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Series: Building Your Birth Business – Using Facebook Ads to Advertise Your Birth Business

August 11th, 2015 by avatar

By Janelle Durham, MSW, LCCE

Building Your Birth Business- Using FacebookToday we have another post in the Building Your Birth Business series.  You may be interested in growing your own independent childbirth education or birth related business.  Maybe you already have such a business already established but are looking to take it to the next level. Even if you work for a hospital or organization, this information is useful as well, if they are looking to expand their reach.  Today’s post by author and educator Janelle Durham, MSW, LCCE, helps you to understand Facebook Ads and how to customize them.  Targeted to your specific audience, Facebook Ads can increase traffic to your website or Facebook page where families can learn more about your services. You can find all the posts in this series here– Sharon Muza,  Science & Sensibility Community Manager

Facebook ads let you write an ad that appears on someone’s Facebook feed. So, as they’re scrolling through for news of their friend’s adventures, they see your ad. This is a good way to raise awareness of your services. For $10, you can put your ad in front of about 800 people, and about 15 of them will click through to learn more. But, the best part is that you can target these ads to very specific demographics, like expectant parents who live in Monroe, Washington. You don’t waste money showing it to anyone who doesn’t fit that description. (Unlike that newspaper ad, which is mostly read by retirees.)

Note, this type of ad raises awareness of your business. I can’t guarantee it will get you clients and students! When someone was reading Facebook, they weren’t necessarily looking for a doula or a childbirth class, so they may not immediately click through and call you up. But, you have increased the chance they’ll do that in the future. It’s worth $10.

Here’s How to Create a Facebook Ad

First, if you don’t already have a Facebook page, create one here. (Here are some tips on pages for businesses.)

Then, log on to your page

Click on Create ad (it probably displays on your left sidebar under the heading “pages” or it might appear on the top right corner of your page)

It will ask you what kinds of results you want to get: choose ‘clicks to website’. Paste in the website address. (Make sure you choose the specific page you’ll want them to land on on YOUR website.)

Defining Your Audience

durham fb audience-definition

There’s lots of variables you can adjust here. Each changes the potential total audience for the ad – the total number of Facebook users who fit the description you’ve chosen.

Keep an eye on the little “audience definition” meter on the right hand side, and also, at the bottom of that column, it will tell you “potential reach” of your ad. Make choices, and see what gets you to the number you want… it usually takes a little experimentation to get it just right. I have found that if I spend $10 on an ad, it’s typically going to be displayed to about 800 – 1200 people, so I’m looking to narrow my demographics down to a total potential audience in the range of 2000 – 4000 people who are the closest possible match I can get to who I’m looking for. I won’t reach them all, but I’ll reach a good percentage of them. This gives me the best bang for my buck. If you had a bigger budget, you would want higher numbers for potential audience.

  • Location. Where it says “Include”, type your city in. It will then offer to do a radius around that city (you’ll see that it says “Carnation+25 miles”). You can adjust that. Next to “+25 miles”, there’s an arrow for a drop-down menu. You can adjust the radius there. You can also exclude things. Like for Carnation, I want everyone in the Snoqualmie Valley to see it (the rural areas north, east, and south of Carnation). But, I know no one from Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland or Redmond (urban areas) is going to drive to Carnation for a class! Note, when excluding cities, choose “no radius”.

durham fb location

  • Age. You can limit by age group. I’m trying to reach expectant parents, and parents of very young children. While we welcome teen and young adult parents, we have found they don’t usually sign up, so, since my advertising dollar is limited, I target to age 24 and up. On the older side, I set it at 46 or so. (There is an irony in this, since I’m a 48 year old mom of a preschooler…) Note: Ad targeting is NOT about who is welcome or not welcome in our classes!! It’s about focusing our ads on the type of people most likely to be looking for a program like ours.
  • Gender: It’s a stereotype, but likely true, that moms make more decisions about classes than dads do. I do both genders if that gets my audience to the right size, but if I really want to target my ads for best value, I limit to women.
  • Language: I generally leave blank. It will go to anyone in my area, no matter their primary language.
  • More demographics: there’s a LOT of choices here. Some examples: Home >> Household Composition >> Children in Home or Parents >> All Parents >> (0 – 12 months): New Parents or Parents >> Moms >> Stay-at-home moms
    • Note: when you write your ad, think about who you’re going to target. For example, if you’re targeting to “stay at home moms” vs. “parents 0 – 3 years” your ad might be written differently. SAHM might not click on an ad for a preschool if they think of preschools as a 5 day a week thing… so your ad might say something about it being ‘2 mornings a week – great opportunity for a little social interaction for you and your child’.
    • For childbirth classes, I might choose married or partnered. Again, I’m not trying to be biased here… single parents are VERY welcome in the classes, but again, if I have limited ad dollars, I know that partnered moms are more likely to choose to enroll in a class…
  • Interests: You could choose people who are interested in Family and Relationships, and that gets you people who have “liked” pages about Family and Relationships
  • Behaviors. Again, there are lots of things to choose from here. I have tried targeting a preschool ad to Purchase Types >> Baby products and had similar results (click-through rates) to when I targeted at parents of kids 0 – 12 months. Note: use EITHER the “more demographics” section OR “Interests and Behaviors.” If you use both, the ad will only go to people who fit all the descriptions in both sections, and that usually limits your audience too much.

