Using realistic training dolls, expectant and new dads practice swaddling an infant during the day-long Dads 101 Bootcamp hosted by the Fleet and Family Support Center at NAS Patuxent River June 19.
Wonder what role you’ll play during the birth of your baby? Worry that becoming a dad might change your relationship with your wife? Have no idea how to swaddle a baby? Don’t know what “swaddle” means? These questions, and more, were addressed during the Dads 101 Bootcamp at NAS Patuxent River’s Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) June 19.
Introduced during Fatherhood Awareness Month, the class — facilitated by men, for men — is designed to provide participants with skills to help them feel more comfortable in their new role as fathers.
“There were no women in this class,” said Lolita Tyler-Lockett, New Parent Support Program manager, who was instrumental in bringing the class to Pax River. “I introduced the two facilitators and then it was time for me to leave. This was a chance for men to openly express their thoughts and concerns; to feel free to speak as men to other men.”
Some of the broader topics covered included the fear of the loss of “me” time; what it means to be a good father; what will happen to the family if something happens to dad; and why it’s important for spouses to communicate.
Practical information dealt with how to prepare for baby’s arrival; what to expect during labor and childbirth; and an explanation of postpartum depression, including the signs to look for and how to help.
“They also watched a video about Shaken Baby Syndrome featuring a couple who lost their child that way,” Tyler-Lockett said. “And the volume was turned up on the sound of a crying baby to try to make the men nervous and then they discussed how to handle the situation, and how it’s okay to put the baby in bed and walk away to pull yourself together. They were also given tips on how to soothe a crying baby.”
The use of life-sized, realistic training dolls added to the authenticity as the men learned how to properly handle, diaper and swaddle an infant.
“They learned to support baby’s neck and head and were shown the shoulder hold, football hold and cradle hold,” Tyler-Lockett added. “Facilitators also talked about breastfeeding and how to help mom.”
Each man even had the opportunity to experience what it feels like to be pregnant when they strapped on a prop called the Empathy Belly Simulator.
“It has a big belly that you fill with warm water,” Tyler-Lockett explained. “It weighs about 30 pounds and your body movement starts a weighted ball inside rolling around so that it feels like a baby kicking. The men were then asked to bend over and tie their shoes, or lay down and try to rollover so they could better understand what their wife is going through.”
Always looking for ways to enhance what FFSC can do for its military families, when Tyler-Lockett heard about the dads bootcamp, she asked to attend a “Train the Trainers” session at Andrews Air Force Base.
“I wasn’t there to become a facilitator, I wanted to see what was involved with someone else becoming one so that we could bring the class to Pax River,” she said. “But by the end, four individuals came up to me and offered to do it, and the two facilitators who led the Pax class were both active-duty Airmen — and fathers — who volunteered their time.”
As a result of the Airmen’s efforts, one expectant dad in attendance at Pax River felt the class was so worthwhile, he offered to become a local facilitator.
“Because of that, we’re now planning to offer another Dads 101 Bootcamp before the end of year holidays, probably in early November,” Tyler-Lockett noted. “We’d like to get more facilitators trained so we can run it once a quarter.”
The class, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with a break for lunch, is offered to any military/family member. Civilians are permitted to participate if all of the available slots have not been filled.
Anyone interested in becoming a Dads 101 Bootcamp facilitator can contact the New Parent Support Program at (301) 757-1861 for dates and times of training.
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Scott Juceam is one of the leading advocates against Shaken Baby Syndrome. Scott’s life changed when his daughter Hannah was shaken to death by her nanny in 2006. Since then, Scott has dedicated his life to preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome and child abuse.