Researchers in China have compared the effectiveness a mother-only and a couple breastfeeding promotion programme. When couples were engaged, the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding was double compared to mother-only groups: 51% v. 26% at 4 months and 40% v. 18% at 6 months.
Other benefits found in the research were:
- Mothers’ attitudes to and knowledge about breastfeeding improved more after a couple group compared to a mother-only group.
- The use of infant formula was less when couples were engaged: 6% instead of 24% at 1 month; 20% instead of 44% at 6 months.
- After the couple groups, mothers reported that fathers were more supportive. They cared more for the baby, did more housework and were more supportive when difficulties arose. These mothers were happier, complaining less about the ignorance of their partners.
The researchers ran two types of group: one for mothers only and one for couples. In total the research worked with 36 mothers and 36 couples. The sessions were 60-90 minutes long, each for 4-8 mothers/couples. The sessions involved a PowerPoint presentation, breast models, newborn dolls and a breastfeeding booklet for each participant.
Both groups used WHO and La Leche League International educational materials. The couple group included “father support” elements from the model developed by Sherriff et al. 2014. The programme of the groups was as follows:
For both mothers only and couple groups:
- Benefits of breastfeeding for infants and mothers; risks of not breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding techniques: stomach capacity of newborn; when to start breastfeeding; breastfeeding positions; common problems and solutions.
For couple groups only:
- Father involvement in decision making: validation of mother’s decision; ongoing decision making.
- Fathers’ emotional support for breastfeeding: being there; affection and encouragement.
- Practical support for breastfeeding.
The cost of running the two different groups was the same.
Su M & Ouyang Y-Q (2016), Father’s role in breastfeeding promotion: lessons from a quasi-experimental trial in China, Breastfeeding Medicine 11.3
Sherriff N, Panton C & Hall V. (2014), A new model of father support to promote breastfeeding, Community Practitioner 87
Photo: Tyler Byber. Creative Commons.