Partner Support for Breastfeeding: The Need for Health Promotion

K Powell, SM Baic

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


    Background: Breastfeeding has multiple health benefits for both the infant and mother. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of life (World Health Organisation, 2001). but within the UK, fewer than 1% of mothers achieve this (Office for National Statistics, 2007). Partner support is a major determinant of both a mother’s decision to initiate breastfeeding and to continue with it (Persad & Mensinger, 2008; Swanson & Power, 2005). Partners may therefore be usefully targeted in health promotion initiatives to increase breastfeeding rates in women. There is however a gap in the literature concerning partners’ knowledge and attitudes towards breastfeeding, their existing inclusion in breastfeeding education, and their views of breastfeeding promotional literature aimed specifically at partners. Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were carried out with male partners of breastfeeding mothers (n=4) and partners of formula feeding mothers (n=4), recruited from Children’s Centres within the Bristol area. Interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: The majority of partners in both groups considered breastfeeding in public to be less socially acceptable than formula feeding. Partners of formula feeding mothers showed a lower level of awareness of health benefits of breastfeeding and had a greater tendency to report lack of male parental bonding as a barrier to breastfeeding. Partners in both groups reported receiving little or no advice on breastfeeding directed towards them. Partners felt they were generally not included in education on this area from maternity services during either the antenatal nor postnatal periods. Partners reported finding a breastfeeding leaflet specifically directed towards them both informative and useful, but said they would prefer to have this information delivered in an ante natal class environment. Discussion: The results suggest that health education directed at partners on breastfeeding benefits and ways to overcome perceived barriers to breastfeeding may have a positive influence on partner support for breastfeeding. The results also indicate that some partners feel overlooked by maternity services, calling for greater engagement and involvement of male partners by maternity professionals. A case could be made for clearer and more comprehensive maternity guidelines regarding partner engagement in the breastfeeding process. The positive response to a breastfeeding promotion leaflet indicates partners’ willingness to receive information directed at them, although this information may be better delivered in a group setting. Conclusion: The findings suggest a potential value of partner involvement and support in breastfeeding promotion through education and engagement via maternity services using consistent guidelines References: Office for National Statistics. (2007). Infant Feeding Survey 2005. The Information Centre: Office for National Statistics. Persad, M. and Mensinger J. (2008). Maternal Breastfeeding Attitudes: Association with Breastfeeding Intent and Sociodemographics Among Urban Primiparas. Journal of Community Health. 33, 53-60. Swanson, V. and Power, K. (2005). Initiation and Continuation of Breastfeeding: Theory of Planned Behaviour. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 50(3), 272-282. World Health Organisation. (2001). The Optimal Duration of Exclusive Breastfeeding: A Systematic Review. Switzerland: World Health Organisation.
    Translated title of the contributionPartner Support for Breastfeeding: The Need for Health Promotion
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationBritish Dietetic Association Annual Conference
    Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2011

    Bibliographical note

    Name and Venue of Event: London Hammersmith Novotel
    Conference Organiser: BDA


    Dive into the research topics of 'Partner Support for Breastfeeding: The Need for Health Promotion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this