How Much Do You Want to Spend

Now you need to choose your budget. I do the lifetime budget. That refers to the lifetime/lifespan of the ad. I’ve been generally running $10-20 lifetime budget. Then set your start and end dates. I run ads for about 5 days.

durham fb ad budget

Bidding and Pricing

I “optimize for clicks to website” and “get the most website clicks at the best price” and “run ads all the time” and delivery type standard.

Create Your Ad

It asks “How do you want your ad to look.” Although the “multiple images in one ad” is interesting, let’s make it simple now, and choose “a single image”

Then it asks “What creative would you like to use”. Choose “select images”. It will automatically upload some pictures from your website, but if those aren’t the ones you want to use, you can delete them, and upload anything you want. You can choose multiple pictures, and it will randomly choose one whenever it runs an ad, so if you don’t have a single favorite picture, that’s a fine option. You can “crop” the images to make sure they’re displaying the part of the photo you want to display.

durham fb ad ad-design

In the Text and Links section:

  • On Connect Facebook page, make sure it lists the correct page
  • On headline and text, it may have auto-filled the title and description from your webpage. You’ll almost always want to change this for an ad to make them as appealing as possible.
  • Headline: usually this would be the name of your program (25 characters or less)
  • Text: Wants to be a clear, engaging overview of your program, with perhaps an invitation (join us, check us out, be a part, etc.). You’ve only got 90 characters, so make them count.
  • Note: On the mobile ads, all that appears is: name of your Facebook page / text / headline / web address. So, make sure that the text works well in this context as well as on desktop news feed. (Many more people will see your mobile ad than your desktop ad!! 48% of Facebook users access it ONLY on mobile devices; many more use a mixture of mobile and desktop) So, I make sure it includes location, age group – those sorts of key information that tell viewers whether the ad applies to them.
  • Call to Action: Choose one. I like “learn more” or “sign up”
  • Click “show advanced options”, and it will give you a box for news feed link description. You definitely want to use this, as it gives you an opportunity to provide lots more info for those viewing it on a desktop. It’s 200 characters. I use it for a longer summary of the program.
  • Once you’ve done this, make sure you look at the previews for desktop feed, mobile devices, right column display and mobile apps to make sure you’re happy with all versions of the ad.
  • Then place order.

What results will you get?

It’s really hard for me to predict that. It depends on what market you’re trying to reach, what your product is and so on. I also think that what results I’m getting in August of 2015 may be different in August 2016. I just don’t know how yet. Facebook ads are somewhat new, they’re REALLY easy, really cheap, and get good results. So, a lot of people are using them right now. If that use increases so much that Facebook users get sick of ads, we might see a backlash, and worse results, or Facebook may continue to evolve tools that get even better results. All I can tell you is what I’ve seen with my market, my product, in summer 2014 and 2015.

I’ve been running ads for our program: classes for parents and babies, parents and toddlers, and cooperative preschools. For each audience, I’ve targeted as described in the directions above, with some minor adjustments. For each type of class I spent $10, and had a potential audience from about 2000 – 7000 people. For each of the ads, they’ve been displayed to approximately 800 – 1100 people. The clicks to the website ranged from 8 – 35 per program. Click through rates ranged from 1%. Cost per click ranged from 27 cents to $1.25. So, as an approximation, I figure can get about 15 clicks for $10.

I advertised my blog, More Good Days to a national audience. Married women, age 24 – 44, parents of kids 0 – 3 years old. That’s a potential audience of over a million. I knew I was only going to reach a very small fraction of those. But that was OK… I wanted to reach people all over, under the hope that maybe if someone in Minnesota liked it, she’d tell her friends, and so would someone in New Mexico and so on. I spent $30. Ad displayed to 5200, 79 clicked through. That’s a click-through rate of 1.5%, at a cost-per-click of 38 cents.

