Introducing Dean, dad of three, the UK’s first antenatal male educator, founder of DaddyNatal and author of The Expectant Dad’s Handbook (fancy winning one? We’ve got 10 copies to give away). Here he talks male antenatal education and tips on preparing for fatherhood.
How did DaddyNatal come about?
“I’d done traditional antenatal classes before my first son Oren arrived but after his waterbirth I came away feeling quite guilty which affected bonding with him. I tried to work out what I’d missed or done wrong and realised I hadn’t been properly prepared for my role. So I went away and spoke to a number of organisations – I got closed doors! There just wasn’t the information available that dads needed. So I did a diploma in childbirth education to qualify me to run antenatal classes.”
Tell us about the first DaddyNatal class
“It happened in 2009 with four expectant dads on the course – it was received really well. We had a complete mix of attendees: one from an American air base, one that ran a pub, one a computer engineer…. The feedback was absolutely phenomenal. My wife Steph is also an antenatal teacher so we ran couples’ antenatal classes with Steph facilitating first half and me the second half, ie from mum and dads’ perspective. We became the leading antenatal education provider.”
And DaddyNatal today?
“It’s still going strong – we have classes every month booking up from September onwards. There’s a real appetite for it and we now have four other trained teachers.”
Talk us through a typical DaddyNatal course
“We look at giving dads an understanding of everything that’s going on. We cover pregnancy, changes going on in their partner’s body, we do a lot of work on dad’s role before, during and after birth. We encourage the couple to sit down and discuss making informed choices.”
What type of skills do dads learn on a DaddyNatal course?
“Dads have it in their power to make labour shorter and less uncomfortable for their partner – his presence isn’t passive, he can have a massive impact on the process. The birth hormone is oxytocin but its natural enemy is adrenaline caused by fear or uncertainty. Dads can bring this into the room. If dad starts to worry and mum picks up on it this can stall labour which often leads to artificial oxytocin being administered. That’s why it’s so important that dads are correctly prepared.”
Any other tips?
“Yes, blokes have an in-built ‘fix it’ reflex. Their natural reaction is to want to solve a problem. The way to override it is by giving dads two clearly defined roles: advocate and protector. The advocate role is where dad represents mum’s birth preferences. The protector role is where dad protects mum by eliminating causes of adrenalin or fear to create harmony. If mum doesn’t get on with the midwife remember you’re perfectly within your rights to ask for a change of midwife.”
And any tips for after the birth?
“It’s really important for dads to be the ‘gatekeeper’. Lots of dads only get 14 days’ paternity leave so be selfish with this time! Make sure that every visitor books an appointment and rechecks it’s OK to visit, no drop ins!
Another great tip is to learn the art of the power nap. If baby’s napping, you should too but not more than 30 minutes. And don’t drink loads of coffee – it’s counter-productive!
And when mum’s breastfeeding be on hand to support her. Make sure she’s got a drink to hand as it’s really dehydrating. Cut food into bite-sized chunks so she can eat.”
Starting out on your dad-to-be journey? Shop the essential car seat and pushchair at kiddicare.com. Don’t miss our man Dan’s review of The Expectant Dad’s Handbook and be sure to post a comment to be in with a chance of winning a copy.
We currently hold BabyNatal classes at Hedge End, Cribbs Causeway, Lakeside, Rotherham and Merry Hill. See our store finder for details of your nearest store.