A Brock study is seeking fathers who have or are expecting newborn babies.
Allison Flynn-Bowman and her partner knew life would never be the same when they returned home from the hospital with their newborn years ago.
They were prepared for sleepless nights and knew they’d now have a schedule based around the baby’s needs. Flynn-Bowman had a pretty good idea of what her job would be — mainly breastfeeding and being ready to respond to her child’s cries.
What they hadn’t anticipated was being stuck with an existential question: how does a father factor into the very intimate bond between mother and newborn baby?
Now, years later, Flynn-Bowman is a nursing graduate student at Brock University and is researching how to strengthen the involvement of fathers in the lives of their newborns.
She says during breastfeeding, fathers might feel left out or that they don’t have time to bond with their newborns.
“They might have lack of knowledge about the things that they could do with their infants, or a lack of communication with their partner because things are sometimes tense in those first few months.”
That’s why Flynn-Bowman and her associate nursing professor Lynn Rempel have come up with a method they think will help fathers develop better relationships with their newborns and partners through a program called Dad Rocks Niagara.
The two are looking for around 60 men in the Niagara area whose partners are in their final stages of pregnancy to participate in the study, which will test out their method.
The research involves the men filling out surveys and receiving information on a regular basis over six months.
The study is based on Rempel’s past research conducted in Vietnam; “Fathers Involvement: Saving Brains in Vietnam.”
The study, funded by Grand Challenges Canada, tested ways to increase fathers’ involvement in their infants’ lives as a way of improving child development and found that negotiating fathers’ activities before child birth proved to be beneficial. Activities included changing diapers, walking with the babies and making sure mothers were comfortable during breastfeeding.
“Fathers in that study were excited to learn how they could interact with their infants right from birth and enjoyed using the study materials with ideas specifically for them,” said Rempel.
Flynn-Bowman said her research idea came from her own experience of being a mother and partner.
“We had challenges with breastfeeding and there were definitely times I wanted my husband to do stuff, but he was unavailable to help me and my children,” she said.
“We want to increase fathers’ involvement with their newborns and give fathers a program tailored directly for them,” she said.
“A lot of existing information and supports are geared toward new mothers.”
Part of the study will include an optional Facebook group where participant fathers can connect with one another.
Men who are about to become fathers or who have a newborns less than two weeks old and wish to participate in the study can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the the Facebook page at facebook.com/DadRocksNiagara.