There’s a new but familiar ally to encourage and support breastfeeding mothers: Just call him Dad.
Fathers can make a significant difference in whether a couple’s newborn is breastfed and placed to sleep safely. Recent research by scientists at Northwestern University shows that fathers’ opinions on breastfeeding truly make a difference. Among new dads who wanted their infant’s mother to breastfeed, 95% reported breastfeeding initiation and 78% said it was still happening after eight weeks.
That’s a stark contrast to fathers who had no opinion or opposed breastfeeding. Among that group, initial breastfeeding was reported at 69% and at eight weeks, just 33%.
Researchers say the findings underscore that new fathers are key to safe infant sleep and successful breastfeeding.
As for safely putting babies to bed, dads have some work to do. While 99% of fathers helped get infants to sleep, just 16% of them used all three safety practices recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Those include using a back-sleep position, avoiding soft bedding and ensuring the baby is on an approved sleep surface.
The researchers found that the gap could be contributing to higher rates of sudden infant death syndrome, especially among some minority groups. Potential solutions include infant sleep safety awareness campaigns as well as home-visit programs to educate new parents.
So, dads, just remember: Your baby’s breastfeeding and sleep safety is a team effort.