Beyond the Basics
Besides creating an environment that makes men feel at home, these classes cover newborn how-to's such as diapering, bathing, and dressing. Some also address infant first aid and common childhood ailments.
Class attendance runs around five to eight guys and may include slideshows, books with pictures, and skills drills on baby dolls. Some programs even feature Q & A sessions with recent graduates who bring their own newborns along. Bill Webb, director of the Sioux Falls Fatherhood Initiative, calls these veterans Demo Dads. He says, "It's great for the guys to see a living breathing example of a competent father. While the men talk, the Demo Dad will mix a bottle, change a diaper, and possibly soothe his crying baby." It can be a real eye-opener for the students who may have never seen a man care for an infant.
After the birth of his son, Newkirk returned to Webb's class to assuage the fears of the new crop of daddies there. He said that many men can't imagine taking a new baby in public by themselves, but seeing another guy care for his child was liberating and encouraging for them. He says, "I told them the fear is normal, but you can get past it."
But sleeping tips and spit up are only part of the picture. Many new-dad classes place equal, if not greater, emphasis on the most significant skill of all—being a good father. They talk about the tremendous emotional and developmental impact of a father in a child's life and how men who grew up fatherless can still become the kinds of dads they wished they'd had. Students engage in frank discussions about their own fathers, their fears of failure, and their desire to be role models for their children.
The instructors, often family counselors, also discuss the importance of a father's relationship with his wife and how it changes upon the birth of a baby. Aycock addresses postpartum blues, a hormonal roller coaster that many men can't fathom. He also urges new dads to help their wives leave the house within 10 days of the baby's birth and stresses "dating your wife again" because after all, she's a changed woman.