I did an ad for our program where instead of setting the goal of what kind of results I wanted to “clicks to website” I chose “Promote your page.” (For some programs, this is a better option than clicks… a click just gets them to look at your website once and take action or not on that day. But if they like your Facebook page, then every time you post something, it appears on their Facebook feed, so you get repeated exposures.) I targeted that ad to expectant parents and parents of kids 0 – 3 in 4 nearby cities. Potential audience of 17,600. I spent $14. Ad displayed to 2443 people (14% of audience). 11 liked the page (my goal), 2 liked the post. That’s a click-through rate of 0.7% and a cost-per-like of $1.20.

I primarily choose ads that are optimized for clicks to website. I find that some of the people who see that ad choose to go to our Facebook page to check us out, and some choose to like the page based on that. In one week of running ads, where our ads were displayed to 11,000 people, we gained 22 likes on our Facebook page as a side effect of those ads.

Setting up your first ad will take you 30 – 45 minutes. It gets faster after that! I can do one in 5 – 10. Try experimenting with one today!

To learn more about online advertising, check out my website at www.janelledurham.com.

Have you had previous experience using Facebook Ads and would like to add some additional information?  Do you think you will give these simple and affordable ad options a try?  Share your experience now or after your first round of ads and let us know how it goes in the comments section below. – SM

About Janelle Durham

Janelle headshotJanelle Durham, MSW, LCCE, has taught childbirth preparation, breastfeeding, and newborn care for 16 years. She trains childbirth educators for the Great Starts program at Parent Trust for Washington Children, and teaches young families through Bellevue College’s Parent Education program. She is a co-author of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn and writes blogs/websites on: pregnancy & birth; breastfeeding and newborn care; and parenting toddlers & preschoolers. Contact Janelle at jdurham@parenttrust.org.

Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Series: Building Your Birth Business , , , , , , ,

Happy World Breastfeeding Week – The Celebration Continues with More Free Resources!

August 6th, 2015 by avatar

JHL august 2015

Resources continue to be made available during World Breastfeeding Week that will benefit the childbirth educator, doula, lactation consultant, midwife and other professionals as they educate, support and provide assistance to families who are planning to continue to breastfeed and return to work.  Check out today’s resource list.

Free Journal of Human Lactation articles

In honor of worldwide celebrations of World Breastfeeding Week and the theme “Breastfeeding and Work- Let’s Make It Work, the Journal of Human Lactation has made the following ten research articles available for free during the month of August 2015 to anyone interested in reading them.

The Journal of Human Lactation is a quarterly, peer-reviewed journal publishing original research, insights in practice and policy, commentaries, and case reports relating to research and practice in human lactation and breastfeeding. JHL is relevant to lactation professionals in clinical practice, public health, research, and a broad range of fields related to the trans-disciplinary field of human lactation.

Hat tip to Lactation Matters for the heads up on this generous offer from JHL..

Screenshot 2015-08-05 20.22.25Free iMothering Webinar with Nancy Mohrbacher

Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, an expert in the field of breastfeeding, and author of several books on breastfeeding including Breastfeeding Solutions: Quick Tips for the Most Common Nursing Challenges, (which was reviewed previously on Science & Sensibility) has a free online webinar for families and professionals on on iMothering.com titled –  Working and Breastfeeding Made Simple.

© Nancy Mohrbacher

© Nancy Mohrbacher

Free Downloadable Resource for Caregivers of Breastfeeding Infants

Additionally, Nancy has shared a super resource that breastfeeding families can share with the caregivers of their nurslings, to help them understand how they can best help and support the breastfeeding working parent when they are watching the child as the caregiver. Check out this printable For the Caregiver of a Breastfed Baby and let families know they can share this with their child’s caregiver to provide accurate information on how best to feed the breastfed baby while s/he is with their caregiver.

Do you have any resources that you have found helpful during this WBW celebration?  I invite you to share and link to them in the comments section so we can all benefit.  Thanks in advance!

Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Newborns, Push for Your Baby , , , , ,

Breastfeeding and Work- Let’s Make It Work! Join Science & Sensibility in Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week

August 4th, 2015 by avatar

wbw2015-logo-purpleAugust 1-7th, 2015 is World Breastfeeding Week and is coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA).  WABA is a global network of individuals & organizations concerned with the protection, promotion & support of breastfeeding worldwide.  World Breastfeeding Week is traditionally celebrated annually the first week of August and this year’s theme – “Breastfeeding and Work- Let’s Make It Work!

