How a Prenatal “Bootcamp for Dads” Preps Men for Fatherhood

The goal is to limit a phenomenon called "maternal gatekeeping"

Ultrasound of baby (Getty Images)
Ultrasound of baby (Getty Images)
By Bonnie Stiernberg / September 9, 2019 10:16 am

Prenatal classes for expecting parents can often focus primarily new mothers. But as NPR reports, an increasing number of classes geared specifically to men, like New York City’s “Bootcamp for New Dads,” aim to better prepare its participants for fatherhood and get them more involved in their new baby’s life.

“Dad’s parenting questions can fall to the wayside,” Dr. Craig Garfield, a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and an attending physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, told NPR. “Because each parent holds a separate role in their child’s life, expectant mothers and fathers may seek different answers to their parenting questions.”

The three-hour bootcamp is a peer-led workshop in which experienced dads can impart their wisdom on fathers-to-be. They learn skills like how to change a diaper, how to swaddle a baby and how to calm a crying infant, but they also address more abstract concepts like how to work together with their partners to handle all the stress of being a new parent.

As NPR notes, the better prepared the father is, the less likely he is to encounter a phenomenon called “maternal gatekeeping,” in which a mother may subconsciously limit her partner’s interactions with the baby or criticize the way he feeds or holds the child.

Ultimately, no one’s perfect, and the goal is just to get new dads as prepared as they can be before the baby arrives. “I always tell dads the goal isn’t to be ‘perfect,’ but ‘good enough,'” Joe Bay, a Bootcamp for New Dads coach, said.

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