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Does Traumatic Childbirth Affect Breast-feeding?

Posted Sep 26 2008 5:16pm

A study published in the July 2008 issue of Nursing Research examines the potential consequences of traumatic childbirth. Given that documented risk factors for delayed or failed milk lactation include stressful labor and delivery, unscheduled cesarean births, and psychosocial stress and pain related to childbirth, researchers carried out a study examining the impact of birth trauma on mothers' breast-feeding experiences. A sample of fifty-two women were recruited over the Internet through the assistance of Trauma and Birth Stress, a charitable trust located in New Zealand. A phenomenological research design was used with each mother sending her breast-feeding story to the researchers via the Internet. Based on content analysis, eight themes emerged about whether mothers' breast-feeding attempts were promoted or impeded. These themes included (a) proving oneself as a mother: sheer determination to succeed, (b) making up for an awful arrival, i.e, atoning to the baby, (c) helping to heal mentally: time-out from the pain in one's head, (d) just one more thing to be violated: mothers' breasts, (e) enduring the physical pain: seeming at times an insurmountable ordeal, (f) dangerous mix: birth trauma and insufficient milk supply, (g) intruding flashbacks: stealing anticipated joy, and (h) disturbing detachment: an empty affair. The researchers concluded that the impact of birth trauma on mothers' breast-feeding experiences can lead women down two strikingly different paths. One path can propel women into persevering in breast-feeding, whereas the other path can lead to distressing impediments that curtailed women's breast-feeding attempts.  The research implications are discussed in terms of potential intervention strategies to help traumatized mothers care for their newborn infants more effectively.

Click here for the abstract.

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