Mothers’ low expectations of support from fathers for breastfeeding should be addressed (Ethiopia)


A study of 128 couples in Ethiopia found that second-time mothers had higher expectations of breastfeeding support from the father than did first-time mothers. More than first-time mothers, they believed the fathers would be knowledgeable, helpful in practical ways, and appreciative and encouraging.

They also found that fathers’ intended to be more supportive than mothers thought they would be – appreciative and encouraging, present and available, responsive and sensitive.

The study used the measures of breastfeeding support developed by John and Lynn Rempel and reported on Family Included: knowledgeable, helpful in practical ways, appreciate and encouraging, present and available, responsive and sensitive.

The researchers conclude that the lower expectations of first-time mothers should be addressed, given that fathers are generally willing to be supportive, something also found in earlier research in Ethiopia. If mothers have low expectations, they may limit or discourage the role of fathers, in such a way that discourages breastfeeding.

The study involved interviews by nurses with 128 couples in Mekelle, northern Ethiopia.

The study also found that the knowledge of mothers and fathers about breastfeeding is similar, but rather low. 20% of fathers knew five or more of the 11 pillars of breastfeeding knowledge set out by FAO and UN. Only 13% of mothers knew five or more.


Gebreariam K, Zelenko O, Mulugeta A & Gallegos D (2020), A cross-sectional comparison of breastfeeding knowledge, attitudes, and perceived partners’ support among expectant couples in Mekelle Ethiopia, International Breastfeeding Journal 16

Header photo: UNICEF Ethiopia. Creative Commons.