The role of fathers in breastfeeding
MANILA, Philippines – Fathers are nurturers too.
Raising healthy children is a responsibility shared by both mothers and fathers.
Traditionally, fathers are often seen as the one in control of the family’s purse string and decision-making.
However, not all fathers are well informed about their role in maternal and infant health.
The active participation of fathers in improving the health outcomes of women and children can greatly change a whole community.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) all over the globe, such as World Vision, have recently started including men in the maternal and child health work efforts for fathers all over the globe.
"Fathers play a critical role in family life," World Vision Philippines said.
By expanding men’s understanding of issues on maternal and child health, they are empowered to take simple steps in improving the health of their families.
These strategies need not be expensive and complex. Fathers can assist mothers in childbirth and breastfeeding. They can also encourage and make sure their partners get antenatal care. (READ: Breastfeeding advocacy: Not an attack on formula feeding moms)
In the Philippines, the initiative of the fathers is rarely seen or highlighted. But it is undeniable that fathers share a vital role in the rearing of an infant.
While unable to provide breast milk themselves, fathers can give emotional support to mothers who breastfeed.
ERPAT stands for the "Empowerment Reaffirmation of Paternal Abilities and Trainings" – it is an organization of fathers established by the Mandaluyong City Social Welfare Development Office. The initiative was made possible by Dr Shari Ludovina Sabalvaro, coordinator of the Mandaluyong City Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF).
IYCF promotes, protects, and supports breastfeeding.
“Erpat was formerly a slang term for father, but now it’s an important translation in the DSWD parlance,” Sablavaro said.
The erpats were given different kinds of training such as:
- The importance of breastfeeding
- How to position and attach a baby to the breast
- How to approach breast conditions
- How to be a supportive partner and father
“With the ERPAT in every family and community the benefits of breastfeeding are virtually practiced,” Sabalvaro said.
The father can then support his partner in exclusively breastfeeding his child. Fathers could also influence and encourage other fathers to promote breastfeeding.
“Teaching fathers how to prevent and to manage the most common lactation difficulties is associated with higher rates of full breastfeeding at 6 months. Studies show that when a nursing mother has a 'significant other' who is educated about and supports her choice to breastfeed she is much more likely to be successful at it,” Sabalvaro explained.
There is an ERPAT in every barangay in Mandaluyong City, with partnerships with DSWD, the City Health Office, and IYCF.
These support groups are also tapped during emergencies to safeguard the practice of breastfeeding in evacuation camps. In the future, they wish to expand their services across the country.
The Breastfeeding Patrol (BFP) is a community support group in barangays composed of mothers with successful breastfeeding experiences.
These mothers undergo training, they then provide counseling to other mothers with breastfeeding issues.
The group currently has 320 active members and has counselled 3,700 lactating mothers. This initiative alone improved Mandaluyong’s exclusive breastfeeding rate to 93%.
This helps mothers sustain exclusive breastfeeding. This thrust is translated into their slogan “Protektado ang Pamilya sa Gatas ng Ina.” (With mom's milk, the family is protected.)
BFP began in 2012 with only 3 participating barangays in Mandaluyong, but it now plans to expand its coverage in June.
ERPAT and the BFP are the first-ever initiatives in the country to promote, protect and support breastfeeding in every household.
As one of the country’s biggest breastfeeding advocates in the country, World Vision recognizes and encourages small support groups like ERPAT and BFP to continue their commitment to maternal and child health in the Philippines.
World Vision Philippines also underscored the need to immediately implement the Milk Code.
The Milk Code of the Philippines, through Executive Order No. 52, institutionalizes the International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substances. (READ: World Vision urges congressmen to keep Milk Code intact)
This law ensures safe and adequate nutrition for infants through the promotion of breastfeeding and the regulation of promotion, distribution, selling, advertising, product public relations, and information services on artificial milk formula, and other covered products. – Rappler.com