Nav: Home

Breastfeeding can erase effects of prenatal violence for newborns

March 18, 2019

How infants adjust in their first months of life depends on many factors, including what their mothers experienced while they are in utero. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 women in the U.S. will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime and that risk increases during pregnancy, but surprisingly few longitudinal studies have been conducted on the effects of IPV during pregnancy.

William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families Assistant Professor of Psychology Laura Miller-Graff led a novel study examining the role of breastfeeding as a potential protective factor against detrimental outcomes for infants associated with IPV during pregnancy. Miller-Graff and her co-author, graduate student Caroline Scheid, found that breastfeeding through the first six weeks of life acts as a protective factor, effectively negating the risk of IPV the mother experienced during pregnancy on early infant difficult temperament. Poor temperament -- from fussiness to being unable to soothe themselves -- can be an indicator of adjustment issues in early childhood.

"The current findings suggest continued breastfeeding actually stand to substantially reduce IPV's intergenerational conferral of risk on infant adjustment," the authors write in the study that was published in the journal Development and Psychopathology. "The protective role of breastfeeding is a particularly promising area of intervention given that breastfeeding education and support is already embedded in numerous health systems women might engage with during their pregnancy."

Earlier research conducted by Miller-Graff and other colleagues showed that, while victims of IPV are not less likely to initiate breastfeeding, they are far more likely to cease the practice in the first few weeks after birth (add link). "Together these studies suggest that providing IPV-exposed women with more targeted breastfeeding support may have important public health implications," Miller-Graff notes.

The study was conducted in partnership with the South Bend/Mishawaka WIC offices and was supported with grant funds from the Rodney F. Ganey, Ph.D., Collaborative Community-Based Research Seed Grant, an internal Notre Dame award. It involved baseline interviews with low-income women ages 18-39 in all three trimesters of pregnancy. The diverse sample included African-American women (39 percent) and Caucasian women (36 percent) as well as roughly 20 percent Hispanic women and about 5 percent identifying as biracial or multiracial. The study surveys were available in both English and Spanish. Participating women completed surveys during pregnancy and again at their regularly scheduled postnatal follow-up appointments at six weeks and four months. Future studies should include a broader scope of the socioeconomic landscape to determine if the study results would hold outside high-risk contexts, Miller-Graff said.

"While asking women to provide intimate details of their relationships and their babies' health isn't easy, Notre Dame partners with a number of excellent nonprofits that provide services for underprivileged women," Miller-Graff said. "Not all women see themselves as living in a violent relationship. Recruiting for such studies is a delicate and slow process. There are a lot of safety considerations for women, including helping participating women avoid having to explain their participation to a violent partner."

Miller-Graff emphasizes that IPV screenings are critical for enhancing preventive care for women and their infants and they are covered under the Affordable Care Act. However, she notes that there is little guidance for medical service providers in terms of successfully implementing such screenings.

"Ultimately, evaluating the potential protective effects of short-term breastfeeding may be particularly relevant and may hold high public health significance," Miller-Graff and Scheid write. "The costs of preventative measures are relatively inconsequential compared to either more intensive parenting interventions in pregnancy or postpartum mental health support for women and children."
-end-


University of Notre Dame

Related Breastfeeding Articles:

Breastfeeding disparities among us children by race/ethnicity
Overall rates of breastfeeding increased from 2009 to 2015 but they varied by race/ethnicity in this observational study that used national survey data for nearly 168,000 infants in the United States.
Initiating breastfeeding in vulnerable infants
The benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child are well-recognized, including for late preterm infants (LPI).
WHO study confirms breastfeeding protects against child obesity, however levels of breastfeeding across Europe are well off-target
New research from WHO published at this month's European Congress on Obesity shows that babies who are never or only partially breast fed have an increased risk of becoming obese as children compared to babies who are exclusively breastfed.
Is maternal vaccination safe during breastfeeding?
In light of the continuing anti-vaccination movement, a provocative new article provides a comprehensive overview of the potential risks of vaccinating breastfeeding women.
C-sections are seen as breastfeeding barrier in US, but not in other global communities
Amanda Veile, an assistant professor of anthropology at Purdue University, and her team report that indigenous mothers in farming communities in Yucatán, Mexico, breastfeed for about 1.5 months longer following cesarean deliveries than they do following vaginal deliveries.
New study indicates early-term infants can succeed at breastfeeding
Researchers have determined that healthy premature babies can have as much success breastfeeding as full-term babies.
Intervention can boost rates of exclusive breastfeeding
Providing additional support to women in Burkina Faso can boost rates of exclusive breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding may help protect mothers against stroke
Breastfeeding was associated with a lower risk of stroke in post-menopausal women who reported breastfeeding at least one child.
Breastfeeding in Germany from a scientific viewpoint
Is breastfeeding really better? The intense debate on this question has been going on for decades -- and is often controversial and emotionally discussed.
New study shows smoking can affect breastfeeding habits
Researchers at UBC Okanagan have determined that new mothers exposed to cigarette smoke in their homes, stop breastfeeding sooner than women not exposed to second-hand smoke.
More Breastfeeding News and Breastfeeding Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.