Doting dads who chip in around the house could help to boost breast milk production in mothers, new research shows. 

Those who feel supported by their partners have better milk production and more success in exclusively breast feeding, University of Waikato masters student Angga Rahadian's research found. 

Happy mums are the most important thing when it comes to feeding, with stress known to dry up the breast milk, Rahadian said. 

While Rahadian, originally from Jakarta, based her research around Indonesian parents, her supervisor Dr Polly Atatoa Carr said it's applicable to New Zealanders.

The research comes amid dropping breastfeeding rates in New Zealand

Last year research found only 16 per cent of New Zealand mums were exclusively breastfeeding for the six month period recommended by the World Health Organisation. Yet few breastfeeding campaigns target fathers, Atatoa Carr said. 

In Rahadian's study, physical and psychological support increased success. "Physical support is like massaging the wife when they feel tired and cooking or doing household chores," Rahadian said.  Psychological support included encouragement, shielding mothers from negative comments or something small like asking her what she wants for dinner.  

First-time mum Dena Baxter said breastfeeding wasn't easy to begin with and an encouraging partner made it easier. She can see how mums turn to formula without enough support.  "He's really good at telling me that I'm doing good and I'm a good mum and doing good to nourish our baby." 

Some days, her 3-week-old baby Waimarie Broadhurst is cruisy. Other days all hours are spent on the couch rocking and feeding her, with little time to do anything else.  "It's really good knowing that he isn't going to mind if the house is a mess or dinner isn't made."

When Rahadian  - a mum of two - was breastfeeding but back at work, she worked far away from home and only made it back every week or so. While she expressed as much milk as she could while she was home she would also ask any friends flying back to take milk with them, which her husband would routinely pick up from the airport.  "If my husband didn't support, I don't think my babies would have [been] exclusively breast fed"My friends, they're not that lucky because their husbands didn't support [them]. And it's very challenging. "If you want to successfully breastfeed you have to be happy."


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