Involving fathers in community child health services and infant feeding

Fathers Child development Infants Expressed breast milk Australia
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Men in my antenatal classes give three common reasons why they intend to father differently than they were fathered:

  • Community expectations: highlight the fact that fathers are expected to be involved in the day-to-day care of their baby, not simply to be a provider and protector.
  • Partner pressure: 'She’ll kill me (if I don’t)': the second reason is offered with some humour by the fathers-to-be. The wives or partners of these men will insist on their taking a different, more hands-on approach than fathers of previous generations.
  • Their own wish to connect with their child: 'Because I want to have a good relationship with my kid, that’s why I am doing this', is usually expressed by one of the men, and the others nod in affirmation, and this captures perhaps the most profound change in our understanding of a father’s role.


The WHO recommendations about infant feeding are clear:

  • Babies should receive only human milk for the first six months of life
  • Babies should continue to be breastfed following the introduction of complimentary or family foods
  • Breastfeeding can continue until the baby’s second birthday, or even beyond

According to the breastfeeding policy (2007) of the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP), ‘Breast milk is superior to formula. The nutritional composition of breast milk is unique with narrow ranges for most nutrients, and many additional factors which are not in formula’.

Compared to formula-fed infants, breastfed infants have:

  • improved neurodevelopmental outcomes
  • a lower incidence of infections, obesity and diabetes
  • better feed tolerance
  • less physiological gastroesophageal reflux
  • a lower incidence of necrotising enterocolitis

Child and family nurses have an important role in supporting and encouraging mothers to breastfeed, and also to support those mothers who choose not to or who are unable to breastfeed their babies.

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