As childbirth educators and birth professionals, we are working with expectant families in the weeks and months leading up to birth, and then often in the early weeks of parenting.  During that time, returning to work is often a distant thought, as families struggle to navigate the labor and birth experience and transition to life with a new baby.  Most of the breastfeeding topics we cover in class and one-on-one with families are of the need to know variety that helps them get breastfeeding off to a good start.  If there is even enough time to touch on returning to work as a breastfeeding parent, it is brief and quick due to time limitations and current concerns.

The reality is that most breastfeeding parents return to work.  This return to formal or informal work may occur earlier than parents would have liked due to financial concerns, lack of paid (or unpaid leave) from employers, professional pressures and expectations, as well as family and society demands.  The struggle to maintain an adequate supply of expressed breastmilk and to continue to breastfeed is real and affects many, many families worldwide.  Issues include an unsupportive workplace, insufficient time  and an inadequate or inappropriate place to express milk that can be bottle fed to their child, and an unwelcome environment to be able to nurse their child, if the child can be brought to the workplace.

Childbirth educators may not have time in our routine breastfeeding class to address many of the issues and concerns that these families face when they return to work.  The typical breastfeeding class is geared for the initial days and weeks with a newborn.  Educators can provide take home resources in the form of handouts and useful links that can help families to navigate returning to work successfully, minimizing impact on the breastfeeding dyad.

wbw2015-obj

Additionally, you might consider preparing a stand-alone class that runs a couple of hours geared specifically for the parent who is returning to work  and hoping to continue to breastfeed.  This might be offered for families to attend while still pregnant or after their baby arrives and they are facing the fact that they are going to be returning to work sooner rather than later.  Do you currently already teach such a class in your community?  How do you market it?  How is it received?  Can you share some of your objectives and favorite resources for the Return to Work class that you teach in our comments section below?

© Helen Regina - Policial WABA 2015

© Helen Regina – Policial WABA 2015

Continuing to breastfeed after returning to work benefits businesses as well as mothers, babies and families by providing a three to one Return on Investment (ROI) through lower health care costs, lower employee absenteeism rates due to babies that are healthier, requiring less sick leave, lower turnover rates, and higher employee productivity and loyalty.

Here is some useful information and resources that I have gathered in one location that you may want to share with your students and families, in order to help them make a smooth transition when they return to work as a breastfeeding family.

Many of these websites also provide information in Spanish and other languages as well.

Lamaze International President Robin Elise Weiss has created a new “From the President’s Desk” video – “Tips for Breastfeeding Success” that you can share with parents. While not specifically about breastfeeding while working, helping families get off on the right foot with a solid breastfeeding relationship can help parents to feel confident that they are meeting their baby’s nutritional needs right from the start and that can continue once they return to work.  You can also direct families to Lamaze International’s online breastfeeding class, where additional information and resources can be found.  Finally, consider encouraging parents to download our new free Pregnancy to Parenting app which contains evidence based and easily accessible information on many topics includingbreastfeeding as well as useful app features like a breastfeeding and diaper log and additional resources.

How are you celebrating World Breastfeeding Week in your community? Share your activities and ideas in the comments section below and thank you so much for all you do to support breastfeeding with the families you work with.

Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Infant Attachment, Lamaze International, Newborns, Push for Your Baby , , , , , , ,

BABE Series: The Six Ways to Progress in Labor – Making It Memorable!

July 30th, 2015 by avatar
© Sharon Muza

© Sharon Muza

Time for another post in the “Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators” (BABE) series.  The purpose of this monthly series is to share engaging, interactive and effective teaching ideas that childbirth educators can use in their classes.  We know that when families are participatory, engaged and interacting with their partners, other class members and the instructor, real learning (and retention) happens!  Today, I share an idea I modified from an activity that I originally saw Michele Deck, former Lamaze International President and exceptional trainer, share at a the REACHE conference in Tacoma, WA several years ago.

Introduction

In my childbirth classes, I like to have parents understand that there are many ways that their bodies are preparing for birth. Changes happen in the weeks, days and hours leading up to the moment of birth.  I feel that if parents understand the six ways to progress in labor, they can appreciate that at times, cervical dilation (the most “well-known” of the six ways to progress) may not be changing, but other changes may continue to show that their body and baby are working towards the big moment of birth. Parents leave class understanding that labor progress is a coordinated effort by the parent’s body and the baby that incorporates many different changes.

