More education about breastfeeding needed for men

08 August 2017
Woman breastfeeding

A new study looking at the role of men in supporting new mothers to breastfeed has identified a need for greater education around breastfeeding for men.

The research interviewed 30 New Zealand women about influence of male family members and their support for breastfeeding.

The women involved in the Massey University research were not a diverse group.  They were mostly older than 25, mostly Pakeha New Zealanders and were highly-educated.

The researchers say that the New Zealand men in this cohort were active in supporting breastfeeding.

Five key themes emerged as a result of the research:

  • Male partners did not have enough knowledge about breastfeeding
  • Male partners wanted to share infant feeding
  • The women received emotional and practical support from their male partners
  • Male partners supported breastfeeding in public
  • Some women received crucial breastfeeding support from male family members who were not the father of the baby.

The research found that the male partners were “emotionally and practically supportive of breastfeeding and participants reported that this source of support was effective in encouraging them to breastfeed their babies.”

However, although they were in favour of breastfeeding, most of the male partners were unsure about how to provide support.  The researchers say male targeted education may be something that could help.

The participants indicated that support for breastfeeding in public from their male partners was important to them.  The study found that most men did encourage their partners to breastfeed in public.

They also found that many grandfathers in the study were supportive of their daughters or daughters-in-law breastfeeding.

The researchers acknowledge that the study provides evidence that “some” New Zealand men are very supportive of breastfeeding.

The authors say more education targeted toward men may be needed.

“Breastfeeding support literature, websites and smartphone apps aimed at males as well as a short educational video on breastfeeding which could be watched by all family members might provide increased knowledge for supporting women to breastfeed exclusively,” they say.

You can read the full study looking at male support for breastfeeding in New Zealand here.