Thursday Tip: What does breastfeeding have to do with fathers?

(Editor’s Note: This Tip is written using the words “father” and “man” but the information applies to anyone who is the primary supporter of a breastfeeding parent regardless of gender or relationship to the baby. Please take from this what fits your situation and leave the rest.)

Fathers-to-be may feel as if they are on the sidelines as far as breastfeeding is concerned. However, once the baby arrives, many men find themselves on the front lines of breastfeeding support. Research has shown that support by the baby’s father is a key factor in establishing and continuing breastfeeding.

Research with mothers has identified fathers as a primary source of support for the continuance of breast feeding; (Sherriff et al., 2009) however most breastfeeding education does not take into consideration the father or the kinds of questions he has, which may be different than those of the mother. Studies have concluded that men are less knowledgeable about breast feeding and more positive about artificial milk than women and that fathers want greater relevant information and practical advice about breast feeding (e.g. management of common problems) that is specifically targeted for them, in order to know the best ways to help their breast feeding partner. One Australian father stated "Let fathers know why mothers need assistance and what they can do to help once the child comes along. Encourage them to get involved in day to day stuff." (Michael, age 32)

La Leche League Canada’s information sheet “How Fathers Help Breastfeeding Happen” is a great breastfeeding resource for fathers before baby is born, in the newborn stage and beyond. Fathers don’t have to be able to solve all breastfeeding challenges or know everything about breastfeeding. Knowing when and how to get breastfeeding support and information for the mother is one of the practical things a father can do. Get Help @ LLLC.ca will get you access to a La Leche League Leader by phone or by e-mail and locate the in-person meeting nearest to you.

Happy Father’s Day

father at beach walking hand in hand with toddler

To encourage, promote and provide breastfeeding, chest feeding and human milk feeding support and educational opportunities as an important contribution to the health of children, families and society