A study of 26 diverse Tasmanian fathers asked them about breastfeeding. On the basis of the findings, the researchers conclude that fathers should receive more information about the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for babies and mothers, the importance of skin-to-skin contact, and techniques to ensure that their child is getting enough food.
The researchers write: “Education and services about infant feeding should be delivered at a family level to parents, rather than primarily to mothers. At times, it may also be appropriate to provide support and education about infant feeding to fathers independently of mothers.”
They found a general appreciation of breastfeeding among the fathers as healthy, natural, promoting mother-baby bonding and cheaper than using paid-for formula.
“It’s good for kids when they get breastfed. It’s good and helps them with their development….they’re born to get breastfed….A natural way of growing up.” Otto
The fathers, however, did not refer to health benefits of breastfeeding to mothers.
Some fathers value breastfeeding and breastmilk very highly and worked hard with the mother to enable the child to be breastfed or have expressed milk.
“I was keen to try and continue the breastfeeding and get it all sorted out, I didn’t want to just give up and go onto formula. In the end we didn’t really end up having to give her a lot of formula, it was only a couple of days and a couple of doses really.” Keith
Others were more relaxed about stopping breastfeeding if it was a struggle and causing concerns about the wellbeing of mother and child. These fathers did not express feelings of guilt and failure over the cessation of breastfeeding owing to such difficulties.
“We made the decision to go full formula, which I thought was good. It took the pressure off her, she could get some sleep. We ended up being really lucky, getting a baby who straight away starting sleeping either with one feed or through the night, little angel child!” Cory
Many of the fathers described unwanted pressure from health professional to breastfeed.
“If people don’t want to breastfeed that’s their choice, but I don’t think it should be forced on you.” Joel
Fathers generally regarded breastfeeding and expressing milk as equivalent. Some linked expressed milk with the benefit of themselves feeding and bonding with the baby.
13 of the 26 fathers were from disadvantaged areas. The researchers used interviews, questionnaires and focus groups.
Hansen E, Tesch L & Ayton J (2018), ‘They’re born to get breastfed’ – how fathers view breastfeeding: a mixed method study, BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth
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