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Impact of Emotional Trauma on Breastfeeding Mothers

Recommended Book of the Month:

'Clinics in Human Lactation -- Emotional and Physical Trauma and Its Impact on Breastfeeding Mothers' ... By Dianne Cassidy, MA, IBCLC-RLC, ALC


When identifying reasons why women abandon breastfeeding, or refuse to initiate breastfeeding altogether, we need to look at the role emotional and physical trauma plays in breastfeeding. Emotional and physical trauma suffered by women at a young age, during pregnancy, during labor and delivery, or in the immediate postpartum period can negatively impact a new mother’s ability or desire to breastfeed her baby. Even when she knows that breastfeeding is the best choice, past abuse, physical trauma, or psychological impairment may impede the mother’s ability to initiate or continue with breastfeeding.

Trauma can be a difficult subject to address, especially when it involves a delicate topic, such as birth and breastfeeding. In our desire to advocate for best practice among the mother/baby dyad, we must recognize how trauma impacts breastfeeding for the new mother and baby. Healthcare workers, support persons, and family can be helpful to a new mother who is struggling with breastfeeding. By recognizing when trauma may be at the source of the issue, those working closely with the mother/baby dyad can assist in reinforcing the importance of breastfeeding, while being sensitive to a new mother’s concerns.

“The scars you can’t see are the hardest to heal.” – Astrid Alauda

Topics covered include: childhood sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, birth trauma–baby, birth trauma–mother, ethics

About the Author:

Dianne Cassidy has been working with breastfeeding mothers for eight years. Starting out as a WIC Peer Counselor, she became an IBCLC with an advanced certification. She was fortunate to be able to visit mothers in their homes, where she first became familiar with how trauma impacts new mothers.

As an IBCLC, Dianne has worked in hospitals, community outreach pregnancy programs, and private practice. Her work with underprivileged women has led her to research how trauma in all forms impacts breastfeeding. She began this research while completing her Bachelor of Science degree in Maternal Child Health/Lactation. She received her Master’s degree in 2013. The increased awareness she has found for these mothers has made her a better lactation consultant to all mothers.

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