A study in Ireland has asked fathers about their views on breastfeeding. 417 fathers of babies aged 4 to 7 months were asked to complete a questionnaire. They were mostly employed (96%), college educated (77%) and married (88%).
75% of the men said they were involved in the breastfeeding decision. Of these, 73% encouraged it, 7% discouraged it and 20% discussed it with the mother but said they left the final decision to her.
57% of the men reported their partner having some difficulty. Of these, 49% said they did not have enough information to help their partner.
Half of all the fathers specified information that they would like to have had. The most popular kind of information was practical advice on how to address problems.
78% of the fathers admitted to being unprepared at some point. Of these, 53% were surprised at the difficulty of their partner at the start of breastfeeding, rather than breastfeeding “just happening”.
87% of the fathers listed benefits of breastfeeding, including the health benefits for the baby, the convenience of breastfeeding and the strength of the mother-infant bond.
78% of the fathers also listed at least one disadvantage. The most common disadvantage was being unable to assist with feeding and coping with their partner being tired, weepy and irritable.
41% of the fathers felt concern regarding their opportunities to bond with their infant, though they listed other things they did to bond, such as playing reading, massaging, carrying, chatting, swimming and going out for walks.
66% of the fathers said they would feel completely comfortable with their partners breastfeeding in public. Only 3% said they would be completely uncomfortable about this.
The study points to the need to provide fathers with practical information about supporting breastfeeding. Currently Irish maternity hospitals do not provide this. The authors also stress the need to show fathers how they can bond with the baby in other ways than breastfeeding.
Bennett AE, McCartney D & Kearney JM (2016), Views of fathers in Ireland on the experience and challenges of having a breast-feeding partner, Midwifery 40
Photo: paxye. Creative Commons.