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Marine Corps Recruiting Command

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

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Baby Boot Camp teaches needed skills to new Marine parents

By Pfc. Alicia Small | | November 30, 2007

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MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO --  Many young couples are challenged after the births of their babies, as they try to raise them with no prior knowledge of how to take care of children.

 Baby Boot Camp, a one-day class aimed at preparing service members and their spouses to be confident and competent parents, was held Nov. 19, at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, to provide a solution to that problem.

 Topics such as infant development, social and emotional changes in the family, baby safety, diapering, bathing, and soothing a crying infant were covered. Current information about infant care and local resources was also given out during the class.

 "A lot of expectant parents are very young and haven’t had to experience taking care of a baby," said Carol Watkins, home visitor and marriage and family therapist. "We think it is important to get them as much information as possible before the birth of their children. We also try to present the information to them in any way possible to aid to their differing learning styles."

 During the class, service members spoke about a mix of good and bad experiences they had growing up as they discussed the social and emotional changes that take place in a family after the birth of a child. They talked about how the actions of their parents influenced them and how they want to raise their own children.

 Several videos were shown to the parents throughout the day, to include the delivery of a baby, and how to breast feed. The videos were often paused to discuss the information that was being covered.

 "Although the videos of giving birth and breast feeding were realistic and incredibly explicit," said Lance Cpl. Jose Villanueva, Support Battalion administration clerk and future father, "I found them to be very informative and believe they will be helpful when it comes time for the birth of my son."

 The class was also given the opportunity to practice what they learned on baby dolls.

 Each parent took turns practicing the proper way to swaddle, or wrap, a baby. They changed a pudding-filled diaper and washed the doll as if giving a bath to a real baby.

 "There are many steps that need to be taken to ensure the baby is taken care of properly," said Villanueva, a native of Laredo, Texas. "I can just imagine how difficult it will be trying to do them and hold a squirming baby at the same time."

 The class also practiced parenting skills on lifelike electronic babies programmed to cry and the participants needed to determine if the baby was hungry, needed to be burped, needed to be changed, or if their head dropped in an unsafe position. When the correct task was performed the baby became quiet until it needed something again.

 "The electronic babies were the most realistic part because you had to pay extra attention to their necks and if you didn't they cried,” said Lance Cpl. Heather Barrientes, Finance office travel clerk and future mother.

 Kathy Gutman, home visitor and marriage and family therapist, said the couples usually act scared to hold the babies because of how often and loud they cry. She said this is because they are afraid they will not be able to determine the baby’s needs and get it to stop crying.

 Both Gutman and Watkins agreed the most important thing they teach during Baby Boot camp is communication between couples. They said changes occur in almost every aspect of the couples’ lives and they need to be able to understand each other and their needs, to adapt.

 "It is important for couples to talk about everything that is happening to them," said Watkins. "They need to express to their partner what they are thinking and feeling."

 The class also stresses the importance of being able to interact with children. The class teaches the parents the importance of spending time with, and talking to, their children, said Gutman.

 "I’m glad my husband and I went to the class," said Barrientes. "There were a lot of helpful tips to raising a child and many programs discussed in case of any difficulty. I feel more confident and more prepared now for the birth of my child."

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