An evaluation in Canada of a digital breastfeeding tool that engages both mothers and fathers/partners has been found to be effective in improving parents’ self-confidence in breastfeeding, their attitude to breastfeeding and their knowledge of breastfeeding.
The study was led by Jennifer Abbass-Dick at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in 2014-2015.
The tool incorporated the principles of coparenting around breastfeeding:
- Setting breastfeeding goals together
- Sharing responsibility for breastfeeding
- Fathers/partners proactively supporting breastfeeding
- Fathers/partners engaging actively in the care of the baby
- Communicating effectively and solving problems together
(For more on this approach, see A co-parenting approach to breastfeeding (Canada).)
The first phase of the study, a consultation with 16 mothers and 15 fathers about what they wanted from such a tool, came up with three priorities:
- Knowing the benefits of breastfeeding
- How to know the baby is drinking well at the breast
- What to expect in the first days.
Fathers also said they wanted to know how to tell when the baby is hungry and how fathers can be involved and supportive.
The parents also specified they would like to know where to get help, to see visuals on how to latch the baby onto the breast, to hear from other parents about their experiences and to get reassurance that things tend to get better after the first days! The most popular medium chosen by these parents was video and they wanted the tool mobile enabled.
In the second phase of the study, a prototype was designed. It had seven main topic areas:
- Why Breastfeed?
- How to Breastfeed
- The Early Days
- Fathers/Partners and Co-parents
- Common Concerns
- Everyday Life Part 1
- Everyday Life Part 2
- Getting Help
- Helpful Links
(Abbass-Dick et al. 2017, p 142)
It included text, video, games, quizzes and links to other on-line resources. A separate section for fathers/partners included information on the specific role of the father/partner.
22 mothers and 23 fathers completed both pre-test and post-test questionnaires, which found an improvement in their self-confidence in breastfeeding, in their attitude to breastfeeding and in their knowledge of breastfeeding.
In the final phase of the study, 50 parents and 52 professionals were asked to evaluate the tool. 82% of mothers, 67% of fathers and 62% of professionals strongly agreed that the resource was “excellent”.
The research team plan an expanded randomised controlled trial to test the resource further.
We know from other research that father/partner support for breastfeeding improves breastfeeding, that providing them with good breastfeeding information improves outcomes, that digital health support services can be effective and that a co-parenting approach can help parents to be more effective in caring for their baby. This study builds on all these findings to show that a digital breastfeeding resource built on co-parenting principles can work.
Abbass-Dick J, Xie F, Koroluk J, Brillinger SA, Huizinga J, Newport A, Goodman WM & Dennis CL (2017), The Development and piloting of an eHealth breastfeeding resource targeting fathers and partners as co-parents, Midwifery 50, 139-147
Photo: Amy Bundy. Creative Commons.