Engaging and supporting fathers to promote breast feeding: a concept analysis

Midwifery. 2014 Jun;30(6):667-77. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2013.07.014. Epub 2013 Aug 17.


Objective: Empirical evidence demonstrates that fathers have a strong influence on a mother's decision to initiate and continue breast feeding. However, no clear delineation of what behaviours and attributes constitute father support or differentiate it from other kinds of support is provided in the current literature. The purpose of this study was to analyse the concept of 'father support' in relation to maternity services and broader health settings, thereby clarifying meaning to enable comprehension and application in practice, education, and research.

Design: A concept analysis combining the evolutionary model of concept development with the inter-related theoretical, fieldwork and analytical phases of the hybrid model of concept development.

Setting: Children's Centres in East and West Sussex in Southern England.

Participants: Repeated qualitative research over two phases with 16 parents of breast fed infants through seven focus groups and five telephone interviews.

Measurements and findings: CINAHL, PsycINFO, AMED, MEDLINE, OVID and EMBASE databases were searched for articles published in English between 1999 and 2013 using the keywords breast feeding, father, and support. Seven same-sex focus groups and five individual interviews were also conducted over two research phases with the parents of breast fed infants to expand and exemplify, and then validate the analysis of the literature search. Five main attributes of father support in relation to breast feeding were identified: (1) knowledge about breast feeding; (2) positive attitude to breast feeding; (3) involvement in the decision-making process; (4) practical support; and (5) emotional support. Multiple antecedents and consequences to these attributes were also identified.

Key conclusion: This study has contributed to clarifying the meaning of father support in relation to breast feeding and provides an important starting point for the development of a theoretical and practical model of optimal breast feeding that takes into account father support.

Implications for practice: Identification of attributes, antecedents, and consequences of father support may assist practitioners to reflect on current working practices and service delivery models, and offer important educational opportunities for the training of student midwives and other health professionals.

Keywords: Breast feeding; Concept analysis; Father support; Health promotion.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Decision Making
  • England
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Midwifery
  • Pregnancy
  • Social Support*