Fatherhood has brought a whole new world of experiences for new dad Jon Bial. Before his son was born, his experience with babies was limited, to say the very least. “Before he was born, I hadn’t touched a diaper,” said Bial. And this lack of experience among new dads is very common, according to the coordinator of a two-hour class called “Conscious Fathering.” Bernie Dorsey created the class and program through Parent Trust for Washington Children to help expectant fathers feel a little more confident once the baby arrives. “It’s really hard to be a good partner, especially in parenting, when a father comes into the parenting with such a deficit in knowing how to care for a newborn baby,” said Dorsey. Dorsey says an estimated 80 percent of American fathers come into parenting with no significant experience with babies. And his studies indicate that 40 percent of men come into fatherhood having either no positive “fatherhood” role model, or none at all, positive or negative. Conscious Fathering is a two-hour class for expectant fathers which covers the basics: diapering, bathing and feeding – as well as some food for thought. Fathers are encouraged to start thinking about how they can best partner with the mother as a parent. They’re also invited to begin thinking about what kind of a father they want to work toward becoming. As for Jon Bial, new fatherhood has been a joy, even in the more unexpected and challenging moments. “He did some projectile vomiting,” said Bial. “That was a fun experience." Conscious Fathering is also a way to introduce expectant parents to the risks of “shaken baby syndrome.” Babies can suffer permanent brain damage when shaken. It often happens when a baby cries persistently and a caregiver loses control. The class teaches fathers to recognize when they start to feel tense, stressed-out, hot or clammy in a challenging moment. The best thing any parent can do when they’re feeling particularly stressed-out is set a baby down in a safe place, like a crib, and walk out of the room for a while to relax and regroup. “All you can do is your best and it will eventually pass,” said Bial. Every new parent experiences stress. Conscious Fathering helps new dads recognize they don’t have to be perfect, just conscious about their actions and reactions.

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