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Home Family Parenting Advice Getting a dad-to-be on board — Good Parenting

Getting a dad-to-be on board — Good Parenting

Dad babyDear Dr. Debbie,

I am seven months pregnant. This is a time I have looked forward to since I was a little girl. Visions of breastfeeding, diapering, rocking and babbling with a newborn fill my thoughts. My girlfriends are excited and throwing me a shower next month. My question is, why isn’t my husband even halfway as enthusiastic about this as I am? And how can I help him to be the kind of dad who is a true partner in parenting? A couple times I’ve heard him refer to the baby as “it” instead of he or she.

Can’t Wait to Be a Mom

Don’t miss last week’s column Refusing to go to school — Good Parenting

Dear Mom,

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, “children whose fathers are a consistent, positive force in their lives do better socially, intellectually, physically and on a broad range of other factors.”

However, men’s and women’s experience in transitioning to parenthood are typically different. If your husband wasn’t encouraged to babysit in his youth or didn’t have a hands-on dad himself, he may have trouble envisioning himself in this new role.

But don’t worry, it’s not too late. According to parenting researchers including Princeton’s Center for Research on Child-Wellbeing, the months just before and after childbirth are the ideal time to bring a dad-to-be into the process.

Childbirth Education and Baby Care Classes

Nowadays most expectant parents approach childbirth with some group training. If you haven’t yet, sign up for a class to learn about labor and delivery. Some courses include a component about breastfeeding, or you can take a couples’ class for that as well. Most childbirth classes have a few baby care tips, or find an infant care class so you can both learn how to soothe, diaper, feed and bond with your little one. Classes on baby-proofing your home, first aid and CPR for infants are also available. Infant massage is another great option for mother and father to learn how to relate to their baby together.

Men are enthusiastically welcomed to take part in such classes. The field of child development recognizes that a father’s involvement in preparation for and support during childbirth as well as his involvement in the baby’s early life can shape his role in parenting for the years to come.

Add to Your Library

  • Help your husband gain knowledge and confidence for his new role with reading material or videos. Here are some titles specifically for fathers:
  • “The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be” by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash
  • “Show Dad How: The Brand-New Dad’s Guide to Baby’s First Year” by Shawn Bean
  • “Be Prepared” by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden
  • “Dad’s Guide to Newborns: The Video Guide” by Justin Humphries
  • “Crash Course for New Dads DVD: The Real Experts Show You How” by Greg Bishop

Online Information and Support

The National Fatherhood Initiative acknowledges the disparity between mothers and fathers when it comes to reaching out to others, and thus recommends three great websites just for fathers. These sites include free downloadable books, daily tips and ways to share your positive dad-itude in your community. You might find and share websites on specific topics you are interested in (and offer Dad the chance to get interested), such as attachment parenting; baby sign language or diaper-free babies. Or get creative and find an online tutorial for a project that suits Dad’s interests and skills.

Connect with Dads

See if there is a new dads’ group in your area, or see about starting one. A hospital, religious organization, community center or other such facility could be the gathering place. A framework is available from Dads’ Boot Camp which uses experienced fathers to coach and mentor rookies in an all-dad environment. Females taller than two-feet are not allowed (the dads bring their babies). The structured curriculum has been evaluated by over 2,000 “graduates” and claims to be adaptable to any community.

If you (and your husband) are having trouble picturing a roomful of fathers with their infants and toddlers, see if you can drop in on a play group session of DC Metro Dads which is comprised solely of stay-at-home dads. Or just use your next grocery shopping date to take note of how many men are getting the job done with a little one (or two) in tow. Your husband could pick up a few tips from watching a dad as he chats about the price of eggs with the baby strapped to his chest or deftly guides the toddler pushing the child-sized shopping cart past a tower of cracker boxes.

Identify an Ally

Perhaps you need an ally in your appeals to draw Daddy more actively into the impending expansion of your family. Maybe your care provider has a way with dads. Has your husband accompanied you for a check-up? Your child’s future health care provider should value an involved dad too. Have the two of you interviewed any pediatricians?

Family members can be allies in helping with the transition to parenthood as well. Is there a grandpa-to-be who shares your excitement and would spark a discussion of the adventures and joys that fatherhood may hold for your husband? Peers are also essential for any of our important life’s roles. Do the two of you have any male friends who are enthusiastically engaged with their young children such that it may be contagious? If none of the above present themselves as easy options, consider scheduling a few sessions with a marriage counselor so your concerns and your husband’s reservations can be shared with each other.

This is the ideal time to rally some resources for the next chapter of your lives.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She has a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long-time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy[at]jecoannapolis.com.

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