Fathers make a huge difference in infant’s getting breastfed and placed to sleep safely. This comes in the latest survey of new fathers via the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) for Dads.
The survey is modelled on the annual surveillance system used for more than 30 years by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health departments to survey new mothers.
Among fathers who wanted their infant’s mother to breastfeed, 95% reported breastfeeding initiation and 78% reported breastfeeding at eight weeks.
The researchers found that 99% of fathers reported placing their infant to sleep. However, only 16% implemented all three recommended infant sleep practices. The sleep practices include using the back sleep position, an approved sleep surface, and avoiding soft bedding. Almost a third of fathers surveyed were missing at least one key component of safe sleep education.
Black fathers used more soft bedding than White fathers did. They did not use the back sleep position more. Nationally, the rate of sudden unexpected infant death of Black infants is more than twice that of White infants, and unsafe sleep practices may contribute to this disparity.
“Our findings underscore that new fathers are a critical audience to promote breastfeeding and safe infant sleep,” said lead author John James Parker, MD. He is a paediatrician at Chicagoan an internist at Northwestern Medicine. He is an Instructor of Paediatrics at North-western University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Many families do not gain the health benefits from breastfeeding because they are not provided the support to breastfeed successfully. Fathers need to be directly engaged in breastfeeding discussions and providers need to describe the important role fathers play in breastfeeding success. Additionally, fathers need to receive counselling on all of the safe sleep practices for their infants. To reduce racial disparities in sudden unexpected infant death, we need tailored strategies to increase safe infant sleep practices in the Black community. It includes public campaigns to increase awareness and home visiting programs. These interventions must involve both parents to be most effective.”
The study included 250 fathers who were surveyed two to six months after their infant’s birth.
“As paediatricians we focus on how to ensure the best health outcomes for children, with successful breastfeeding and safe sleep practices being two key behaviours that impact children’s health,” said senior author Craig Garfield. He is founder of the Family & Child Health Innovations Program (FCHIP) at Lurie Children’s. He is Professor of Paediatrics and Medical Social Sciences at North-western University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Our study highlights the fact that fathers play a big role in both these behaviours but there is more to be done to support fathers. For example, we found that fathers with college degrees were more likely to report that their baby breastfed and they were more likely to receive guidance on infant sleep safety. To improve child health outcomes, we need to make sure that breastfeeding and safe sleep guidance reaches all new parents equitably.”
Dr. Garfield collaborated with the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health to develop and pilot PRAMS for Dads.