We do not live in a perfect world. Many new mothers have experienced abuse and adversity as children. They want to be good mothers. But they often wonder whether they will perpetuate the cycle of violence that they have experienced. They may also have a history of depression and wonder whether this has harmed their children. Fortunately, we can offer new mothers hope. Recent studies have found that breastfeeding helps mothers mother—even when there is a history of abuse. It not about the milk; it’s the physical act of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding improves maternal sleep, lowers the risk of depression, lessens anger and irritability, and even attenuates the negative effects of past sexual assault. Breastfeeding protects babies when their mothers are depressed and is associated with better children’s mental health up to age 14. Because mothers must be responsive to their babies, breastfeeding promotes secure attachments, which has lifetime implications for babies’ health. Breastfeeding mothers are less likely to physically abuse or neglect their children. And if a mother has a history of sexual abuse or assault, breastfeeding attenuates (lessens) the impact of sexual assault/abuse on sleep, depression, anxiety, and anger or irritability. Breastfeeding offers mothers a chance to do things differently—to be a different kind of parent. When it comes to overcoming adversity and stopping the intergenerational cycle of violence, breastfeeding makes all the difference.
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- Understand breastfeeding’s role in protecting infants from the harmful effects of maternal depression.
- Describe the importance of maternal responsivity to long-term health for the baby.
- Describe the role of breastfeeding in lessening the impact of the mother’s previous sexual assault.
Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a health psychologist and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and the Owner and Editor-in-Chief of Praeclarus Press, a small press specializing in women’s health. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is Editor-in-Chief of two peer-reviewed journals: Clinical Lactation and Psychological Trauma. She is Fellow of the American Psychological Association in Health and Trauma Psychology, Past President of the APA Division of Trauma Psychology, and a member of the APA’s Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest. Dr. Kendall-Tackett specializes in women’s-health research including breastfeeding, depression, trauma, and health psychology, and has won many awards for her work including the 2017 President’s Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Trauma Psychology from the American Psychological Association’s Division of Trauma Psychology. Dr. Kendall-Tackett has authored more than 420 articles or chapters, and is author or editor of 35 books. Her most recent books include: Depression in New Mothers, 3rd Edition (2017, Routledge UK), Women’s Mental Health Across the Lifespan (2017, Routledge US, with Lesia Ruglass), The Phantom of the Opera: A Social History of the World’s Most Popular Musical (2018, Praeclarus), Psychology of Trauma 101 (2015, Springer, with Lesia Ruglass) and The Science of Mother-Infant Sleep (2014, Praeclarus, with Wendy Middlemiss). Her websites are UppityScienceChick.com, BreastfeedingMadeSimple.com, KathleenKendall-Tackett.com, and PraeclarusPress.com.
Google Scholar link: http://bit.ly/1nSwWIW