Instinto Maternal Program Promotes Role of Dads in First Foods as it Moves North for the Season

MHP Salud Promotoras role playing a scenario for pregnant mothers.
In its second year, the Instinto Maternal Program has collected, cleaned and analyzed information from a series of community surveys and interviews with Latina mothers who work in agriculture about their successful breastfeeding experiences.

The upshot: more than just the practices of the mother, the support from family members and the woman’s partner can be crucial to improving first food practices during a baby’s first year.

“We had a lot of comments about the support that these women received,” said Program Director Randi McCallian. “More often than not, the support was coming from someone in their inner-circle, especially their husbands or a very close woman, like a mother or a sister.”

This method of trying to understand what’s already working for a small group people within a community in order to build a health program is called the Positive Deviance Inquiry method. After Randi led a one-year research phase using PDI, this year, she and her team of Program Coordinators and Community Health Workers (CHWs) have built a curriculum around what they learned, and the program will spread this message during the program’s implementation years in Michigan, Ohio and Florida during 2016 and 2017.

Randi says in addition to getting the source material for the program from these mothers who were able to successfully breastfeed despite difficult circumstances, she said those interviewed took ownership of the project by making suggestions for the best ways to spread this message.

“They said things like, ‘Talk to dads about breastfeeding in public and ways they can support moms. Talk to dads about little things they can do, like diaper changes and burping the baby,’” said Randi.

The program’s CHWs proved vital in making the participants comfortable enough to share their thoughts about what can be a taboo subject.

“They were so plugged into the community; they understand those nuances about the community and the people,” she said. “Especially with a sensitive subject like breastfeeding, the CHWs were uniquely able to collect complete, honest information.”

Now that the program is ready to spread the message of educating dads about the importance of breastfeeding in Michigan and Ohio as the program moves north for the year, Randi says she’s looking forward to being able to spread a positive message.

“It’s so much more enlightening and exciting to work on a project that focuses on spreading what’s working and spreading the good, rather than a program that’s focusing on a barrier that is negative,” she said. “If you’re trying to break down a barrier, there’s this negative concept to your work, and when you’re trying to spread what is good and working, you feel so much like you’re making this big change and this big difference.”

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