Impact of a Face-To-Face Versus Smartphone App Versus Combined Breastfeeding Intervention Targeting Fathers: Randomized Controlled Trial

Dec 2020 | Jane Anne Scott, Sharyn K Burns, Yvonne L Hauck, Roslyn C Giglia, Anita M Jorgensen, Becky Kate White, Annegret Martin, Suzanne Robinson, Satvinder S Dhaliwal, Colin W Binns, & Bruce R Maycock


Background:Despite the recognized health and economic benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, few Australian infants are exclusively breastfed beyond 5 months of age. Social support for breastfeeding, in particular the support of an infant’s father, has been identified as a crucial element for successful breastfeeding.

Objective:The objective of this study was to determine the effectiveness of various father-focused breastfeeding interventions in terms of key infant feeding outcomes.

Methods:The study was a 4-arm, factorial, randomized controlled trial conducted in Perth, Australia. The trial arms included a control group and 3 interventions, consisting of a face-to-face father-focused antenatal breastfeeding class facilitated by a male peer facilitator; Milk Man, a breastfeeding smartphone app designed specifically for fathers; and a combination of both interventions. Expecting couples were recruited from hospital-based antenatal classes and block randomized to 1 of the 4 arms. Each partner completed surveys at recruitment and at 6 weeks and 26 weeks postpartum. Primary outcomes were duration of exclusive and any breastfeeding. Secondary outcomes included age of introduction of formula and complementary foods, maternal breastfeeding self-efficacy, and partner postpartum support.

Results:A total of 1426 couples were recruited from public (443/1426, 31.1%) and private (983/1426, 68.9%) hospitals. Of these, 76.6% (1092/1426) of fathers completed the baseline questionnaire, 58.6% (836/1426) completed the 6-week follow-up questionnaire, and 49.2% (702/1426) completed the 26-week follow-up questionnaire. The average age of fathers who completed the baseline questionnaire was 33.6 (SD 5.2) years; the majority were born in Australia (76.4%) and had attended university (61.8%). There were no significant differences between the control and any of the intervention groups in any of the infant feeding outcomes or level of breastfeeding self-efficacy and postpartum partner support reported by mothers.

Conclusions:This study did not demonstrate that any intervention was superior to another or that any intervention was inferior to the standard care delivered in routine antenatal classes. Further studies are needed to test the effectiveness of these interventions in more socioeconomically diverse populations that are likely to benefit most from additional partner supports.

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