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Active involvement from fathers have a positive impact on infants, reveals study

The study implies that if fathers are more active in raising them then it results in a positive experience for infants.

Active involvement from fathers have a positive impact on infants, reveals study
Cover Image Source: (L) Pixabay/ Photo by RitaE (R) Pexels/ Photo by Josh Willink

Popular culture considers a father's role to be secondary when it comes to hands-on parenting. A father's role has been relegated to that of a primary supporter to mothers in their parenting journey. But can they do more? And would their doing more have a positive impact on their infant's overall health? The answer is 'Yes' according to a recent study published in Pediatrics, as reported by CNN. The Researchers in the study collected data associated with parental participation from fathers in terms of breastfeeding and safe sleep practices. The results highlight the importance of the father's involvement to garner positive outcomes in babies (behavioral).

Image Source: Pexels/ Photo by Kristina Paukshtite
Image Source: Pexels/ Photo by Kristina Paukshtite

 

The study's results bring to focus the increased need for better parental leave policies in the United States. This survey was conducted with 250 fathers as subjects located in Georgia. The results showcase that only 16% of them follow the suggested safe sleeping practices for infants. The results were termed as “suboptimal,” and it was found that fathers can support mothers more when it comes to breastfeeding.

Image Source: Pexels/ Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
Image Source: Pexels/ Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

 

The healthy and balanced collaboration between both parents can provide immense health benefits to the infants and therefore the study recommends more involvement from fathers during the phase of infanthood. Study co-author Dr. Craig Garfield explained that the reason they wanted to conduct the study is that they found that there was an increasing desire within the mothers about wanting to know about the impact fathers have on the infanthood of children. They took note of this desire while conducting a Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System — or PRAMS. PRAMS is a survey whose objective is to collect data from mothers at different stages of pregnancy. These stages are namely before, during, and after pregnancy.



 

 

The only question associated with fathers in the survey was ‘Did your partner hit, kick, beat, or slap you during your pregnancy?’ The question was the only space where mothers could talk about their experience with fathers. It was evident that they wanted more research when they started to write about fathers on the margins of the survey. Their responses reflected their opinion that active participation from fathers has a good impact on infants. It gave Garfield encouragement to conduct research that could prove or disprove this opinion. Therefore US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collaborated with Northwestern researchers for the study with the former providing the required funding.



 

 

Lead study author Dr. John James Parker while talking about the study shared, “We focused on breastfeeding and infant sleep because they are two key national health targets”. The study conducted interviews with fathers while they were parenting a two to six-month-old child. In order to be eligible for the survey it was important that their partners had also been a participant in PRAMS. The study found that 99% of fathers had put their infants to sleep but most of them had not followed the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Image Source: Pexels/ Photo by Amina Filkins
Image Source: Pexels/ Photo by Amina Filkins

 

These recommendations include placing infants to sleep on their backs, making use of a sleep surface that is designed specifically for infants, and ensuring that the sleeping surface is firm. These strategies according to the American Academy of Pediatrics are useful in preventing cases like infant sleep syndrome. The research's outcome also noted a racial disparity with white fathers more likely to follow these practices in comparison to black fathers. Parker believes that there are many causes for this disparity and pointed out one of them, “But I think one scenario that we’ve seen play out is that racial and ethnic minorities have less availability to things like paternity leave … so it’s possible that it gets harder to get to appointments, or to be at the newborn nursery, the OB-GYN office.”

Image Source: Pexels/ Photo by Josh Willink
Image Source: Pexels/ Photo by Josh Willink

 

The Research in the case of breastfeeding found that fathers who are involved in the experience notice a better impact on their children. The study states that “among fathers who wanted their infant’s mother to breastfeed, 95% reported breastfeeding initiation and 78% reported breastfeeding at (eight) weeks, which is significantly higher than fathers who had no opinion or did not want their infant’s mother to breastfeed, of whom 69% reported breastfeeding initiation and 33% reported breastfeeding at (eight) weeks.” This implies that fathers for the betterment of their children should be more involved in the process of taking part in household work and advocate for a fair distribution of responsibilities so that breastfeeding becomes easier for mothers.

The results of the study prove that the role of fathers is more important than what the popular culture has perceived. They are not mere supporters in the equation and therefore must be involved as active participants. The Northwestern Researchers were extremely happy with their study and hope to expand beyond Georgia and eventually involve other kinds of families like 'same-sex couples'.

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