The six different ways that progress is assessed include:

  1. The cervix is moving forward
  2. The cervix is ripening
  3. The cervix is shortening/thinning (effacement)
  4. The cervix is opening (dilating)
  5. The baby is descending (station)
  6. The baby is rotating

Objective

At the end of the activity, class members will be able to describe the six ways that labor progress can be measured and explain why the focus should not just be on dilation, but rather on the synchronized way that change is happening throughout the pre-labor and labor period.  My hope is families will recall this information during labor, if the cervix is measured and the cervix has not dilated significantly since the last exam.

© Sharon Muza

© Sharon Muza

Supplies I use

The supplies for this activity are very simple.  I tape a large piece of newsprint at the front of the room, which has a rectangle drawn on it, divided up into a “table” of 2 squares x 3 squares with a colorful marker. I give each class participant a similar table, on a regular 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, and make sure they have a pen.  I have several different color markers for them to use in front of the class. I also use the standard childbirth class teaching tools – the fetal model, a knitted uterus, and a pelvis.

How I teach it

I cover the six ways to progress after we have discussed the events of late pregnancy and before the stages of labor. When I start the activity, I share that we will be discussing the six ways to progress in labor and that many people, parents and health care providers alike, focus on dilation, but there are many ways to assess progress and it is important to understand all of them.  After I cover the first way to measure progress, the cervix moving from posterior to anterior (which you can teach using your favorite technique), I ask them to draw a simple symbol (“like a kindergarten student might draw, quick, simple and without words”) in the first square.  The symbol that they draw will help them to remember what happens first.

After they have drawn their first symbol on their own paper, I ask for a volunteer to come up and draw it on the class sheet up front.  Everyone “oohs and aahs” at the class drawing and then all share what they drew.  We move on to the cervix ripening.  Again, I teach this in my typical way and ask them to draw another drawing on their own paper to represent ripening in the second square. Another volunteer comes up to draw for the class and we all share what everyone drew. I repeat this process for all six ways to progress.

Maximum Retention

So that they can really solidify and remember each of the six ways to progress, after we discuss and draw a new square, I go back, and while pointing at the specific square, ask – “what happens first? and second?  and next…?”  The class repeats back what is happening.  After all six ways are completed, I ask them to turn their papers over, and ask randomly – “what happens fourth?”  “and sixth?” “first?” without looking at anything but pointing on the wall, where the squares were located before I took it down.  Every single class member is able to a) identify what happens in each step and b) what that means for the labor, even after I have removed the newsprint.

I let them know that I will randomly ask them this information sometime later on in the series and the person who can answer all six correctly, gets a prize.  A week or so later, in class, I ask for someone to recall the six ways to progress and award a prize to the first person who correctly names them all again! Class members enthusiastically compete with each other to be the first to recall all six ways to progress.

© Sharon Muza

© Sharon Muza

Takeaways

This method of using the squares, both at their seats and in the front of the class, really helps the families to remember the six ways to progress in labor.  There is lots of laughter and admiration for everyone’s clever ideas on how to represent each method, they really remember what the symbols stand for (and the actual action that happens in labor) and they are still remembering it several weeks later.  This activity is always a lot of fun to do in my childbirth classes and appreciated and enjoyed by the participants.

How you can modify this activity?

This activity reinforces retention and can be modified for many purposes in your childbirth classes.  You could do a similar activity for talking about safe sleep, how to tell if baby has a good latch during breastfeeding, or even apply it to Lamaze International’s Six Healthy Birth Practices.  By using the idea of drawing a simple symbol to represent a fact, and being asked to recall it several times, people really find that the information worms its way into their memories, and they can recall it later when it is needed.  After all, several weeks or months can pass from childbirth class to the big event, and anything we can do as childbirth educators to help families retain information for their recall when they need it down the road is a big win!

An invitation

I invite you to draw your ideas for the six ways to progress in labor, or conduct the same process for another childbirth class topic and share it with all of us. What topic ideas do you in mind to try with this method? Send me a picture of what you or your families have drawn, along with your contact information and website, and I can put them all up in another post.  We can even try to guess the topic being discussed from the drawings – and you can see how effective this technique is. I am excited to see what you all come up with.  Send them to me using this email address.

 

Note/Disclaimer: The use of the acronym “BABE” (Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators) is not affiliated with, aligned with or associated with any particular childbirth program or organization.

