Teaching Dads "The Basics"

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
On a late night, emergency ambulance services respond to an incident at base housing. They arrive on scene to find a four-week old infant lying cold and motionless.

His skin has a black and blue tint. His face is swollen and unrecognizable, due to Shaken Baby Syndrome, which is the "leading cause of death in abusive head trauma cases," according to the Missouri Foundation for Child Abuse Prevention.

In an effort to prevent child abuse such as SBS, Team Whiteman's Family Advocacy office hosts a "Dads the Basics" course once every three months.

The most recent course was held at the Professional Development Center, July 18.

The soon-to-be fathers who attended learned what to expect and prepare for during the pre-pregnancy and post-partum pregnancy stages.

"Learning about stressful situations you could get into with a newborn and how to avoid getting to the point where you could shake a baby is important," said Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Escobedo, 509th Maintenance Squadron assistant low-observable flight chief and volunteer instructor for the course.

"We want to get this message out to our younger military members so they can take care of their children, themselves and their wives, which will in turn benefit the entire family in the long run," Escobedo said. "We're giving them inspiration to be good parents."

Escobedo was stationed at a base overseas when his first of two children was born.

"I had to learn a lot of things on my own," he said. "What's nice about this course is that we give young Airmen information they will soon need so they don't have to think, 'Oh no, my kid's here. What do I do now?'"

Airmen were also educated on the aftereffects of child abuse, along with a wide range of information on what should be expected during the pregnancy stages.

"Hearing from other men what to expect during the pregnancy, and then what to expect from their partner and how they can support their partner, is the biggest thing Airmen can take away from the class," said Dana Livsey, 509th Medical Operations Squadron family advocacy outreach manager.

"Our real emphasis is on how they are being safe with their babies - learning how to take care of them, love them and even how to handle a difficult baby."

Master Sgt. Lamar Bacon, 509th MXS first shirt, told a story to the class of when he once responded to a child abuse case on Christmas Day.

"The baby was unresponsive," Bacon said. "The medical and fire departments were on their way. When I arrived, I could see from the baby's eyes that there was a response, but he wasn't moving or crying."

Once the ambulance arrived on scene, it was determined the baby had 14 broken bones, Bacon said.

"The dad had beaten the baby to keep him from crying, because he wanted to play a video game," Bacon said, pausing as emotions from that memory started to come back.

After the story, the students were given suggestions on various techniques they could apply when babies are crying.

One of the most helpful techniques was called the "5 Ss," in which the soon-to-be fathers attempted swaddling, turning the baby to their side or stomach, shushing, swinging and sucking in any order, said Senior Airman Adam Bairos, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron electronic warfare journeyman.

"One of the things I learned here is that it's really easy to get overwhelmed and stressed," Bairos said. "You've got to treat infant care almost like drunk driving.

Whether you have to call somebody or walk away, you don't want your anger to negatively impact the rest of your child's life."

Being raised by a single mother, Bairos grew up mostly without a lot of support from his father.

"This class addressed the questions I had in clear and concise ways," he said. "I want to be the dad that is involved in parent-teacher nights and walks around to look at all the bad artwork on school walls. My dad never did that. He was never there."

With a child due in January, Bairos aspires to provide his son or daughter with a better life than what he had growing up.

"I'm going to push myself to rise above what my father was," Bairos said.

The course also gave Airmen tips on how to support their wives both during the pregnancy stages and after birth.

"It can prevent future divorces because Airmen learn there has to be a two-way street for support between wives and husbands," Escobedo said. "There are going to be times where wives will go through changes, whether emotional or physical. The Airman has to be there for his wife."

Stress in relationships can build up when there is a lack of support from one of two partners, Escobedo said.

"Both parties should be on board with one another in nurturing their newborn," he added.

Having knowledge of what to do under stressful circumstances could be the difference between whether or not a baby ends up in the hospital.

"We're trying to prevent Airmen from getting to the point where stress levels are so high that a baby is shaken," Escobedo said."We want them to see the warning signs in advance, so they don't get to the point where they ruin a child's life - or end it."

Airmen can sign up for "Dads the Basics" by contacting the Family Advocacy Office.