Birth of a Father
Boot Camp for Dads
What to Expect When You Are Expecting continued...
And after the new parents get home, when everybody wants to
visit and "help"? "The dad should take charge of directing visitors
in terms of what is most helpful and what is not," he says.
After the initial circle chat, the class breaks into small
groups of one veteran and several rookies to learn how to change diapers, feed
a baby, and comb his or her hair, Ault says. "Often a pretty good
percentage of men in class will have never held a baby," he says.
Later, everyone gets back together to discuss such topics as
baby blues, breastfeeding support, basic safety such as baby-proofing the home,
and some instruction in shaken baby prevention.
Shaken baby syndrome is a severe form of head injury caused by
the rebound of the baby's brain in its skull when shaken. It is almost always
caused when an angry parent or caregiver shakes a baby to punish or quiet the
child. About 70% of time, that injury takes place at the hands of men, says
We Want You
Just like the U.S. Army has recruiting outfits in all 50
states, Boot Camp for New Dads recruits everywhere expectant fathers hang out,
including hospitals, clinics, schools, churches, and military bases across the
U.S. The cost is nominal -- anything from free to $20, depending on the
"We try to reach them as they become fathers," Ault
says. "We are connected with obstetrician practices and other classes the
hospital may offer for new parents -- including hospital tours."
That early contact is important, because if men's first
experience as a father is bad -- or completely missing -- they're more likely
to go AWOL from duty. It happens all the time: According to data gathered in
1998 by the National Fatherhood Initiative, 42% of American kids are growing up
without fathers in their homes, a statistic Bishop is bent on improving.
"We have been pretty overwhelmed by the results that we
have seen. It has exceeded our expectations," Ault says.
Billy Kaplan, a Chicago therapist who coordinates Boot Camp for
New Dad's activities in Illinois, agrees.
"It's been astounding. I've seen dramatic changes,"
says Kaplan, also the head coach at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston.
"One guy came to the workshop, and at the beginning said he
was not going to have a relationship with the child's mother but he wanted to
be an involved dad. He came back a few months later with full custody and was
raising the child on his own," Kaplan says. "All graduates are saying
it makes a big difference in parenting and preparing them to be better fathers
Kaplan has joined with a group called the Illinois Fatherhood
Initiative to spread the program to additional hospitals and to men at risk for
abandoning their babies, those who are poor, uneducated, and/or not married to