The Father’s Function in Stopping Youngster Mortality | Life
Indiana has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, and while things are improving, recent data from the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) shows the state still has room for growth to improve the lives of Hoosier babies.
To lower Indiana child mortality and work towards Governor Holcomb’s goal of becoming the best state in the Midwest for child mortality by 2024, not only do medics and mothers have to work, but fathers too.
On this Father’s Day, Dr. Cameual Wright, Vice President and Market Chief Medical Officer for CareSource Indiana, a nonprofit health care plan, provided the following information for fathers and families to consider as we work toward this goal.
The Father’s Role in Reducing Infant Mortality
Fathers are often left out of the conversation about infant mortality, but from an economic and social perspective, fathers can do a lot.
We know that factors such as environmental stress, intimate partner violence, and social determinants of health such as unemployment, food insecurity and housing problems can have a significant impact on the health of the mother and the developing fetus.
The father’s role as a supportive person is crucial to ensure a positive environment for both mother and baby. They can help the mother to eat well, consume her vitamins, and get proper rest. All of these factors play important roles in promoting a healthy pregnancy.
The # 1 factor in a healthy pregnancy is getting to see your doctor before giving birth. Removing barriers to these appointments, including securing transportation and childcare, can have a huge impact on the pregnancy and the life of the infant.
A healthy lifestyle for both mother and father is critical to a successful pregnancy and in the postpartum period. Dealing with stress in a mindful and balanced way leads to a safer and stress-free life for baby and mother.
Fathers should also know how to manage their own stress so that they can be positive role models. When a father is dealing with an addiction, depression, or anxiety, getting the right help can be very helpful. A newborn can certainly add to the existing stress, so fathers need to know how to deal with stress that does not negatively affect the mother or baby.
While it seems obvious that a pregnant mother shouldn’t smoke, smoking is still a problem during pregnancy in Indiana. According to a 2020 study by America’s Health Rankings, 12.6% of pregnant women in Indiana smoke.
Fathers can help mothers quit smoking. If a father smokes and chooses to quit, it can make it easier for the mother to quit and prevent the baby from being exposed to secondhand smoke.
After the baby is born, fathers should be educated about the importance of breastfeeding and safe sleep as these measures are important in preventing infant mortality. Breastfeeding is the most nutritious way of feeding a child, and the support of the father can help encourage the mother to choose to breastfeed.
While this is crucial for all mothers, the CDC cites that black women breastfeed less than white women, which may contribute to higher child mortality rates among black infants. Safe sleeping practices, such as creating a safe crib environment and avoiding co-sleeping, can also prevent infant deaths.
Social determinants of health and their impact on infant mortality
Social determinants of health such as unemployment, homelessness, food insecurity and lack of access to health care can lead to poor health outcomes. Identifying barriers and connecting with local resources and support to address these concerns can create a healthy environment for the family. Often times, you can be connected to local organizations that offer help through health plans such as CareSource.
Options for support
CareSource has many resources and programs dedicated to the support of newborn fathers and mothers. CareSource has a dedicated team of case managers to support all pregnant women and infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, as well as a transition team to ensure that medical equipment, aftercare services and support are provided once the family is back home.
We know about the crucial importance of breast milk for the growing child. CareSource includes breastfeeding services and free breast pumps to encourage breastfeeding for a healthier baby. For mothers who cannot breastfeed, CareSource has partnered with the Milk Bank to help provide donor breast milk for all babies.
In addition, CareSource offers a rewards program, Baby’s First, which provides financial incentives for prenatal and child health visits, vaccinations, and lead testing. These rewards provide additional encouragement to achieve routine health care.
CareSource also works with organizations like the Indiana Minority Health Coalition and Fathers and Families to educate and raise awareness of the important role fathers play in healthy pregnancies, especially in colored communities.
Lowering the infant mortality rate in Indiana must be a joint effort by doctors, mothers, fathers, health insurers, and the community. There are many things a father can do to contribute to a healthy and safe pregnancy. Having a strong father figure who can effectively support the mother is critical to a healthy and happy child.