“Before I became a dad, the thought of struggling to comfort my crying baby horrified me,” says Yaka Oyo, 37, a new father who lives in New York City. Like many first-time parents, Oyo worried he would misread his newborn baby’s cues.
“I pictured myself pleading with my baby saying, ‘What do you want?’ “
Oyo’s anxieties are common to many first-time mothers and fathers. One reason parents-to-be sign up for prenatal classes, is to have their questions, such as ‘What’s the toughest part of parenting?’ and ‘How do I care for my newborn baby?’ answered by childcare experts.
However, though prenatal classes show both parents how to wrap the infant, soothe, and comfort their infants, they are usually aimed mostly at the mom — discussing her shifting role and how to handle with the bundle of emotions motherhood brings.
With that focus, “Dad’s parenting questions can fall to the wayside,” says Dr. Craig Garfield, an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and an attending physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. And the lack of attention to a new father’s needs can have ripple effects that impact the whole family — in the short-run and later, Garfield says.
Around the U.S., a number of health care providers, such as Garfield in Chicago and the non-profit ‘Bootcamp for New Dads’ in New York City, have begun trying to change their approach to such classes. Some go so far as to hold single-sex prenatal classes specifically for men.