Listen up, men. You’re on a life-changing mission called fatherhood. Nobody said it would be easy, but with a little training and preparation, you’ll be equipped for your new duty. So here’s the drill: stand at attention and get in tip-top parent shape at the New Dad Boot Camp.
The fresh recruit: Dad-to-be Mike Feldman, husband of TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie.
The drill sergeant: TODAY’s Willie Geist, an experienced father of two.
The training ground: North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, where they met up with a true baby expert, labor and delivery nurse Ellen Bentz.
The mission: Prepare Mike for the crazy, er, stimulating moments to come when the baby is ready to make his or her grand entrance into the world.
The task: Learn all you can. “They say nothing really prepares you for parenthood, I think that's definitely true,” Geist said. "But I tried at least to give my buddy Mike a little Cliffs Notes version of early fatherhood before that little delivery arrives in a couple of months."
So here we go. Here are the top five things we learned from Willie’s New Dad Boot Camp.
1. Your first duty in the hospital is emotional support
Remember, it's all about mom.
“Make her happy, make her comfortable — (that’s the) most important thing to do,” Bentz said.
“When it's time to push, you're just going to be supportive… she'll be screaming at you, and just ‘yes’ her to death.”
2. Learn where “the border” is and which side to stay on
For educational purposes, Willie demonstrated what position mom will take during delivery and where dad may want to stand during the birth. “I think most dads will stay north of the border,” Bentz said.
"What's the border?" Mike asked. Oh, you'll find out. Let's just say many men prefer to stand up near mom's head, the better to whisper encouraging words, rather than down by where the action is. But when you're called upon to grab a leg or cut the umbilical cord, you dad up and get in there, Mike.
3. The biggest mistake new dads make is apologizing in the delivery room
“When mom is in labor and yelling… just agree with anything,” Bentz said.
4. Diapers aren’t as easy as they look
Here’s Willie's reaction when he watched Mike try to change a diaper on a baby doll: “Oh you're so close. It hurts me to watch — you're so… OH, you're so close. Colder, colder, warmer. OK.”
5. Support the baby's neck... and Willie's ego
After the diaper change, Mike learned how to swaddle a baby. “It helps to comfort the baby, soothe the baby, and the baby likes to be nice and tight,” Bentz said. But Mike didn’t take to it quite as well as he was hoping. And watching him with the doll, Bentz kept pointing out not once, not twice, but three times: "You always want to support the baby's neck."
Finally, we learned Willie needs a lot of emotional validation. "Am I beautiful?" he kept asking throughout the exercise. Yes, you are, Willie.