, but this term was used during our breastfeeding class. This one is purely useless for me and I consider unnecessary. Breast is not solely a female body part. All humans have breasts as part of their anatomy. That is why breast cancer is called breast cancer no matter your gender or sex. Hell chickens have breasts. Roosters have breasts. The definition of a breast is the tissue overlying the chest or pectoral muscles. There is no need to change this term to be inclusive. If you identify as a human being and you have the ability to produce milk to feed your baby, you are feeding from the breast. You aren’t feeding from the chest, because the breast lays on top of the chest and is where milk is produced. So from an anatomy standpoint, you are breastfeeding. Period.
Oh how times have changed
Now in terms of the differences between generational recommendations, there are quite a few actually and have led to some interesting conversations with the grandparents-to-be for our little girl.
In the Labor and Delivery class, one major change is the use of the episiotomy. For those of you that aren’t familiar with this process, without getting too graphic, an episiotomy is when the doctor makes a cut to provide more room for the head and shoulders to come out at birth. You can google for more information or pictures if you need more explanation. This practice was almost expected when our parents gave birth, but now is only used in about 5% of births. That’s a huge change! My mom was shocked by this change and basically didn’t believe me when I first told her. And why the big shift you may ask?
Well, after further research, it was found that creating an incision actually led to greater tearing during birth and a higher likelihood of the severity of the tear which then has recovery implications. Logically it makes sense if you think about it. I compare it to a piece of paper. Hold up a piece of paper or a paper towel. If you cut a slit in the middle and then pull both sides, it will tear the rest of the paper pretty easily right? But if you don’t cut a slit and pull both sides, you have to apply more pressure to tear through the paper. It’s the same thing – and honestly, thank god. I’m glad they figured this out!
Some other changes in the labor and delivery process that are also very much welcomed is allowing a support person to be in the room! Especially men! It wasn’t that long ago that dads weren’t allowed in the labor room. I can’t imagine Christian not being there with me! Not only to help me through it, but to experience the birth of his daughter first-hand! 50% of her is from him, he should be there. It’s sad to me there was a time dads just had to wait out in the waiting room during the process.
Now there is a greater focus on keeping the baby in the room after delivery for more bonding time than whisking the baby away for tests etc. The baby nursery is there if you want it, but it’s not automatic and it’s more likely parents will have their newborn by their side in the same room the whole hospital stay. I like this change too because it’s so important in creating that bond emotionally but also for breastfeeding (if that’s what you choose to do).
When it comes to caring for a newborn – we no longer use baby powder for one. Baby powder used to be a necessity for newborn diaper changes, but now, it’s not recommended because studies have shown negative effects of the baby breathing the powder in. There’s also been a lot of research and greater understanding of how to protect the baby from SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This research alone has changed a lot in the recommendations that vary from how our parents raised us.
Recommendations like, don’t allow the baby to sleep in your bed, but in the room is recommended. Or putting the baby to bed on their back with nothing else in the bed. No bumpers or blankets or stuffed animals etc. This is a big change as a lot of us were put to sleep on our stomachs or wrapped in blankets.
Another difference is in the frequency of bathing a child. Many of us were bathed daily as babies, but now the recommendation is two to three times a week max to help protect the natural moisture of the skin. I know this is one that has been discussed in our household quite a bit as there’s a belief that it needs to be every day to keep the baby clean, but we will see as we’re trying it the way we were told in class.
The COVID vaccine is a new one that even parents over the past couple of years are seeing a shift. Now the COVID vaccine is available for six month olds. There’s quite the debate on if this is too young, but in my opinion, it’s a huge relief! If we don’t know how things like the common cold or the flu will impact our little ones with a developing immune system – we have no idea on how COVID will impact them in the short term or long term. The COVID conversation in general has been one we’ve had to consider that’s a new challenge and at times can be polarizing depending on who you talk to.
I just got my COVID booster, along with my flu vaccine when I was thirty-five weeks pregnant. I’ve been waiting to get it since I heard the new one was available and I was hoping I would be able to get the shot prior to her arrival to give her some antibodies. But I know not all pregnant women are comfortable with this decision. We also had to consider COVID and visitation. For the most part, our close friends and family are fully vaccinated and boosted, but not everyone. So how would we do our best to protect our daughter, but also not isolate anyone. So we are requiring visitors to take a COVID test no matter their vaccination status before meeting her and if anyone is not up to date on vaccinations, they must wear a mask. All of this really until she gets her shot at six months. It feels fair to us, and it’s what we are comfortable with as we consider that it’s our job to protect her as much as we can. But did I ever think something I had to plan for when I had a kid was a global pandemic, I never would have thought.
The role of technology and our children
Another just massive difference is the role of technology when raising our kids. I mean, when I was a baby, we had six channels on the TV, the baby monitors were very basic and most of our lives were analog. Now? Holy cow has technology changed the game, and in my opinion, for the better!
Take baby monitors. We have a Nanit. Christian is obsessed and loves it. It’s his toy for sure out of the tech products we got for our baby. Watching TV and movies, as this is where I get most of my knowledge on childcare until now, baby monitors left a lot to be desired. From no camera, and the use of a walkie talkie to grainy, black and white video. The Nanit blows that away. The camera is in-color and HD with very clear sound. It also has a sound machine built in with a couple different sound options. Everything is managed through an app on your phone so no additional devices needed throughout your home. But it doesn’t stop there! You can buy clothing like belly bands you wrap around the baby when they are sleeping. They have a design the camera reads to track breathing patterns and alert you if there is a sudden change. Or smart sheets that help track the growth of your baby. Nothing that touches the baby has tech built in, it’s more the design that is read by the camera. You can even share access to the information and camera with other caregivers – although this is a no-go for me. Considering sound is included, I don’t need our parents hearing everything that happens or is said in the nursery! Ha!
How about portable bottle warmers to have in your diaper bag? Or bottle sterilizers and microwave bags that sterilize and clean your breast pump parts instead having to hand-wash everything? Yep, we have those.
How about the plethora of apps and information at our fingertips in our phone? Each of the classes we went to provide in-app information, trackers and all sorts of support via an app. There’s some great podcasts that have fairytales for your kids and parenting tips and advice for parents. Or online shopping and next day delivery? Talk about making your life easier! We have pretty much everything we need to start (at least I think so!) but I’m also not that worried about it because if I run out of something or realize I need it, I can just order it on Amazon and have it delivered tomorrow. Or I can order groceries to be delivered postpartum instead of trying to bring a week old newborn to the store. Hell, if I want postpartum, I don’t have to leave by bed other than to use the bathroom. I can sit there, breastfeed, put baby down for a nap, watch Netflix, turn the lights on and off via my google home, facetime with my pediatrician to ask a question, adjust the household temperature via my nest thermostat, order more toilet paper online and pay the bills on my phone. All without setting foot on the floor. Now if we can only get guaranteed maternity and paternity leave! Baby steps folks, baby steps.
Prepped and ready to go
It’s pretty remarkable how quickly new recommendations are developed and how raising children has changed between and within generations. This can be overwhelming, but what I’ve also learned through this process is that all children really need is food, shelter, clothing and lots of love. It doesn’t matter how you feed your baby, what matters is they are fed. It doesn’t matter if you have all the best tech, what matters is you pay attention to how they are adjusting and consult your pediatrician whenever you’re concerned. Whether you’re a first time parent or it’s your fifth, your instincts will play a big role in the development of your child. So don’t get overwhelmed by all the information – use it to build your confidence and then let your instincts kick in. Kind of like the rest of your life isn’t it?
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