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Education and support for fathers improves breastfeeding rates

Media release

A team of researchers from Curtin University has determined that providing education and support to fathers improves their partners’ breastfeeding rates.

Professor Bruce Maycock, Head of Curtin’s School of Public Health and lead researcher on the project, said there are numerous factors which can influence breastfeeding rates.

“Mode of delivery, birth weight, socioeconomic status and support of the infant’s father can all affect the rate at which a woman breastfeeds, and while much research has been done into other areas, we were keen to examine the role of the spouse in increasing breastfeeding rates,” Professor Maycock said.

“Ultimately, the research aimed to increase exclusive breastfeeding to six months from current levels; to identify the facilitators and the barriers to breastfeeding; and to identify changes in fathers’ attitudes towards breastfeeding pre and post intervention.

“The trial involved half the respondents attending the standard antenatal classes offered by their maternity hospital, while the intervention group attended additional antenatal classes and received printed and promotional materials.

“The study found that the partners of the fathers that received additional support were almost 1.5 times more likely to be breastfeeding their infants, six weeks after birth.

Professor Maycock explained that even a small increase in breastfeeding rates provides benefits, as it means more babies are getting the essential nutrients and antibodies they need to fight infection and reduce allergy risks.

“This study showed the importance of fathers being involved in all decisions regarding child rearing and the positive aspects of their engagement in planning, protection, and provision,” he said.

The randomised control trial was conducted in eight public maternity hospitals in Perth, Western Australia and a total of 699 couples participated. The study was published in the Journal of Human Lactation.