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How Can Fathers Provide Breastfeeding Support

Updated: May 31

Toolbox of Breastfeeding Teamwork Strategies

Effective breastfeeding support is more likely to occur when couples work together as a ‘breastfeeding team’ such as seen in other two‐person teams (e.g. beach volleyball or doubles tennis players) where each must share a cooperative and flexible skill set.


Each partner is important and must do his or her part, but both need to be ready to step in and do whatever is needed.

Partners also need to coordinate what they are doing and trust each other to handle needed tasks. This requires ongoing communication, observation and attention to what the other is doing. Each partner can then be ready to assist if the other needs help and stay out of the way when the partner has everything under control. The key components of this teamwork model are sensitive and respectful breastfeeding support through the following behaviors:

The first type of support behaviors involve fathers becoming breastfeeding savvy; learning about breastfeeding and using that knowledge to encourage mom and suggest solutions to breastfeeding problems.

Second, fathers can offer support directly in the breastfeeding moment by making mom comfortable, bringing her food or drink or reducing distractions.

Third, fathers can provide various forms of support such as taking care of household tasks, ensuring that mom receives appropriate nutrition and rest, or providing direct care for the infant or older children.

Fourth, fathers can support mom by valuing her with direct expressions of appreciation and affirmation, encouraging perseverance, and acting as a sounding board for her frustrations.

Fifth, fathers can offer support by being sensitive to how mom is feeling, not putting unrealistic demands on her time and energy, and by respecting her breastfeeding decisions.

The common element in all these support behaviors is teamwork in which the father and mother work together to provide the best nutrition and caregiving for their child. Fathers engage in various behaviors, depending on the particular needs of the ‘breastfeeding team’.

Similarly, responsiveness – the extent to which moms believe their partner understands, validates, and cares for them also appears to reduce any negative outcomes associated with feeling dependent in receiving support. To minimize negative outcomes, support must be sensitive to the partner's needs, and must respond to those needs in a way that respects their autonomy.






Sources:

They’re born to get breastfed - how fathers view breastfeeding: a mixed method study, Emily Hansen, Leigh Tesch and Jennifer Ayton, June 2018

Fathers and breastfeeding: Attitudes, involvement and support, Hibah Maki A Al Namir, Anne-Marie Brady, Louise Gallagher, July 2017

Relationships between types of father breastfeeding support and breastfeeding outcomes, Lynn A. Rempel, John K Rempel and Katrina C.J. Moore, July, 2017

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