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Breastfeeding Trauma: How Can We Recognise and Support Mothers Who Wanted to Breastfeed but Were Unable to Meet Their Goals?

by Amy Brown, PhD, Professor
  • Duration: 60 Mins
  • Credits: 1 CERP, 1 L-CERP
  • Handout: No
Abstract:

It is recognised that women can experience feelings of guilt, unhappiness and anger when they cannot meet their breastfeeding goals. Breastfeeding difficulties leading to early cessation are a risk factor for postnatal depression. However research has not previoulsy examined these feelings of loss and distress in relation to clinical models of trauma.

From a research study exploring the experiences of over 3000 women who stopped breastfeeding before they were ready and held negative emotions around this decision, I argue that a subset of these women are displaying symptoms of clinical trauma in relation to their experience. The trauma stems from physical experiences of a difficult breastfeeding experience, but also the loss of a much desired breastfeeding relationship. The combinaton of these events leave the individual traumatised and understandably reactive to the topic of breastfeeding.

Trauma models identify numerous emotions and behaviours that individuals typically display when they have been traumatised by an event. These include recurrent distressing recollections of the events, intense psychological distress at exposure toreminders of the event and efforts to avoind thoughts, feelings or activities that remind one of the event. This talk will identify how these symptoms are present in the experience of some women who have been unable to breastfeed and draw on suggestions from women as to how we may move forward from this, in order to both promote breastfeeding and support those who are unable to do so.


Learning Objectives:

Objective 1: To examine the wider psychological concept of trauma;

Objective 2: To understand how women feel when they want to breastfeed but cannot;

Objective 3: To consider how women's experiences of not being able to breastfeed fit trauma theory;

Objective 4: To explore how women experiencing breastfeeding trauma can best be supported.