The vital role of fathers in breastfeeding

28 June 2018

Masters 3MT winner Angga Rahadian

The benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life are well understood. But University of Waikato masters student Angga Rahadian, winner of this year’s 3MT Masters Competition, is taking a different approach to researching breastfeeding success, by looking at the vital role fathers play.

Originally from Jakarta, Angga was drawn to the University of Waikato’s National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis for its expertise in population health. Studying under Dr Polly Atatoa Carr, Angga is focussing on social policy in Indonesia relating to supporting the role that fathers play in breastfeeding, such as paternity leave, and improvements that would contribute to higher rates of breastfeeding success. Angga’s research specifically focusses on improving exclusive breastfeeding rates, where babies are supported only by breast milk for the first six months of life. There is a lot of room for improvement in exclusive breastfeeding rates in Indonesia (and the same is true in New Zealand), she says.

“I have two young daughters, and was successful in exclusive breastfeeding thanks to the support of my husband,” Angga says, “but some of my friends weren’t as lucky.” Indonesia currently legislates for three months’ leave for new mothers, but there is no specific paternity leave available in Indonesian regulations. Every company in Indonesia has a different policy on paternity leave. “In some companies, paternal leave is given for only one day. Fathers wanting to take time off to support their partner and baby commonly have to take annual leave, and are reliant on their employers to grant this."

Angga’s research, which involved interviewing Indonesian mothers and fathers about the father’s role in supporting breastfeeding, found that when mothers feel well supported and calm, milk production and breastfeeding success increases. Two particular areas of support from the father were vital to breastfeeding success: physical support, and psychological support. Physical support included assisting with housework, cooking and other tasks to allow the mother to feel rested and give her time to focus on feeding her baby. Psychological support included fathers educating themselves on breastfeeding, and helping to protect their baby’s mother from negative and erroneous comments from visiting family and friends.

When her thesis is complete, Angga will return to Indonesia where she plans to present her findings to relevant policy and programme development agencies, such as the Indonesian Ministries of Health, Manpower, National Development Planning, and also breastfeeding supporting communities, with recommendations for policy change. She and her husband have previously been involved in a breastfeeding community just for fathers (and founded by men), which aims to increase awareness of the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, and to inform and empower fathers to play an active role in a traditionally female-only domain.

Winning the 3MT Masters Competition means that Angga will travel to Christchurch to represent Waikato at the 2018 National 3MT Masters Inter-University Challenge on Thursday 23 August 2018. “This is going to be quite a challenge,” Angga says, “as my thesis is due for submission on 24 August!”

Related stories

Leading Professor heading up University’s School of Psychology

Noted developmental psychologist, Professor Vincent Reid, is heading up the University of Waikato’s School of…

Caring for 300,000 temporary migrants in New Zealand is a crucial missing link in our coronavirus response

More than one-in-16 people in New Zealand today – or more than 300,000 in total…

University lecturer receives Ordre des Palmes académiques from French government

Senior lecturer in French at the University of Waikato, William Jennings has been made a…

Housing crisis? What crisis? How politicians talk about housing and why it matters

Politicians in many countries around the world claim to be experiencing a “housing crisis”. But…

Student takes once-in-a-lifetime trip to Japan with JENESYS

A cultural exchange to Japan through the JENSEYS programme was a once in a lifetime…

Claudia Ashby and Kelly Petersen - Sir Edmund Hillary Medallists 2020.

Hillary Medalists announced for 2020

A former dentistry student who followed her passion for theatre and an elite endurance swimmer…

Debashish Munshi, Priya Kurian and Sandy Morrison

100% climate resilient?

New research asks how prepared is Aotearoa’s highly valuable tourism sector for the coming impacts…

Waikato commuters committed to their travel mode of choice - cars

Waikato people are wedded to their cars and although they want to use more sustainable…

Corruption Perceptions Index ‘biased’ and ‘flawed’

A University of Waikato researcher has called Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, released this week,…

It’s “haere rā” for Sky Ma

Chinese international student Sky (Ziqi) Ma graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work month after…

Richard von Sturmer

New writer in residence

Richard von Sturmer has been appointed writer in residence for 2020.

ALPSSGRAD 2019 Graduate and Postgraduate Conference

A very successful ALPSSGRAD Conference was held on 7 and 8 November 2019 at the…