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  • Two dads with babies and phones
  • Dad with baby

SMS 4 DadsSMS4DeadlyDads was developed following on from the successful implementation of the mainstream version of SMS4dads that was developed over seven years ago as a research pilot at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales. Since then, more than 1.2 million text messages have been sent to dads in every state and territory of Australia supporting men in their transition to fatherhood.

SMS4DeadlyDads was designed especially for soon-to-be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dads and those with a baby under 12 months of age. The SMS texts provide information and links that are relevant to a baby’s development. They are positive messages of support and encouragement and help dads understand the importance of their role.

Three messages are sent to dads each week, from 12 weeks into a pregnancy up until bub turns one. The content of the messages is based around three themes:

  • bonding with baby
  • supporting your partner
  • taking care of your mental health and accessing support if needed.

The response from Indigenous dads has been overwhelmingly positive:

Having those text cues on a weekly basis, you know, sometimes that was all I needed to go ‘Oh, yep, check up on mum to see how she is going.’

Sometimes we get into busy mode, you know like … ‘Oh, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that,’ and da, da, da. The messages are a reminder to slow down and focus on what’s important. Once I’ve focused on those things, I’m able to best support my family.

From my experience, there isn’t too much stuff out there for dads. So, when I saw SMS4DeadlyDads, I saw it as a perfect opportunity. I didn’t necessarily have much of a role model in terms of what it looked like to be a dad – but being a good role model is something that I always wanted.

SMS4DeadlyDads has helped me so much in trying to navigate the change in lifestyle with bub and mum.

Health workers also say SMS4DeadlyDads has been a useful option to offer dads.

Having a free service designed especially for Indigenous dads is wonderful. Sometimes dads feel a bit uncomfortable attending antenatal appointments. SMS4DeadlyDads is a practical program we can offer dads.

SMS4DeadlyDads text messages have been developed by Aboriginal Lead, Uncle Mick Adams, along with Craig ‘Bourkie’ Hammond, Indigenous Engagement, and Dave Edwards, Resource Development, as well as an Aboriginal Advisory Group representing dads from around Australia. Researchers, paediatricians and health workers were also consulted and participated in the co-design of messages. Video clips of Uncle Mick talking about topics such as ‘Fatherhood and stress’, ’Before bub arrives’, ‘Sleep and crying’, ‘Sex during pregnancy’ and ‘Bub on Country’ are included in the message sets.

Examples of messages:

4Dads: I'm looking forward to having a go at breastfeeding Dad. Mum and I might need some help though. You on the team? Watch this short video of dads yarning about breastfeeding. Link: Dads Know Breast is Best

4Dads: I am nearly as long as a footy now Dad. My legs are growing and I might try shake-a-leg. Imagine that!

SMS4dads has collaborated with partners including Red Nose, PANDA and Tresillian to develop message sets for dads when things don’t go to plan. We are currently developing additional messages that specifically support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dads if there is pregnancy loss, still birth or other complications around the birth. The development of these messages will include deep listening and learning in communities such as Cairns, Thursday Island, Mount Isa, Broome and Darwin.

Free printed resources for health services and communities promoting SMS4DeadlyDads and showcasing positive images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dads and dads-to-be are available to order

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