Commando Dad – Basic Training

Helena writes:

How to be an elite dad or carer

“…I can honestly tell you that there have been few times in my life as daunting as bringing my first son back from the hospital. All the parenting books and classes were geared towards the birth, and then suddenly you and your partner find yourselves back at home with the baby. In charge.”

Commando Dad – Basic Training by Neil Sinclair is a reference book covering all aspects of caring for a child from birth to three years. The author is a former Royal Engineer Commando, physical education teacher and security guard at the UK Mission to the UN in New York. Today, he is a stay-at-home dad and a registered childminder. Commando Dad is designed to be a basic training manual for all dads and carers in caring for a “little baby trooper”, from the moment they come home from the hospital.

The book is accompanied by a website, at which offers expanded information on the topics covered in the book, as well as step-by-step video demonstrations of practical tasks such as changing nappies. Neil Sinclair’s narrative is witty and engaging, and the book is written in a military style and uses army terms throughout. A newborn is referred to as a baby trooper, whereas toddlers and older children are mobile troopers. Home is called base camp, the kitchen is the cookhouse and the family is called the unit. The cover illustrations and overall branding have been effectively designed to appeal to men. The author expressly set out to produce an instructional manual rather than a novelty gift book for dads, and overall this has been achieved.

The book is well-organised, with each chapter covering a specific topic, for example:
“Chapter one: the advance party: preparing base camp” covers everything that parents-to-be should prepare and purchase before baby arrives;
“Chapter 2: New recruits: surviving the first 24 hours” looks at all aspects of newborn care, and;
“Chapter 5: Nutrition: an army marches on its stomach” explores teething, weaning and healthy eating for all the family.

The book holds a lot of information and appears to be well-referenced. I do not personally agree with all of Neil Sinclair’s submissions and I sometimes do things in a different way, but all of the content has been approved by experts and any of the tips would benefit a new parent. Sometimes Sinclair seems a little over-optimistic, for example advocating that parents-to-be purchase only six sleepsuits, which would have lasted for literally the first few hours after bringing my babies home. Nor does he emphasise the use of cooled, boiled water for infant feeds. However, book covers certain vital aspects that I have not encountered previously in parenting books, such as supporting a wife or partner by ensuring that she is comfortable whilst breastfeeding. Based on my own limited expertise this is the kind of thing that certain men might be taking for granted.

However, the true appeal of this book comes not so much in its content but in the sentiment behind it: that bringing home a first baby and caring for a tiny infant can feel very daunting, even a bit of a shock. Being a parent is a challenge from day one and Neil Sinclair is very honest and positive about all of this, openly saying he has written the book as a how-to manual to help new parents get to grips with the role.

It is particularly refreshing that Sinclair approaches all aspects of parenting as a joint venture between two parents, with the emphasis on shared responsibility and mutual support. This book is therefore ideal as a subtle hint for any woman to buy for a partner who could perhaps be a little more supportive and understanding of the realities of parenthood.


Commando Dad is available from Summersdale Publishing for £9.99

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