Engaging and supporting fathers to promote breastfeeding: a concept analysis

Nigel Sherriff, Valerie Hall, Christina Panton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective - Empirical evidence demonstrates that fathers have a strong influence on a mother‟sdecision to initiate and continue breastfeeding. However, no clear delineation of what behavioursand attributes constitute father support or differentiate it from other kinds of support is providedin 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 enablecomprehension and application in practice, education, and research. Design - A concept analysis combining the evolutionary model of concept development with theinter-related theoretical, field work and analytical phases of the hybrid model of conceptdevelopment. Setting - Children‟s Centres in East and West Sussex in Southern England. Participants - Repeated qualitative research over two phases with 16 parents of breastfed infantsthrough seven focus groups and five telephone interviews. Measurements and findings - CINAHL, PsycINFO, AMED, MEDLINE, OVID and EMBASEdatabases were searched for articles published in English between 1999–2013 using thekeywords breastfeeding, father, and support. Seven same-sex focus groups and five individualinterviews were also conducted over two research phases with the parents of breastfed infants toexpand and exemplify, and then validate the analysis of the literature search. Five main attributesof father support in relation to breastfeeding were identified: (1) knowledge about breastfeeding;(2) positive attitude to breastfeeding; (3) involvement in the decision-making process; (4)practical support, and; (5) emotional support. Multiple antecedents and consequences to theseattributes were also identified. Key conclusion - This study has contributed to clarifying the meaning of father support in relationto breastfeeding and provides an important starting point for the development of a theoretical andpractical model of optimal breastfeeding that takes into account father support. Implications for practice - Identification of attributes, antecedents, and consequences of fathersupport may assist practitioners to reflect on current working practices and service deliverymodels, and offer important educational opportunities for the training of student midwives andother health professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-677
Number of pages11
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2013 The Authors. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • concept analysis
  • breastfeeding
  • father support
  • health promotion
  • health inequalities


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