The transitioning role of Botswana fathers in breastfeeding

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Lynn Rempel
Motshedisi Sabone
John Rempel
N. Swart
Kenalepe Molefi


Although infant care has traditionally been perceived as women’s work, especially when the mother was breastfeeding, fathers are becoming increasingly involved in parenting and breastfeeding support. However, there is little research regarding this transition in an African context. The purpose of this study was to explore the role of the fathers in the breastfeeding family in Botswana. The study used a descriptive qualitative design informed by grounded theory. Twenty-one breastfeeding couples from rural and urban localities were interviewed over a period of 4 months in 2010. An interview guide was used to collect data from mothers and fathers who were interviewed separately. Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed, translated and coded to describe fathers’ experiences and their roles as well as factors influencing such roles. Ethical clearance was made with relevant authorities and participants provided written consent. Father acted as provider, protector, loving and caring partner to the mother, breastfeeding supporter and direct loving baby care provider. Although all fathers valued playing a role in breastfeeding, they were sometimes constrained by traditional norms related to the care of the mother and the newborn. However, the study showed that cultural traditions were changing, and fathers were providing both physical care and emotional support to both the mother and the breastfeeding baby. Thus father’s roles in the care of their new born infants can be characterised as being in transition, as today’s parenting abandon traditional norms and values to accommodate the needs of the modern family. This study can inform health care providers about the dynamics of fathers’ participation in breastfeeding, and help them to tailor support programmes to suit the needs of breastfeeding couples in Botswana.

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