The Bradley Method is something I don’t think many people have heard of. I know I certainly hadn’t. On the flip side, pretty much everyone has heard of Lamaze. Bradley has many things in common with Lamaze with some key differences. I haven’t taken a Lamaze class but I have read the book – and I was less than impressed. But I don’t want to judge the method by the book – practice is very different. I think that for the most part, Bradley and Lamaze are basically the same. If you’re pregnant, definitely take a class of some sort! I can’t imagine how confusing and scary birth would have been for me if I didn’t go in educated. It’s nothing like the movies!
According to the book, Lamaze is no longer mainly a breathing method. The hee hee hoo breathing is a thing of the 90’s apparently. It sounds to me like it’s basically the Bradley method now – a collection of techniques to help get through childbirth. Both methods advocate for medication-free birth with as few medical interventions as safely possible.
The Cascade of Interventions
So what are the differences? The number one difference is the involvement of the father. The Bradley method focuses heavily on the father being the labor coach. It’s his job to remember the different techniques and plans when the mother is in the throes of labor and can’t think straight. It’s imperative that the father attend classes, practice relaxation exercises with the mother, and be extremely active throughout the entire process. Lamaze advocates more for the involvement of a Doula, or some trusted fellow woman to lead you through the experience or for the mother to lead herself through labor.
If you want childbirth to be a team effort between you and the father, check Bradley out. If the father is not involved or cannot commit to the 8-12 week class schedule, Lamaze may be a better fit. And don’t feel like you have to choose between having dad coach or someone else – I had both my husband and mother coach me through. Even if you’re very self-reliant, I recommend choosing someone to share your wishes with and who learns about ways to help during labor. There will come a point where you can’t sort through your brain to remember the things you learned. It’s good to have someone clear-headed to remind you how to relax and to help calm your fears.
Another difference I want to point out is regulation: all Bradley classes cost the same and run for roughly the same length of time. Their website, BradleyBirth.com, is easy to use and full of instructors who will help you find a class near you. Lamaze is a little less organized. You can find classes of all costs and lengths, which makes me wonder how you know what you’re getting. That being said, you can find shorter, cheaper classes for Lamaze, but it’s a little shadier.
The final difference I want to point out is a little subjective. Lamaze’s techniques for dealing with pain focus on distraction, while Bradley focuses on acknowledging and working through pain. In practice, it’s honestly a very subtle difference. Only you know which school of thought will work for you (and honestly both ways are probably talked about in both classes). How have you worked through pain in the past? I find I am unable to distract myself and therefore need to acknowledge it, but that is just me personally. Distraction is obviously tried and true as well.
So what did I think of my “Bradley Birth?” Well, it didn’t prepare me 100% but I don’t think any class could. I felt thoroughly educated and I felt I was better able to make medical decisions by learning about them beforehand. I did end up needing medication, but the class teaches you under what circumstances you should get it and my birth happened to fall into that. That’s not to say we didn’t use the relaxation techniques – I was in labor a long time before we used medication, and we used almost all of the positions and relaxation techniques we learned.
Emotionally, it was a huge bonding experience for me and my husband. Attending classes, learning, and sharing our fears and hopes once a week for 8 weeks was really huge for us. On the birth day, we were able to share a special experience unmarred by stress and panic. I knew what to expect and he knew what to do to help. Both of us felt in control and calm as much as is possible and a birth situation, and that, to me, was the biggest reward of the whole thing. We knew the medical jargon, we had a plan A, B, C….etc… we didn’t freak out. Our birth day was a day we fondly remember. So often it ends up being a forgotten day between the joys of pregnancy and parenthood. I’m glad ours wasn’t just a hurdle to jump and forget.
Any criticisms? Nothing big really. It is a big time investment but I think it’s worth it. All things considered, childbirth is a pretty big deal. The class doesn’t really teach anything one can disagree with because it’s very careful to cover all options. It never says, for instance, that you can’t use pain medication, rather it explains the risks and benefits and then outlines the situations in which it’s best used. My instructor was careful not to inject her own views and opinions into the class and worked very hard to represent all sides of any argument. Are all instructors that great? Probably not. 😉 But just the way the book reads, I think most would. It’s very scientific and unbiased for the most part, and like I said, I’m having trouble remembering anything that was outright offensive.
From what I’ve seen of Lamaze, it’s more touchy-feely, while Bradley is very straightforward medical information written in a way that’s easy to understand. Bradley is educational and Lamaze seems more like a group therapy/yoga session. Not that that’s inherently bad, but I prefer the education. Bradley also talks about emotions and psychology as well, but it stays more objective and analytical about it. That works for me and helps me understand the emotional and physical.
I loved Bradley and if I have another baby, I’ll definitely re-read my book and take a refresher course. I hope it gets more press soon. I didn’t know I had options outside Lamaze, I only happened to accidentally discover it after What to Expect When You’re Expecting literally mentioned it in one sentence, and I decided to look it up and learn more. So glad I did! If you know anyone who’s expecting, spread the word and let them know there are options!