MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee father is supporting other dads in the city on their fatherhood journeys by giving them the tools they need to build a healthy family dynamic. 

Joshua Liston is a father of four, so he’s no stranger to the experiences of fatherhood. 

Three years ago, Liston created the Dad Doula program in Milwaukee. It was started virtually during the pandemic and has grown to help many men in Milwaukee, across the state and even the country. 

It’s a course for non-birthing partners to be able to learn about ways to support their partner before, during and after birth.

“Statistics show all the things about the better birth outcomes when dad’s involved,” said Liston. 

(Spectrum News 1/Katarina Velazquez)

He said his program was born out of necessity to give space for fathers and non-birthing parents to feel seen, heard, and to learn how to navigate the birthing space.

“If we want our mothers to come home, we have to be able to give them the support necessary to make it through this experience called child labor,” he said. 

Data from the Department of Health Services shows Black infants in Wisconsin were three times more likely to die before their first birthday than white infants. 

Over the past three years, Liston has helped more than 300 men through the program. 

The courses are open and inclusive to all, but Liston said they also try to focus on supporting Black fathers.  

Darien King is one father in the program. He’s a first-time father that will soon be welcoming a baby girl. 

“You have a place to be heard and felt,” said King. “You have other fathers that you can relate to and that’s been through what you have experienced or have yet to experience.” 

(Spectrum News 1/Katarina Velazquez)

King said these courses have given him the confidence to step into fatherhood. 

“We have conversations that you may not ever have with another man in your life,” he said. “Things like that just opens your world up and just brings more love into the home too, so you can’t beat that.” 

Liston said educating people on the birthing experiences has lots of benefits. 

“We have to be able to see what true support for our partners look like so we can give it,” said Liston. “So, we don’t have to have those sad stories that we keep hearing so much about a Black woman not making it out.” 

He said simply supporting others can create better birth outcomes and more healthy families.