At Yokosuka, new and soon-to-be fathers learn the ABCs of child care
January 11, 2007
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Dads in Diaperland need to know this: Girl babies get wiped front to back. Boy babies frequently erupt in urine geysers.
And another thing, Dad: Don’t hold the baby when you’re watching that close football game.
These and other helpful hints were drilled into expecting and new fathers at a “Boot Camp for New Dads” at Yokosuka Naval Base on Tuesday. The three-hour class gives first-time Navy fathers their “Pampers-qualification.”
“It’s not as scary now — knowing that I’m not alone,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Blank after class. “It gave me a chance to be on par with other guys going through the same thing.”
“Boot Camp” gets new fathers together in groups of six to 12 to discuss their paternal concerns about deployments, bad father figures, tempers and baby budgeting.
It also gives them hands-on newborn experience and familiarizes them with terms like “jaundice” and “baby acne.” Two babies were used in the class, one brought in by a facilitator and the other by a new father.
“Some guys have never handled babies before,” noted facilitator Jaime Coston. “Some don’t have a baby plan. Some haven’t talked to their wife or girlfriend about what’s going to happen at the hospital.”
Coston — a “Boot Camp” graduate himself — is a stay-at-home dad, married to a Navy petty officer first class. Collin Schriver, a Fleet Family Service Center worker and facilitator-in-training, also is a “veteran,” having two kids himself.
They aren’t experts — dads need to discover their own parenting style, the facilitators said.
What they do is give advice, Coston said.
“Every time you go shopping — buy diapers, even if you don’t need them,” Schriver said. “Otherwise you’ll be running out on a cold night at 4 a.m. trying to find some.”
Think of your crying baby like troubleshooting an engine that won’t start, advises Coston.
“Go down the checklist. Ask: ‘Is the baby hungry, gassy, lonely, in pain, hot, cold, needing a diaper?’… then go through it again,” Coston said. “If you go through it a number of times, and baby is still crying, walk away for a few minutes before you get too frustrated and aggressive.”
The program has been used in Yokosuka for three years, but it’s rooted in a movement that started as “Bootee Camp” 16 years ago, according to the program’s Web site at www.newdads. com. The program now is run through New Fathers Foundation, Inc., a stateside nonprofit organization.
Camps have been offered in Spanish since 2001; the program has graduated more 150,000 fathers worldwide since its inception, according to the Web site.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Phillips said he found the class helpful.
“You always hear about how important it is for the mother to bond with the child, so it was really interesting to hear how important it is for the father to bond,” Phillips said.
Is the class like real boot camp? Nah — attendance is voluntary and there’s no yelling. But it still can be frightening, said Chief Petty Officer Jason Chudy.
“Babies can be more graphic than real military boot camp and fatherhood is certainly scarier,” Chudy said.
Boot Camp for New Dads is held on the first Tuesday of every month. For more information, call 243-3372.