 

Childbirth Education, Healthy Birth Practices, Push for Your Baby, Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators , , , ,

Series: Welcoming All Families – Supporting the Orthodox Jewish Family

July 28th, 2015 by avatar

Today on Science & Sensibility, we continue with our occasional series: Welcoming All Families by examining how an educator might make their class inviting for the Orthodox Jewish family who attends. There are rich traditions and customs that are unique to observant Jewish families and a knowledgeable educator can help families to prepare for birth and navigate the protocols of  the birth location feeling ready and confident that their practices will be respected and accommodated. Check out the entire series and learn how your childbirth class can be a place where all kinds of families feel respected, accepted and comfortable. – Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager.

By Jodilyn Owen, CPM, LM

By Adam Jones [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Adam Jones [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

As educators, our first jobs are to meet families where they are at and work with them in that place. As educators who have the responsibility to prepare families to navigate a complex healthcare system, we have a mighty task. The layers of birth preparation are unique for each family we will encounter. Establishing a baseline of knowledge about cultural and religious or spiritual backgrounds and practices will allow us to educate in a much more complete way.

The term “Orthodox Jewish” encompasses a great variety of practices and beliefs, so the most important take-away message here is that like all things related to the intersection of culture, religion, and birth, we must remain open to learning as we go, from the family, what their unique practices are. The basic premise that Orthodox Jewish families live by is that G-d exists, that the Torah (also known as the “Old Testament”) is true, and that G-d gave it as His instructions for living and navigating life. The families you work with accept these ideas and therefore live lives that are, for them, enriched by fulfilling what they see as G-d’s will by keeping the laws of the Torah and the Rabbis who mold and shape those laws in every generation and community around the world.

There has been a lot of buzz lately about hospitals that serve large populations of Orthodox families having extraordinarily low cesarean rates. This is being attributed to the tendency for large families in this community and the sense of importance around avoiding operative deliveries for the safety and health of future deliveries. Cesarean birth typically requires longer recuperation times which is very hard on a family with several children. Discussion in class around laboring at home until mom is in established active labor becomes critical to the process she will experience. This is in line with the efforts to reduce primary cesarean rates and an important part of the new ACOG guidelines .

While the theme of this article definitely revolves around variation in religious practices amongst Orthodox families, there are some commonalities you may encounter that are worth exploring. Perhaps the greatest gift as an educator you can give to your students is to illuminate the way that their behavior may be perceived so they do not have unnecessarily difficult interactions with the staff. These families have been navigating the world until this point and they likely have the tools they need to be who they are in new settings. Even so, you may help them clarify ways to mitigate the common pitfalls in the system so that they can proactively and effectively engage providers.

Let’s explore some key areas of interest. A bit of a disclaimer: As a licensed midwife practicing out of hospital, I have a lot of time to get to know my clients, their religious and cultural preferences and needs, and how I can best support them. I hope most out of hospital practices are similar. Therefore I refer here consistently to challenges that come up in the hospital. Jewish women have a long and beautiful history of being tended to by midwives, but in today’s society, most will seek care from an OB and choose to birth in a hospital.

Jewish Law

Many families observe a variety of Jewish laws that affect how they behave during the labor, birth, and postpartum times. This includes things such as saying blessings over the food and liquid that they drink, praying at prescribed times during the day, and even saying a brief prayer after using the bathroom to thank G-d for their body working the way it was designed to work.

  • In the hospital

If a person is praying they will not interrupt their prayers to answer questions or engage in any discussion. You can remind families that letting their nurse know that they are going to be unavailable for a short time will help avoid the nurse assuming that they are difficult to communicate with. They will need access to Kosher food—most families will bring their own if the hospital or birth center does not have any. Call around to find out which hospitals offer Kosher menus so that you can inform families during your class.

Consulting with the Rabbi

While there are dozens of laws that govern everyday life for Jewish families, they will all turn to their Rabbi for help with making decisions when it is unclear to them either how to apply the laws to their current situation or for guidance as they navigate life’s greater challenges. Mothers may want to talk with their Rabbi about the Jewish laws related to childbirth or decision points that come up during the pregnancy, birth, or postpartum time. This is not a sign of weakness or submission—it is a source of strength and guidance and a deeply valued relationship within the family and community structure. Most often the Rabbi will help a family work out ways to approach and solve problems, helping to build life skills within the context of Jewish law and philosophy. There is a lot of sensitivity to a family’s capacity at any given time, and their Rabbi may offer advice that varies from family to family. Thusly you may hear of a custom or law being observed in a several different ways—this is normal within the Jewish community.

