The role of the expectant father and the significance of paternal impact on maternal and child health are often overlooked. We know that men play a vital role in pregnancy and child birth, and research has shown that a father’s involvement has a positive impact on a child’s emotional and psychological state, educational development, and school readiness, as well as increased ability to socialize and build good relationships. In contrast, research suggests that the lack of father involvement can have long- term negative effects on children.
Fathers play a significant role to mothers and infants during breastfeeding, most especially in the first few weeks, when lack of sleep and hormonal changes can sometimes make new mothers waver in their determination to breastfeed. The father can head-off discouragement, deflect negative comments from friends and relatives, help calm a fussy baby, and bring the new mother food and drinks while she is breastfeeding. Most importantly the baby’s father can remind the new mother that breastfeeding is one of the most important things she can do to get their baby off to a good start in life. Babies need a lot of physical contact, and when not breastfeeding, a father’s loving arms are a wonderful place for his baby to be.
What can dad do to support nursing mothers? Some recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO) for fathers:
- Helping around the house reduces stress for your partner and make sure she gets enough rest.
- “Burp” the baby after feeding – Dad’s chest is great for this!
- Care for the baby in ways other than feeding (baths, diaper changes, walks).
For more information about Where Dads Matter or to get involved with a workgroup contact the NHSA Office at firstname.lastname@example.org and more information about World Breastfeeding Week by WHO at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/events/meetings/2013/world_breastfeeding_week/en/.
Alice Wang is the NHSA Summer Intern with us from Hong Kong, China.