Helping dads to support their partners with breastfeeding

This research project explores how an app could be used to better engage fathers to support their partners' breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding provides important nutrients for infant growth and development – and fathers play a crucial role in the journey. 

Supported by an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellowship, Dr Kidane Gebremariam’s work aims to understand how to better engage fathers in supporting their partners to breastfeed. 

“It’s very important to improve the rate and duration of breastfeeding for the optimal development and health of children,” Dr Gebremariam said. 

“Among the factors affecting breastfeeding, a fathers’ beliefs on whether their partner should breastfeed strongly influences the level of maternal intention to breastfeed. 

“But there’s a lack of evidence on the effectiveness of interventions targeting both mothers and fathers to encourage and support breastfeeding. I hope my research will inform the development of practical advice that will help dads learn how to support their partner to breastfeed.” 

Dr Gebremariam is using mobile health interventions (mHealth) as a cost-effective way to deliver personalised breastfeeding messages to fathers and mothers. 

He will explore how to adapt the existing ‘My Baby Now’ app to target dads with helpful, trusted information. The My Baby Now app was designed to reinforce INFANT, a comprehensive program developed by IPAN researchers over 15 years to help parents and families with healthy eating and active play from the start of their baby’s life.  

Dr Gebremariam has recruited 190 dads as part of the study, to discover and understand the type of information they want in order help them support their partner with breastfeeding.  

For the next phase of this project, he plans to co-design a new version of the My Baby Now app tailored specifically towards fathers, and trial with fathers and mothers to improve breastfeeding.  

Dr Gebremariam said his research would contribute to the international evidence on the role of the father in breastfeeding promotion, as well as the processes involved in developing a targeted mHealth intervention. 

“The current view is that breastfeeding is all about mothers, but this study will show the significant role fathers play,” he said.