  • In the Hospital

A woman may defer decision making until she and her husband evaluate which path to take in order to best meet the structure of Jewish law. This is not an act of defiance against authorities but can be taken that way. Teach skills that build capacity for creating space to talk over options alone.

The Yearly Calendar

Jewish families live very rich community and family lives that occur in conjunction with the Sabbath (often referred to as Shabbat or Shabbos), holidays and fast days. There are a total of 25 holidays and fast days, each with their own purpose and rituals that families will observe even during labor and birth. Fasting can be a health issue during early and mid-pregnancy. Women should be advised to talk with their doctor and their Rabbi before fasting. A retrospective study of 725 births found that fasting for 25 hours is an independent risk factor for preterm birth.

The Sabbath is well known as a day of rest. In Orthodox families it is a time to gather with family and friends and enjoy community. Many families avoid the use of electronics including phones, cars, and elevator buttons. This is something to keep in mind when scheduling your classes—Orthodox families will be preparing for Shabbat on Friday and observing it from sunset on Friday through sundown on Saturday night. Sunday and weekday schedules will accommodate this population well.

  • In the Hospital

This is a great time to talk about the role of a doula. It helps to have an advocate who can bridge the gap between the family and the hospital technology and normal protocols. Women will not sign papers, adjust the bed, or use the call button on Shabbat. Holiday laws are similar to Shabbat laws and families will need help facilitating their entry and stay in the hospital. Most hospitals in locations where there are large Jewish populations are prepared to work with observant families.

Modesty

Women will observe the laws of modesty in varying degrees depending on community customs and personal choice. Most women will wear clothing that covers their arms down to their elbows and skirts that are just below the knee or longer. Because it is normal for them to wear clothing that covers their body, hospital gowns that are short sleeved or short in length can leave a woman feeling vulnerable. Offer education for families on talking with the hospital staff about wearing their own clothing. Advise families that it is normal for Jewish women to wear a skirt of their choosing and to simply lift it up at the time of birth. Many women throw away the skirt after the birth but a half bottle of hydrogen peroxide with their normal laundry soap will remove any staining.

Many Jewish women cover their hair. You may see a hat, a handkerchief or scarf, or a wig used. Some women cover their hair throughout the birth process. Birth is unpredictable and for many women regardless of religion or culture, having clothing touch their bodies during the heat of labor becomes unbearable. Having attended dozens of births with Orthodox women, I can confidently say that it is normal for many women to forego their usual levels of modesty during transition and birth, while others maintain their norm. They can ask their doula or hospital staff for help covering up again when they are ready. They should also be made aware that they can always ask for a bed sheet if they want something light to wrap up in.

  • In the Hospital

Many women prefer to wear their own clothes during labor and birth. If the hospital insists on a gown, let women know that they can wear one gown with the opening in the back and another with the opening in the front over it. Women can wear their head covering if they wish to during the entire labor and birth. They need to tell their provider to let the father know when an exam will be done that exposes the mother’s body in case she prefers him to leave the room. Some fathers leave the room for the actual birth and come back in after the mom is sutured and in bed. Others sit on a chair or stand by their wife’s side at the head of the bed and they can be reminded that encouraging and loving words are always welcome during this time!

Touching and Passing

There are Jewish laws that govern physical separation between man and wife, and revolve around the woman’s cycle or evidence of uterine bleeding, including childbirth. Again, every family has unique customs they have built up that work for them. This may involve the couple not touching at all. Many couples report a high level of marital satisfaction having this separation each month, they come back to each other with renewed energy for connection and have space to develop their relationship outside the realm of physical intimacy. This is one of the most misunderstood set of laws in Jewish life—many looking from the outside project ideas of shaming or submission, inferiority or inequality in the relationship onto what they see. In fact Jewish women hold, by contract, much of the power of the relationship. A Jewish marriage contract is a standardized document that charges the wife with control of the home, purchases, and mandates the husband provide her sexual satisfaction, fidelity, support for the household expenses and any children, gifts on holidays, the highest standard of living he can supply, and alimony. This is a living functional legal document that is signed by witnesses at the time of marriage and given to the bride at the wedding for her safekeeping. Women are held in high regard in the majority of Orthodox communities and this carries into the privacy of their home. The time of physical separation may include the direct passing of items to each other. If one is passing the salt, they will set it down on the table before the other picks it up. If they are keeping these laws during labor, birth, and the postpartum time there are a number of areas this would affect.

