Research on the father’s role in breastfeeding decision-making is very limited. Remember, fathers’ presence in the birth of their children was illegal in the U.S. until the late 1960’s and early 1970’s! When this study by Rempel and Rempel was published in 2011, there were but a handful of research studies on the influence of fathers in existence. We know, though, that maternal decisions to breastfeed have been influenced by their partner’s role since the beginning of civilization!
Abstract of the study:
“Fathers influence mothers’ breastfeeding decisions and experiences. Fathers’ perceptions of their roles as members of the breastfeeding family are likely important components of that influence. To explore that possibility, 21 involved fathers of breastfeeding babies volunteered to be interviewed regarding their fathering breastfed babies and their roles in the breastfeeding family. Fathers identified their unique roles as team members ensuring that their babies received the benefits of breastfeeding. A primary fathering role was that of supporting breastfeeding by becoming breastfeeding savvy, by using their knowledge to encourage and assist mothers in breastfeeding, by valuing the breastfeeding mothers, and by sharing housework and child care. Fathers’ nurturing roles involved fostering positive father-infant relationships in the face of limited opportunities to bond with their babies through feeding. The experiences of these fathers suggest the importance of assisting them to recognize their unique contributions to the nurture of their children as members of the breastfeeding team (p. 115).”
Earlier this spring, I had the honor to attend the CHAMPS conference in Jackson, Mississippi, USA and hear a presentation given by young fathers. The entire room was in tears by the end of their talk, as they discussed what helped them to support their partners’ breastfeeding decision and experience! It was so touching to hear these young men describe their beautiful babies, and discuss how their babies would change their families on both sides. Most of these dads had the first breastfeeding baby in recorded memory for their families, and most had never seen a newborn nursing.
In the U.S., the third Sunday in June is Father’s Day. In honor of fathers around the world, I want to publicly say, “THANK YOU for supporting your baby’s mother in her breastfeeding efforts!”
Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, BSPsy, RN, IBCLC, RLC, FILCA
Professional Development Educator
Rempel, L.A. and Rempel, J.K. (2011). The breastfeeding team: The role of involved fathers in the breastfeeding family. J Hum Lact. 27(2):115-121.
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