There’s quite a bit of literature on why it is important for fathers to support breastfeeding, and robust recommendations on how fathers can be good support people.
Specifically in Black communities though, there’s a “lack of resources for men to learn about and advocate for breastfeeding.” George W. Bugg, Jr, et al. write in Breastfeeding Communities for Fatherhood: Laying the Groundwork for the Black Fatherhood, Brotherhood, and Manhood Movement that “Black men deserve to be educated in culturally competent ways about prenatal and postpartum care to advocate for their partners. This is not happening in a systematic way in the Black community. In the Reproductive Justice space, Black men are basically being treated as if they are invisible.”
As a whole, our nation lacks support for fathers and male identifying partners to bond with their babies. The father–infant relationship should be honored “in its own framework rather than as an alternative to mother–infant theory.” (Cheng 2011)
Author Carolynn Darrell Cheng, et al points out in Supporting Fathering Through Infant Massage that “fathers may feel dissatisfied with their ability to form a close attachment with their infants in the early postpartum period, which, in turn, may increase their parent-related stress.”
“Infant massage is such a neglected modality, especially in the NICU, where it reduces both the risk of sepsis and bilirubin levels, and gets babies home sooner because their brains mature more quickly and they gain weight faster,” Nikki Lee points out.
Beyond its benefits to infants, Cheng and colleagues have found that “infant massage appears to be a viable option for teaching fathers caregiving sensitivity.” Their work showed that “fathers were helped by increasing their feelings of competence, role acceptance, spousal support, attachment, and health and by decreasing feelings of isolation and depression. Although not all fathers saw the direct benefit of infant massage instruction, they did note they enjoyed participating in an activity that gave them special time with their infants and appreciated the opportunity to meet other fathers.”
More broadly, skin-to-skin contact has a positive effect on paternal attachment.
The results from Effects of Father-Neonate Skin-to-Skin Contact on Attachment: A Randomized Controlled Trial identified touching as the highest-scoring Father-Child Attachment Scale (FCAS) subscale.
Ontario artist Lindsay Foster’s viral image of fathers BJ Barone and Frankie Nelson meeting Baby Milo captures perfectly the flood of oxytocin that skin-to-skin affords fathers and male-identifying parents.
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) identifies other ways in which fathers can be “empowered by a whole-of-society approach to fulfill their fathering capacity.”
WABA suggests that fathers should be engaged and involved throughout the 1,000 days and health systems and care providers can provide knowledge on breastfeeding through antenatal visits, other breastfeeding classes and enabling their participation during labor and delivery and postnatally.
Sufficient paternity or parental leave is vital to allow time to care for and bond with their new family.
There is also “a need for greater vigilance against promotion and unethical marketing of breastmilk substitutes targeting fathers to ensure that they also get unbiased information.” [More here.]
In our national sphere of advocacy, last month, Foundations of Fatherhood Summit hosted Wide World of Fathering with a mission to advance fatherhood and families in Michigan communities and beyond. The speaker lineup was full of individuals passionate about fatherhood and working to shift the way we view males as parents.
Presenter Reginald Day, CLC for instance, hosts a podcast called Get At Me Dad which reveals the true narrative of BIPOC fathers–”present, connected and raising strong families.”
Father-son duo Mark and Corey Perlman host another podcast called Nurturing Fathers based on the Nurturing Fathers Program.
Last week, New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force Board Member Francisco J. Ronquillo hosted a Hearing our Voices virtual roundtable for fathers and male-identifying partners.
Reaching Our Brothers Everywhere (ROBE), an organization which seeks to educate, equip, and empower men to impact an increase in breastfeeding rates and a decrease in infant mortality rates within the African-American communities, hosts a monthly virtual call where males can discuss maternal child health related topics.
In partnership with Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), ROBE will host the 11th Annual Breastfeeding and Equity Summit in New Orleans from August 25 to 27, 2022 where presentations center on equity in breastfeeding, maternal health, fathers and partners, and infant health initiatives.
Our Milky Way past coverage on fathers
New CLC engages fathers, supports breastfeeding, heals communities
Fathers profoundly influence breastfeeding outcomes
Founder of Fathers’ Uplift adopted into breastfeeding movement
The Institute of Family & Community Impact hosts event to boost paternal mental health
Paternal mental health and engagement
Robert A. Lee, MA answers the call