  • In the Hospital

This is another great point to recommend a doula! The father may be emotionally and verbally supportive during the birth or they may have decided together that they prefer he read prayers. He may want to leave the room or go to a corner where he will not see the actual birth of his baby in an effort to keep the laws in accordance with his tradition. There is a huge variety in the ways that couples observe the laws relating to touch during labor, birth, and the immediate postpartum time. It can affect everything from passing the mom a cup of juice or a snack, providing physical support such as holding her head or hand while pushing, and even passing the newborn baby to be held by the other parent. Educate families on how normal it is for a nurse to ask a partner to pass something to the mom or to support her leg or neck during pushing. Nursing staff may see the father’s lack of touch as unsupportive and even neglectful if they do not understand what they are seeing. They may send a report to the hospital social worker asking for an evaluation that is inappropriate and unnecessary. Preparing families to talk openly with their nurse about their religious practices is of prime importance in the education of Orthodox families.

In the Community

Birth is a celebrated, treasured, and well supported community event. The family will very likely receive dinner every day for 2-4 weeks postpartum from community members and help with managing and care of older children and the home. There are many traditions involved in the welcoming of a baby over the first month of life. These may include a postpartum baby shower, because many Jewish families do not believe in purchasing items for the baby until after the baby has arrived. This tradition is rooted for some in a kind of superstition that arose in Eastern Europe and for others it is a matter of family tradition though they don’t necessarily share the feelings of superstition. Most families will circumcise their baby boy on the 8th day of life. This is a custom that celebrates the unique and individual relationship the boy has with G-d. Orthodox Jewish families will not need resources from you regarding where or how to contact professionals for newborn rituals, they will get that information from their synagogue.

  • In Class

Community standards and norms can be covered in class by contextualizing information based on the ideas that families will have strong customs and an interest in learning, gathering information, and talking things over with their trusted Rabbi. Education for families can point towards the need to balance community events with rest and healing and it might be a nice addition to class to get into the physical and emotional needs of the postpartum mother in some details. They are coming from a community where mothering is a valued and well promoted event in a woman’s life. For women who don’t feel happy or struggle with depression or anxiety, it can be very isolating. Be sure to share resources for mental health and hormonal support. Acupuncture is excellent for balancing hormones and a qualified practitioner can provide significant relief within 2-4 visits.   Pharmacological treatment provides help for those who prefer that route or don’t find relief from acupuncture. It is important to stress the normalcy of these mood disorders and the causes behind them.

For mothers with several small children, pelvic health must be discussed. One can look to the practices of other cultures for supporting the body as it transitions back into a non-pregnant state.

It is important to tell families that they need to either have a car seat with them when they go to the hospital or have a friend or family member go get one after the birth so that they can bring baby home if they are having a hospital birth. You might consider making a short list of items needed for a layette and encourage them to have those items picked up for them as well. If you are presenting current research on the effects of circumcision, do so without bias or judgment. Present the evidence and offer opportunities for questions just as you would for any other topic. These families will make their decision on their own and you have the opportunity to help them make that from an informed place—not a place of fear.

Conclusion

In conclusion, serving Orthodox families is about awareness for a culture that wraps its life around the yearly cycle of communal gathering and creates space to connect in time-honored ways within the family. While there is no one prescription for teaching childbirth classes to an Orthodox Jewish family, the approach of open-mindedness, cultural awareness and sensitivity, and leaving room for class participants to ask questions and share their ideas, ideals, and fears will always be just right.

Have you had Orthodox Jewish families in your childbirth classes?  What have you done to make them feel welcome.  Do you have any tips to share with other educators?  Let us know in the comments section below. – SM

About Jodilyn Owen

owen head shotJodilyn Owen, LM, CPM is co-author of The Essential Homebirth Guidea guide for families planning or considering a homebirth.  She is a practicing midwife at Essential Birth & Family Center in Seattle, WA and is a wife and mother.  Jodilyn is passionate about bringing babies into the arms of healthy mothers. Jodilyn’s newest venture is the Rainer Valley Community Clinic – a midwifery-led clinic in South Seattle, WA. The clinic serves an area that is a Federally Designated Medically Underserved Community. Rainier Valley Community Clinic is sponsored by the South Seattle Women’s Health Foundation, which is dedicated to creating spaces for high quality, individualized perinatal care and increasing capacity within the community for jobs in the healthcare industry for local women, especially those of color and immigrant women.  She enjoys hiking, camping, boxing, and watching her kids on the basketball court.  Jodilyn welcomes your comments and questions and can be reached through her website

Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Maternity Care, Series: Welcoming All Families , , , ,

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