What’s does a guy find more daunting — being tackled by a 250-pound linebacker, jumping from a plane at 10,000 feet or caring for a tiny, 8-pounder who will eventually call him “dad”? For many first-time dads-to-be, the parenting role wins in the “most fearsome” category.
This is where Edward Hospital’s Daddy Boot Camp can make a difference. The three-hour program helps dads-to-be become confident and proactive in caring for their baby, and in supporting the baby’s mom in her new role.
“Our emphasis is on education and skill-building,” says workshop leader Ryan Lauterwasser, who trained as a master coach in the national Boot Camp for New Dads program. The 37-year-old is also a therapist at Linden Oaks at Edward and the father of four.
“The boot camp helps in a couple of unique ways,” Lauterwasser says. “We have experienced dads (veterans) on hand to share what they’ve learned with the rookies. And, we offer the dads-to-be hands-on experience with a real infant.”
The first portion of the program focuses on how having a new baby affects the couple.
The group looks at how mom and dad can work together to find the best way to operate as a new family. In the second hour, the men break up into small groups for the hands-on part of the session.
“We get the most enthusiastic feedback about this part of the program. Some of these men have never even been around infants,” Lauterwasser says.
“It really benefits the expectant dads to see new dads in action with their baby — changing diapers, feeding, burping, swaddling,” says Susan Bard, Edward’s perinatal education coordinator. “Women aren’t allowed in the meetings, so the men can feel free to discuss whatever they want about becoming a new dad.”
The program’s final segment covers baby safety, tips for comforting a fussy baby, and how to tell the difference between ordinary baby blues and the more troublesome postpartum depression (PPD). There’s also discussion about how to communicate effectively and problem solve as a couple if signs of PPD are present.
Naperville resident Kyle Ferenc, who’s volunteering as a Daddy Boot Camp veteran, talked at a recent program about his wife Alyssa’s bout of mild PPD.
“We read about this in books, but that doesn’t fully prepare you for the real experience,” he says. “At least we knew enough to jump right on it and get her into treatment. She’s doing great now. It definitely accelerated my role as a father for a while, and it was good therapy for me to talk about it with a group of guys.”
The single-session program is monthly at the Edward Education Center on the campus of Edward Hospital, 801 S. Washington St., Naperville. The next Daddy Boot Camp is from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18. The fee is $15. To learn more, call 630-527-7685.
Health Aware is a weekly column submitted by Edward Hospital.