Research and art combine to uncover parenting experiences

While mothers are often the focus of parenting research
around feeding babies, a new exhibition is looking at fathers’ and partners’ experiences
negotiating breastfeeding their newborn child.

Tenderness is an exhibition by University of Tasmania
public health researcher Jennifer Ayton and translates health research findings
through sculpture, aiming to provide people with a space where they can come,
enjoy, reflect and interpret the findings.

The exhibition follows on from Dr Ayton’s 2017/18 research and
exhibition Broken Bodies portraying mother’s experiences feeding their
young children.

“This is the father’s/partner’s data and the combination of further research we
gathered around how parents negotiated feeding their young babies in the first three
years after birth, so it’s the next step,” Dr Ayton said.

“We are using arts in health methods to translate the data
into something people can engage with and that will hopefully celebrate some of
the beautiful connections we make with one another when we are sharing things
that are hard and difficult.”

Data for the research was collected from over 90 mothers and
fathers- including same sex couples, from the Hobart area, with all exhibition
pieces being hand built and taking several months each to complete.

The research uncovered a very positive message about
breastfeeding and the place fathers /partners have, showing that while both
mothers and fathers/ partners often found feeding their children a challenging experience,
through the adversity they found a closer bond.

Dr Ayton said using arts in health to translate research makes
everyday moments such as feeding young babies extraordinary, notable and
memorable.

“It is a powerful way to communicate the research findings to the community and
participants – to make something that is hidden visual and to translate something that would
normally be written in a scientific journal,” she said.

“It is a lovely combination of arts and health where the two
stand alone, but they come together to tell a story.

“Combining arts and health research has a way of bringing a
community together, shifting perspectives and generating shared meanings that
can help people make sense of their experiences.”

Dr Ayton said it was a privilege to be let into people’s
lives and intimate experiences and hear their stories.

Tenderness
is open to the public at the Moonah Arts Centre, until Saturday 10 October.

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