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Eating Disorders & Breastfeeding

Carwell, Micaela L. BSN, RN; Spatz, Diane L. PhD, RN-BC, FAAN

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: March-April 2011 - Volume 36 - Issue 2 - p 112–117
doi: 10.1097/NMC.0b013e318205775c

Disordered eating is a concern for clinicians providing care to adolescent female patients, yet the concern seems to drift from the forefront as the patient matures toward motherhood. As women become pregnant, they may adopt a negative body image that persists throughout the postnatal period with pregnancy-related weight gain. For women with a history of an eating disorder (ED), these physical changes may reactivate past coping strategies such as food restriction, binge eating, or induced vomiting to maintain prepregnancy weight. There is evidence that long-term breastfeeding fosters a positive maternal–child bond, aids in postpartum weight loss, and provides the mother with an opportunity to reestablish healthy eating habits for her infant. Because clinicians providing care for pregnant and postpartum women develop trusting relationships through frequent and prolonged contact with their patients, nurses can provide screening for ED symptoms and educate their patients about the positive effects of breastfeeding as it applies to her recovery from pregnancy and ED. This article discusses how breastfeeding can positively influence complications present in pregnant mothers with EDs and provides nurses with tools to cultivate the mother's positive self-image.

These authors provide information on how breastfeeding can foster a positive self image for women suffering from a eating disorder.

Micaela L. Carwell is a Student Nurse at University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Pennsylvania, PA. She can be reached via e-mail at

Diane L. Spatz is a Helen M. Shearer Term Associate Professor of Nutrition, Associate Professor of Healthcare of Women and Childbearing Nursing, Faculty Advisor to Student Nurses at PENN, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, and Nurse Researcher-Lactation, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, PA.

The authors have disclosed that there are no financial relationships related to this article.

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© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.