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Breastfeeding Mothers and Violence: What Nurses Need to Know

Averbuch, Tali MPP, BSN, RN; Spatz, Diane PhD, RNC, FAAN

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: September-October 2009 - Volume 34 - Issue 5 - p 284–289
doi: 10.1097/01.NMC.0000360419.21733.5d
Feature article

Violence against women and girls is a widespread problem, with negative ramifications for both physical and mental health. Many women in abusive relationships find the violence escalates when they are pregnant. For the survivor of childhood violence, memories of the abuse may come to the forefront during the childbearing period due to the intense physical and emotional nature of pregnancy and birth. Nurses will often be the care providers encouraging new mothers to breastfeed, and may face unique challenges with patients who are survivors of abuse. This article addresses issues surrounding violence and breastfeeding, and offers some strategies nurses can use to bolster the affected new mother's ability to take care of herself and her baby.

We've long known that past abuse is a major risk factor for a healthy pregnancy. What about its effect on breastfeeding?

Tali Averbuch is a Midwifery & Women's Health MSN Candidate, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and Registered Nurse, University of Pennsylvania Student Health Service, Philadelphia, Pa. She can be reached via e-mail at

Diane L. Spatz is an Associate Professor of Health Care of Women and Childbearing Nursing-Clinician Educator, Helen M. Shearer Term Associate Professor of Nutrition, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia, PA.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.