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Birth of a Father

Boot Camp for Dads

What to Expect When You Are Expecting

With its own type of basic training, Boot Camp for New Dads helps expectant fathers get ready for dadhood.

"Classes are a combination of rookies and veterans, with the veterans doing most of the talking," Bishop says. "The real experts on new fathers are the new fathers, and having them relay their experience works best.

"Moms usually sign the dads up, and they come before the baby is born -- usually in the last trimester -- then they come back with baby at two months as veterans," he adds.

That's the path Barrette followed.

"It was cool to revisit everything after having had the child and to be able to share and discuss what a couple experiences postpartum and how the nature of the relationship changes after the baby is born," Barrette tells WebMD.

"The biggest issue is that relationships take a big hit when that baby comes along," Bishop says.

In fact, 20% of marriages decline seriously when the baby is born, he says; 30% decline somewhat, 30% stay the same, and 20% improve.

"Mom and dad are a team who take care of the baby, and it's tough when that relationship is in trouble," he says.

Five years ago, Chuck Ault, the coordinator of fatherhood programs at Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver and a national Boot Camp trainer, replicated Boot Camp in Denver.

"If a guy can go in much more confident in his ability to care for the baby, he jumps in from the beginning and establishes positive patterns and bonds with the baby," Ault says.

"Unlike other programs, [Boot Camp] doesn't target fathers in a specific situation," Ault says. "It's open to all fathers, and all fathers can benefit from the workshop."

Here's how it works: Expectant fathers -- a.k.a "rookie dads" -- get together with veteran dads about a month before the baby is born. The veteran dads bring their 2- to 3-month-olds for a show-and-tell of sorts, all facilitated by Ault.

"They all sit in a circle and find out what the rookie dad's concerns are, then we hear initial advice from veteran dads," he says. Some topics include "the gatekeeper phenomena," where the new mom tends to overcare for the baby and unknowingly pushes the dad away.

"It's easy enough if you are not feeling confident to allow that to happen, and that establishes a pattern, but at Boot Camp we help new dads establish a different pattern from the beginning and share responsibility for new baby," says Ault.

That new pattern begins with pregnancy, and is intended to take the dads through labor and delivery and all the way through childhood.

"At the hospital, dads need to be aware of everything that could be a distraction," Ault says. "For example, let's say the new mom changes her mind about using drugs to cope with labor pain: The dad must advocate for her with the staff."

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