In a survey of 1130 mothers of 0-2 year olds in UK, the need to engage fathers more came 2nd out of 27 proposals for improvements, just behind the need for more realistic information about what breastfeeding is actually like.
“You can tell women that breast is best till the cows come home. But if their partner believes differently and the mother in law is trying to give the baby a bottle, who do you think is going to win? Tell the mums by all means but also tell their wider family – get the message out there in a way everyone will buy into it.”
The survey was promoted via mothers’ networks and groups and was completed in paper form and also on-line. The sample was self-selecting. 89% of the respondents believed that it was important to promote breastfeeding. 18% of respondents were happy with the information they had received from health professionals during pregnancy.
The issue of fathers was raised by the respondents themselves – fathers were not specifically mentioned in the survey questions. The comments about fathers were a response to one of 11 open ended questions included in the survey: “Who should breastfeeding promotion be targeted at?” 83% of the 200 mothers responding to this question named fathers specifically.
The survey was designed to address the two main challenges for breastfeeding education in UK. First, if the majority of women already understand the benefits of breastfeeding and want to breastfeed, what should breastfeeding education cover? Second, how can the barriers to breastfeeding be broken down?
In UK, two leading breastfeeding promotion programmes are NHS Start for Life and UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative. The Family Included team have looked at these programmes. The Baby Friendly Initiative guidelines makes no mention of fathers or families at all and the word “parents” is used to mean mothers only. The Start for Life programme addresses fathers, but not according to the research evidence about what works (see, for example, Breastfeeding as family teamwork: a research to practice briefing (Viet Nam, Canada)).
Brown A (2016), What do women really want? Lessons for breastfeeding promotion and education, Breastfeeding Medicine, 11.3
Photo: ohkylel @twitter. Creative Commons.