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Boot Camps for New Moms and New Dads

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Erin Booker, LPC
Vice President Community Health and Engagement
Christiana Care Health System

Becoming a parent for the first time can be one of the most thrilling times of one’s life-and also one of the most panic-inducing. New dads and new moms alike often feel lost and overwhelmed at the sense of responsibility of caring for a brand-new, helpless human-and contrary to common belief, knowing what to do doesn’t happen on instinct. As a way of addressing this deeply felt need, Christiana Care has established Boot Camps for New Moms and New Dads, a community-based monthly workshop designed to equip new and expecting parents with the skills and non-judgmental support they need.

How Boot Camps Came About

One of the most widely held wrong assumptions people have is that parenting skills come automatically-that we instinctively know what to do as new parents. Not until we are faced with the prospect of becoming first-time parents do we see the fallacy of this idea. These skills aren’t absorbed genetically; they are taught within a community setting. Historically, when large families stayed together as clans and tribes, parenting skills were passed down generationally, mother to daughter, father to son, etc. However, in our modern day of fragmented families, many new parents don’t have this same support system.

The first Boot Camp for New Dads was organized a year ago, sparked by recommendations from the Wilmington Consortium to develop more programming for fathers. The structure was father-to-father instruction, with veteran dads informing the younger ones. The feedback from those first boot camps was overwhelmingly positive as new dads finally felt comfortable asking “silly” questions and getting those questions answered by more experienced fathers in a non-judgmental environment. Successive boot camps generated similar responses. Now, beginning this year, we’re expanding the program to include a simultaneous Boot Camp for New Moms and organizing new workshops once a month.

How the Boot Camps Work

Rather than being run by medical professionals, Boot Camps for New Dads and New Moms operate on a parent-to-parent basis, with dads helping dads and moms helping moms. Both workshops occur simultaneously in separate rooms so couples can attend at the same time, if they wish. Monthly workshops are limited in size with of 10-12 each (15 at the most) so all new parents have time to interact with other moms or dads and get all their questions answered. Each workshop is divided into three categories: rookies (first-timers), veterans and coaches who lead the conversation.

During the three-hour Boot Camp, both moms and dads discuss parenting topics based on their most pressing concerns. New dads talk about basics like feeding, changing and safety issues for newborns, how to calm a crying baby, understanding and supporting mom, and finding a healthy work/life balance. New moms discuss such issues as breastfeeding realities and challenges, postpartum depression, relating to the father and forming a parenting team, questions about going back to work versus staying home, self-care and other relevant topics. Parents are also encouraged to ask whatever additional questions they have during the workshop, regardless of whether they are covered in the agenda, to ensure all the new moms and dads come away with the support they need.

We all come from different backgrounds, cultures, income levels and professions, but at the end of the day, the concerns and fears about being a new parent affect us all equally. Boot Camps for New Moms and New Dads are designed to speak to these universally held concerns in a community-affirming, non-judgmental environment. To find out more about the Boot Camps and other parenting classes, visit https://events.christianacare.org.

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