Photo above: Fathers-to-be attending the dad’s enrichment programme at Thomson Medical use life-sized infant dummies to learn how to change diapers and burp a baby.
SINGAPORE - When Mr Ibrahim Ghouth Wu's wife went into labour last month, the systems engineer calmly put into practice what he had learnt in a class for new dads.
The 32-year-old persuaded her to opt for epidural anaesthesia.
"We were taught the different types of pain relief that can be administered during labour so that we can help our wives make these decisions as they are usually in too much pain to be able to decide," he said of the dad's enrichment programme organised by Thomson Medical Centre.
The class participants used life-sized infant dummies to learn how to change diapers and burp a baby. In a group discussion, they asked questions that they might not feel comfortable raising in a roomful of people.
Mrs Wong Boh Boi, assistant director (clinical) of Thomson ParentCraft Centre, said the dad's enrichment programme - the first of which began last December - was initiated as men now "want to take on a more involved and active role".
The 21/2-hour class, conducted by Mrs Wong who is also a senior lactation consultant, includes tips on how to provide wives with physical and emotional support during pregnancy.
Thomson Medical is the only hospital that offers a class specially dedicated to fathers. Most other hospitals have antenatal classes that are more geared towards mothers, though fathers are encouraged to attend too.
KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) works with the Centre for Fathering on programmes that are geared towards fathers. In one of them, a talk on how to bond with the child, the topics are skewed towards the perspective of fathers-to-be.
Ms Audrey Lau, KKH's director of corporate development, said the focus on dads stems from the fact that while there is lots of information available to prepare women for motherhood, the situation is different for men.
"Parenting should never be a one-sided effort. The parenting journey requires both the mother and father to support each other," she added.
Ms Tan Guat Choo, senior lactation consultant at Gleneagles Hospital's Parentcraft Centre, also stresses the importance of a father's support, not just for the child but also the wife.
Studies have shown that a woman does better at breastfeeding with her husband's support as it encourages her to persevere when the baby has difficulty latching on.
For Mr Wu, the knowledge he gained from the antenatal class and enrichment programme has been further put to use in raising his first-born son, Isaak.
He said: "It can get quite nerve-racking in the labour ward but I felt more confident. I also know a lot more now, so I don't have to guess as much."
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.