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Dads’ Support Crucial For Successful Breastfeeding And Safe Infant Sleep, Study Finds

Fathers who actively encourage breastfeeding have higher success rates, but many miss key safe sleep practices, according to US research.

Dads are key to promoting breastfeeding and getting babies to sleep safely, according to a new study.

Rates of breastfeeding initiation and breastfeeding at eight weeks were much higher among women whose partner wanted their child’s mom to breastfeed than those who did not or had no opinion.

American researchers studied 250 dads who were surveyed for two to six months after the birth of their child.

Among fathers who wanted their infant’s mother to breastfeed, 95 percent reported breastfeeding initiation and 78 percent reported breastfeeding at eight weeks.

This is significantly higher than the rates reported by dads who had no opinion or did not want their infant’s mother to breastfeed.

Of these dads, 69 percent reported breastfeeding initiation but only 33 percent said the mom was still breastfeeding at eight weeks.

They also found that while 99 percent of fathers reported that they put their infant to sleep, only 16 percent implemented all three American Academy of Pediatrics-recommended infant sleep practices.

These are using the back sleep position, making sure they are on an approved sleep surface and avoiding soft bedding.

Almost a third of fathers surveyed were missing at least one of these key components

Study author Dr. John Parker, an instructor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, said: “Our findings underscore that new fathers are a critical audience to promote breastfeeding and safe infant sleep.

“Many families do not gain the health benefits from breastfeeding because they are not provided the support to breastfeed successfully.

“Fathers need to be directly engaged in breastfeeding discussions, and providers need to describe the important role fathers play in breastfeeding success.”

The study also revealed that Black fathers were less likely to use the back sleep position and more likely to use soft bedding than white fathers.

More than 3,000 infants die of sleep-related deaths per year in the US.

The study also revealed that Black fathers were less likely to use the back sleep position and more likely to use soft bedding than white fathers. PHOTO BY NUBELSON FERNANDES/UNSPLASH

Nationally, the rate of sudden unexpected infant death of black infants is more than twice that of white infants.

The authors suggest that unsafe sleep practices may contribute to this difference.

Parker said: “Fathers need to receive counseling on all the safe sleep practices for their infants.

“To reduce racial disparities in sudden unexpected infant death, we need tailored strategies to increase safe infant sleep practices in the black community, including public campaigns to increase awareness and home visiting programs.

“These interventions must involve both parents to be most effective.”

This survey, called Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring Systems (PRAMS) for dads, is the first time data has been collected to show the unique needs of new fathers.

Study author Dr. Craig Garfield, the founder of the Family & Child Health Innovations Program at the Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, said: “As pediatricians, we focus on how to ensure the best health outcomes for children, with successful breastfeeding and safe sleep practices being two key behaviors that impact children’s health.

“Our study highlights the fact that fathers play a big role in both these behaviors, but there is more to be done to support fathers.”

Garfield said they found that fathers with college degrees were more likely to report that their baby breastfed, and they were more likely to receive guidance on infant sleep safety.

The pediatrician added: “To improve child health outcomes, we need to make sure breastfeeding and safe sleep guidance reach all new parents equitably.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

Edited by Saba Fatima and Newsdesk Manager

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