2017 Conference Speaker – Carol Williams

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Carol Williams

Carol Williams

Public Health Nutritionist and Infant Feeding Specialist

Senior Lecturer: Health Promotion and Public Health, University of Brighton, UK

Co-director: Infant Feeding Consortium community interest company (IFCcic)

Carol Williams is a Public Health Nutritionist and infant feeding specialist with a long and varied experience of working on food and health issues in the UK and internationally, primarily in the public and Non-Government Organisation (NGO) sectors. She specialises in examining the implications of research and public health recommendations, exploring what it means in practice for the public, health professionals and for policy and programme formulation.

Carol is Course Leader for the Masters in (International) Health Promotion at the University of Brighton.  She joined the University in 2011, after finishing a secondment to the Public Health Group in London as regional Infant Feeding Coordinator. Previously she combined part-time employment teaching masters modules on nutrition policy, and infant feeding, at the UCL Institute of Child Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and University of Westminster, with research, training and consultancy work on infant feeding and nutrition for agencies such as WHO, UNICEF, British Heart Foundation, UK Food Standards Agency, Save the Children Fund, Ministry of Health Philippines, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, World Cancer Research Fund. Her current research explores aspects of satiety and the influence of marketing and social norms on food behaviours, including of complementary foods and duration of breastfeeding.

Fathers and breastfeeding: what do we know about eliciting effective support?

Despite universal endorsement of the benefits of breastfeeding for the health of infants and mothers, globally rates of breastfeeding remain far lower than recommended, and the UK has the lowest rate of breastfeeding at 12 months in the world (Victora et al, 2016). The increase of women in the labour force has led to significant changes in family dynamics which have challenged breastfeeding (Heymann, 2016). Research carried out by University of Brighton has previously identified that in the UK fathers remain an ‘untapped resource’ for breastfeeding support, and that fathers from diverse backgrounds and circumstances are interested and want to be involved more broadly in preparation for, and support of, breastfeeding ( Sherriff and Hall, 2011). However, it was clear that fathers face a number of barriers to being involved meaningfully, including practical (e.g. timing of antenatal provision), attitudinal (e.g. concerns that fathers pose more of a ‘risk’ than a ‘resource’) and political (e.g. allocation of resources). This work led to the development of a conceptual framework for understanding and defining “fathers support for breastfeeding”, and concluding that initiatives to support breastfeeding focusing purely on mothers appear not to be sufficient (Sherriff et al, 2014). Subsequently researchers in Canada have proposed a co-parenting framework for breastfeeding (Abbass-Dick et al, 2017).

The literature on fathers and breastfeeding is growing (Maycock,et al, 2015) and we are continuing our research in this area. This session will review the literature on breastfeeding interventions targeted at fathers using Sherriff’s conceptual framework, broadly considering the four key attributes (essential defining characteristics of father support)  of the framework, and examine the antecedents (events that occur prior to the occurrence of father support) and consider what can be done to encourage these antecedents, particularly by professionals working with parents.