BC Guide - Teaching Breastfeeding Classes

Breastfeeding Counselors may wish to broaden their reach in the community by teaching a breastfeeding class. Classes can be tailored for presentation to women, couples, or families, to teens through school or community groups, or to local health care professionals. Even BCs who have never formally taught a class can learn a few techniques to organize the evidence-based information they already know, and prepare an outline and supplementary materials as teaching aids that students will find interesting, informative, and encouraging.

Scheduling the Class

Breastfeeding Counselors should determine the audience for the breastfeeding class and schedule the session based on the needs of the attendees. A class that is one hour to one-and-a-half hours in length is often convenient and easy to schedule. Evening or weekend classes may be most convenient for working parents and parents-to-be, and lunchtime classes may allow health care professionals to participate, as well. When selecting a location for the class, Breastfeeding Counselors should consider the same factors as that apply when deciding on locations for meetings.

Preparing To Teach

Effective preparation helps ensure that the class will meet the needs of the audience. Breastfeeding Counselors should spend time in advance of the class to establish the learning objectives, develop an outline, and plan handouts and visual aids that support the goals of the audience. The class outline should include time for the Breastfeeding Counselor to introduce herself and Breastfeeding USA, cover the course material in a logical sequence, and allow for a question and answer period at the end.

This is an sample outline for a breastfeeding class aimed at mothers-to-be:

  1. Introductions
    1. Breastfeeding Counselor and Breastfeeding USA
    2. Class Participants
  2. Importance of Breastfeeding
    1. Importance for both mother and baby
    2. Discussing breastfeeding priorities with health care providers
  3. Breastfeeding in the First Hours after Birth
    1. Effects of birth practices on breastfeeding
    2. Thermal regulation and skin-to-skin contact
    3. Colostrum
  4. Breastfeeding in the Early Days of Life
    1. Rooming in with baby
    2. Feeding cues
    3. Breastfeeding positioning
    4. Transition from colostrum to mature milk
  5. How Breastfeeding Works
    1. How suckling stimulates milk production
    2. Newborn nutrition requirements
  6. Breastfeeding in the Early Weeks and Months
    1. Gaining confidence in breastfeeding
    2. Baby’s growing needs
    3. Milk expression
  7. Questions and Answers

Teaching the Class

When teaching classes, Breastfeeding Counselors should adapt their approach to address some of the principles of adult learning. Adult learners are influenced by their beliefs and previous experience. They take responsibility for their learning and want to be engaged in the process, and they respond well to a non-judgmental learning environment with positive reinforcement. The best adult learning occurs when the learners are partners with the teacher.

At the very start of the class, Breastfeeding Counselors can work to instill an atmosphere of respect and trust in the participants. Introductions can help put participants at ease. Asking thoughtful questions throughout the course material presentation can stimulate discussion and encourage participation.
When presenting the material, Breastfeeding Counselors should strive to address different types of learning styles:

  • Visual learners appreciate handouts, charts and graphics, and video presentations.
  • Auditory learners respond to spoken instructions, music, and videos.
  • Kinesthetic learners prefer hands-on activities.

All participants are most likely to retain the class material when they:

  • are receptive to the information offered
  • are able to practice techniques soon after learning
  • are asked to remember no more than 5-6 points
  • can continue to apply new information and techniques frequently in the next several days

Ending the Class

Breastfeeding Counselors can use the end of the class session to address participants’ questions and confirm that the participants’ expectations were met. Participants’ questions often shine a light on concerns that can be addressed as a subject in later sessions, with referrals made as needed. After the session, Breastfeeding Counselors should make notes about the class and adjust the outline for future presentations. Breastfeeding Counselors are encouraged to share class materials with other BCs by providing outlines and notes to BRAID and/or posting to the BC discussion group. BC_discussion@breastfeedingusa.org.