Don’t Forget Dads!

by Judy Springer, ICCE, ICD

There have been many changes in childbirth over the past several decades. More options have become available for labor and pain relief. More than ever, parents are able to participate in decisions regarding their care. Childbirth Educators have done a great job in working with families and promoting positive change. Teaching styles and information have been adapted to explain new options and procedures. Childbirth Educators would agree that these changes are offered as a way to help mothers become informed, empowered, and supported. Preparation and understanding of what to expect are key for attaining the most satisfying birth experience.

Despite all the progress in childbirth education, a stigma still exists. Moms are often viewed as the primary care giver – and most of our teaching unknowingly reinforces that belief. Dads are equally as important – and it’s necessary to address their role in childbirth, along with their questions and feelings.

Many Dads of today are taking the opportunity to be more than a provider and a disciplinarian. They want to step up and interact with their children from the moment of birth. Childbirth Educators have done a great job in working with families and promoting positive change; however, we have not met the challenge of providing enough classes to meet the needs of soon to be fathers. New Dads have the task of preparing to support Mom in labor and breastfeeding, but they also want to know how to be seen as an equal partner in caring for the baby.

Soon to be Dads need to attend classes as a partner in Childbirth, Breastfeeding, and Parenting courses. They also need a class that is just for the guys. When the group doesn’t include women, Dads more freely share their feelings, and ask questions regarding fears that they have not expressed before.

Of course, new Dads want to be great at burping, swaddling, and even diaper changing. It’s important to remember that Dads are also concerned about relationship changes, and communication after the baby arrives. They wonder how their world will change, and feel guilty when thinking about what they may have to give up in their lives.

Insight from an experienced father can help relieve many fears and instill confidence. New Dads need concrete ideas on how to protect Mom and their relationship. They need to know the signs of postpartum mood disorders for Mom, and for themselves. Protecting baby is also a concern. Dads want the facts regarding SIDS and babyproofing the home.

An experienced Dad can share stories of bonding, and the benefits of being there to develop a relationship from day one. Stressing that Dad and Mom are the most important role models for this child gives insight into his ongoing responsibilities. It is important for a new Dad to know that his involvement will help his child fare better overall in many domains.

Many families have benefited from classes like this since Greg Bishop founded Boot Camp for New Dads in 1990. Other Dad classes are often only available online. When a group of men gather, they are able to form a camaraderie, and realize that they are not alone in their fear. By the end of class, they have confidence to step into their new role. They realize what a wonderful asset they are for their child.

Many facilities don’t offer Dad classes because they feel that they won’t be well attended. This simply isn’t true. If Dads are welcomed and treated with respect and as an equal, they will come – and they’ll be very grateful for your time.

Resources

https://www.babycenter.com/0_fathering-classes-could-you-use-one_8249.bc                 By Linda Murray Reviewed by the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board April 18, 2019

Fatherhood: The Journey from Man to Dad. Linton, Bruce. Father’s Forum Press, 2017 124pp

We’re Parents! The New Dad Book for Baby’s First Year: Everything You Need to Know to Survive and Thrive Together. Kulp, Adrian. Rockridge Press, 2019 187pp

www.bootcampfornewdads.org 

Lee JY, Knauer HA, Lee SJ, et al. Father-Inclusive Perinatal Parent Education Programs: A Systematic Review. Pediatrics. 2018;142(1): e20180437

Garfield Joyce Y. Lee, Heather A. Knauer, Shawna J. Lee, Mark P. MacEachern and Craig F. Father-Inclusive Perinatal Parent Education Programs: A Systematic Review Pediatrics originally published online June 14, 2018