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Today's Family Magazine

Boot Camp for New Dads

Feb 20, 2017 11:43AM ● By Today's Family
By Laura Lytle

Every new dad has questions with a newborn at home… even if they rely heavily on Mom’s help.  So where is a dad supposed to find answers on the best way to hold, feed and cuddle a baby?

At Boot Camp for New Dads of course!

Every month, MetroHealth and the Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative collaborate to host boot camps across nine hospitals in Greater Cleveland.  Each class is taught by a veteran dad with their newborn, as an opportunity for new dads to engage with a real baby and ask any questions about infant care or adapting to life with a baby, including staying connected to their partner.

“Men feel more secure in talking openly among other men.  So this is just for them.  During pregnancy all the emphasis is on the mom and while the dad is often there for a Lamaze class or infant care class, his questions are not always addressed,” said Sandi Hoch, childbirth education coordinator at MetroHealth.

Every class is interactive.  It starts with time for the men to just observe how to care for a baby, then they talk about infant health and safety, managing baby into their lives and what kind of dad did they have or what kind of dad they want to be.  There is also time for personal questions about helping mom, intimacy and sex.

It's important for dads to know about the health benefits of breastfeeding too.  Women look to their partners for support and acceptance, so dad needs to help her from being discouraged.
“Babies have no instructions.  Our camp is about showing him what to do.  It’s a safe space for men to ask questions on things they are worried about and be directly educated on baby care. Even our veteran dad instructors leave the class feeling more confident in their parenting skills. For many of them, this is the first solo outing with the baby… and that is a big accomplishment,” said Hoch.

Boot camp can be especially beneficial for dad’s co-parenting in separate homes.  Camp participants can apply for a free pack-n-play as a safe place to sleep for the baby’s second home – whether it is at dad's house or a grandparent's home.

“More than 7,000 men have benefited from Boot Camp for New Dads in Cleveland.  We are very proud to say our program educates about 6% of dads in our community––that’s about 800-1000 new dads each year since we have kept records and three times higher participation than every major national city,” added Hoch.

While books and facilitators are paid for by the Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative, each hospital manages their program day and time. Held on Saturdays, some programs are offered free and others require a small fee.

Upcoming class dates include Saturday, March 4 or Saturday, April 8 from 9 am–noon at Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights.

For help finding the nearest Boot Camp for New Dads, call 216-778-3881 or Sandi Hoch directly at 216-778-3372.

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