Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - Learn More: Boot Camp for New Dads



COVINGTON - Shane Hodgson, active PTA parent and father of two, said he suspects dads-to-be share many of the same worries as first-time expectant moms.

But there is a big difference in how they cope with those concerns, said the father of two teenagers, one boy and one girl.

“Women talk about what they are worried about, but most men don’t,” the Madisonville IT professional said.

The Parenting Center at St. Tammany Parish Hospital offers expectant dads the opportunity to gain confidence and skills in an all-male setting as they anticipate the milestone event of a baby’s arrival.

The center’s Boot Camp for New Dads is a three-hour class that recognizes the different learning styles of many men and women, including special concerns men may have as they await the birth of a child.

The boot camp setting is informal and conversational. Facilitators raise key topics of discussion, including safety, car seats, coping with a crying infant, postpartum depression and shaken baby syndrome.

But other new dads shape much of the conversation. Veteran dads who have completed the class previously are invited to return to later sessions with their infants in tow to share what they learned in their first weeks of fatherhood.

Much of the learning takes place when the veterans and rookie dads-to-be break into small groups where rookies are encouraged to ask questions.

“Having the chance to ask questions of somebody who has been in your same situation eases your mind at a time that can be stressful and uncertain,” said Eric Suhre, father of a 2-year-old boy and advertising creative professional.

Common questions include what to pack in a diaper bag and how to handle sleepless nights after the baby comes home from the hospital, said Paxton Fellers, a banker in Covington and father of a toddler son.

But rookie dads also get the chance to hold an infant and sometimes change a diaper—sometimes for the first time.

Fellers said, “I was anxious and nervous about the idea of holding such a delicate life in my arms, but the moment I did, all the fear melted away.”

He did not have the chance to complete the class before his son’s birth, but decided to undergo training as a facilitator after realizing how helpful it would have been to him.

“Just having a chance for the rookies to have conversations like this and ask whatever they want to is an opportunity every dad should have,” he said.

Simply watching the veteran dads care for their infants presents another critical opportunity for learning.

“I absolutely felt more confident after completing the class,” Suhre said. “You get a chance to watch the dads interact with the babies.”

That view is backed by research that shows that fathers-to-be who complete the camp feel the experience helps them bond more quickly with their infants. The class is based on a national curriculum endorsed by numerous parenting groups, including Prevent Child Abuse America and Postpartum International.

Mele Printing representative Jason St. Cyr decided to become a boot-camp facilitator to help other Northshore dads-to-be enjoy the important role they will play in their child’s life. He said he has enjoyed watching rookie dads begin camp sessions with folded arms and worried expressions, then steadily relax as they watch veteran dads care for their infants.

“Witnessing that communication between veterans and rookies is amazing,” said St. Cyr, father of two boys under the age of 5.

The STPH Parenting Center offers the Saturday-morning classes every other month for $10. More information is available by calling the STPH Parenting Center at 985-898-4435.

This story originally appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Heart to Heart.