Partner and Family Support for Breastfeeding

Today, I did a presentation on Partner and Family Support for Breastfeeding. Here’s a brief re-cap – and be sure to check out the handout linked from the bottom of the page!!

Research on how Partners and Family Members influence choices about whether to initiate breastfeeding and how long the baby is breastfed

  • 2/3 of women have decided before pregnancy that they plan to breastfeed due to the influence of family, friends, health care providers and the media.
  • 1/3 make the decision during pregnancy, and their strongest influences are: 1) care providers, 2) partners, 3) books and classes, 4) other key friends / family.
  • A few months down the road when making decisions about how long to breastfeed, their partner, family and friends are much stronger influences than professionals
  • An expectant parent is more likely to decide to breastfeed and to continue nursing if she believes that key people in her life are supportive of breastfeeding.
  • The presence of a partner / father increases chance she will initiate BF. But if he then gets very involved in day-to-day baby care, her BF duration can actually go down, because he ends up taking over some of the feeds.
  • Having an involved grandma sadly reduces the duration of breastfeeding, and can reduce initiation, especially if grandma didn’t breastfeed herself.
  • However, research shows we can turn this around. If we engage in conversations with partners, and offer written materials targeted at partners and family and classes for them (especially peer led classes) which focus on the importance of breastfeeding, then it is more likely that she will initiate and continue breastfeeding.
  • If those conversations / classes / materials ALSO include information telling the partner or family member that they play a huge role in her choices about breastfeeding, it is more likely she will initiate and continue.
  • If those conversations / classes / materials ALSO give concrete ideas to the partner or family member about how to help support the breastfeeding relationship, she will nurse and nurse for even longer.

To read a whole powerpoint on the evidence surrounding influences on breastfeeding (and how we can influence them), click here  Influence Of Family On BF Choices.

Teaching Partners and Family Members how to effectively support a nursing parent to increase duration of breastfeeding:

Here are five key areas we can focus on:

  • Increase Knowledge: Offer relevant, targeted, accessible info about the process of breastfeeding, with an emphasis on how to help with BF and concrete information about how to prevent, recognize, and treat BF challenges.
  • Enhance Positive Attitude: Teach them all the benefits of BF – for baby, mom, the family, and the world. The more excited they are about breastfeeding, the harder they’ll work to make it happen. Openly and honestly address worries. Encourage family commitment to BF.
  • Involve Them in Decision Making: Welcome their questions and input. Encourage them to help the breastfeeding parent do research and strategize.
  • Encourage Practical Support: Teach them all the skills to care for everything baby needs (other than feeding) and to take care of baby’s things (pack diaper bag, do laundry, etc.). Encourage them to take care of the breastfeeding parent (feeding the mom so she can feed the baby), maintain the house (groceries, cleaning, cooking), and manage outside duties (pay bills, plan, make appointments, etc.)
  • Encourage Emotional Support: Acknowledge partner’s emotional challenges. Encourage them to offer the breastfeeding parent their presence, appreciation, encouragement, affection.

To read a full powerpoint fleshing out these 5 key areas of breastfeeding support, click here: Teaching Family Support for Breastfeeding

Handout You Can Use:

One of the key points in much of the research is that nobody talks to partners about breastfeeding, and that it helps a lot if they are given targeted information that focuses on what the partner needs to know about: benefits of breastfeeding, how it works, how they can help if there are breastfeeding problems and how they can help in general. So, I’ve designed a handout for partners. It is yours to use, free of charge. You can print it, copy and distribute to partners. You can give clients links to it. Anything to help get partners the information they need to be effective supporters of the breastfeeding relationship.

Here’s the PDF of the color version, and here’s the black and white version .