You’ve just arrived home with your new baby, excited but scared.
Many first-time moms face this dilemma. What do you do with the baby once he or she wakes? How do you know whether the child is hungry or just has gas? How many hours will the baby sleep and how can you tell when you’ve burped the child enough?
Sara Lavin has some answers. She’s a registered nurse in the Mother-Baby Unit at Memorial Hospital Central, where she has worked for 10 years. She’s been teaching the Newborn Care class for more than three years.
“I have always wanted to teach classes like this,” she said. “I have a passion for teaching new parents and making them feel more comfortable taking their new baby home.”
She’s been there herself, and speaks from experience. She’s got three children of her own, ages 2, 5 and 7.
In the Newborn Care class, “I cover basic baby care, when to call the pediatrician, what to expect when the newborn arrives and other up-to-date health care information. We do a lot of hands-on practice with dolls – bathing, burping, swaddling, diapering and soothing techniques. I leave plenty of time for questions at the end.”
The class is reassuring for new parents, Lavin said.
“I think most parents fear being ‘good enough’ for their new baby. They also have fears about holding them or breaking them. They worry about the lack of sleep and how they will cope as parents,’’ she said. “I think they also just have a fear that they won’t know what to do. I usually reassure them that their parental instincts will kick in, and they will know when their baby is not acting normal. ’’
The classes usually include couples, and almost always first-time parents. Occasionally, she has first-time grandparents take the class to get the most up-to-date baby information. Things have likely changed a lot from the time they were parents.
“The most important thing to know when taking care of a newborn is to enjoy every minute of it. It can be hard, but it’s such an amazing time in your life. Relax and enjoy your baby,” Lavin said. “Newborns can sense when you’re stressed, so if you’re having a hard time with them crying, please put them down in a safe place.”
Jenna Armstrong took the newborn care class in December of 2014. She was on bed rest with her first pregnancy and got permission from her doctor to take the class. She’s glad she did. Her little girl was born shortly after taking the class.
“I liked that we practiced swaddling with the dolls,” she said. “It was nice for my husband to practice as well. Also, I learned tips on how to bathe a newborn.”
Taking the class boosted her self-confidence in caring for her baby. She highly recommends it to other new moms.
“I took the Newborn Care class and a few others classes before my baby arrived. The Newborn Care class was my favorite. Sara made me feel comfortable to ask questions so I would feel fully prepared — even though you never really are.” she said.
To help new parents further, Lavin started a New Moms Support Group about two years ago.
“I noticed that we were doing a great job of teaching new parents in the hospital, but then sending them home to fend for themselves without any support. It’s hard to be a new parent, and it really does take a village to raise a child.”
The group has been a haven where new moms (or dads) can come and chat about the problems they are having, or talk to other moms who are facing similar challenges, she said.
“It helps to know that you’re not going through this alone, and other moms are up at 2 a.m. with a screaming baby!”
The response has been great, Lavin said.
“The moms love the group, and I’m constantly getting feedback about how much the support group has helped them feel like they are good moms. They get to meet other new moms and the babies get to play together.”
“I attended the weekly group meetings for months after my daughter was born,” Armstrong said. “It was nice to hear other moms had similar issues with their little ones, and we spoke about more serious issues like post-partum depression. It was also great to get tips from speakers, such as lactation nurses and a representative from Stroller Strides attended our meetings.
“I formed friendships with the other moms and although I no longer attend the meetings (her baby is 21 months old now), we still share stories in our Facebook group.
“I think the group is very beneficial to new moms and I recommend it to everyone I know who is having or has recently had their first baby,” Armstrong said
The support group meets every Tuesday from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Memorial Hospital North in the Pine Creek Room. It’s a free class provided by the hospital, and there is no sign-up required.
“I wanted it to be as convenient as possible for the new moms,” Lavin said.
Being a nurse and teaching these classes provides fulfillment for Lavin.
“I always wanted to be a nurse, and I’ve always had a passion for newborns,” she said. “As soon as I graduated from nursing school, my dream job was to work in the mom-baby unit, and I got hired right away.”
The Newborn Care class is sponsored by HealthLink, and patients sign up by calling the Nurse Help Line at 444-CARE. The cost is $45 per couple, and it is offered once a month, usually from 6 to 9 p.m. on a Thursday.