Tolulope Adeleke-Aire is a trained nurse and midwife who moved to Nigeria from the UK. She’s teaching men what to expect during pregnancy and delivery, as well as taking care of their newborn .
“I really want dads to be a lot more involved in their babies lives, right from conception. Everyone knows me as ‘Tolu the midwife’.”
In Nigeria it is typical for men to not be involved in the raising of a baby.
“In Nigeria I find that the dads are not really included, like who thinks about the dads? So I thought why don’t we bring the dads onboard and make it a holistic experience. That’s the drive behind dads’ antenatal classes.”
And Tolulope Adeleke-Aire is excited for the initiative.
“I’m really excited to see how men are with changing nappies, bathing the baby, I’m sure many of them have never bathed a baby before.
I follow up with all of them to see ‘have you delivered? How was the delivery?, Were you there? Did you make it? What was your experience’?”
But to change the minds of people who hold tradition dear to themselves, transforming the Nigerian man’s mind to embrace the idea of being involved in the hands-on raising of their child has not come without its challenges.
A father who has attended one of Tolulope’s classes says he doesn’t think he would be involved in his child’s life from birth because he believes that job is only for the woman to do.
“To tell me to go to antenatal class to start bathing a child, I don’t think I will do it. In my own place a man doesn’t bathe a child. It’s only women, it’s a woman’s duty,” he said.
Tolulope acknowledges this would be a challenge but one she’s willing to understand to move the classes forward and to make them better for the men participating.
“I don’t think I have yet understood how the Nigerian man thinks. Because if I understand how a Nigerian man thinks I will tap into that and drag them all to my classes,” she says.
“The most surprising thing about the class was some of the traditional things that they do. Like putting engine oil on the baby’s cord. It was also very surprising that a lot of people believe exclusive breastfeeding means adding water. That was quite surprising but it gives me some insight into why we have such high malnutrition rates.”
One man who absolutely enjoys the classes said, “although some people will think following a wife to antenatal class is a sin or a bad thing but I like it and can do it and I’m doing it.”
“I don’t think they are fully ready. Though, I feel that overtime there would be some things that they have learnt from the class they would take onboard and practice.”
“I want it to be a norm that men and women are pregnant together and go for all the checks and everything together.”