Women who stop breastfeeding are more likely to be abused. Researchers recommend WHAT??!!

Mutilated women

I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t read it with my own eyes.

Past and recent abuse is associated with early cessation of breast feeding: results from a large prospective cohort in Norway was recently published in BMJ Open. The authors made an important observation:

Nearly all women initiated breast feeding, but 12.1% ceased any breast feeding before 4 months and 38.9% ceased full breast feeding before 4 months, but continued partial breast feeding. Overall, 19% of the women reported any adult abuse and 18% reported any child abuse. The highest risk of any breast feeding cessation before 4 months was seen in women exposed to three types of adult abuse (emotional, sexual or physical), with adjusted OR being 1.47 (95% CI 1.23 to 1.76) compared with no abuse. Recent abuse and exposure from known perpetrator resulted in nearly 40% and 30% increased risk, respectively. The OR of any breast feeding cessation for women exposed to any child abuse was 1.41 (95% CI 1.32 to 1.50) compared with no abuse in childhood.

Cessation of breastfeeding appears to be associated with emotional, sexual or physical abuse of the mother.

Women should NOT be treated as merely breastmilk dispensers.

I don’t know how domestic abuse is handled in Norway, but here in the US, I was trained to looked for and ask about domestic abuse and if I suspected it, to offer comprehensive services to aid women in stopping, leaving and prosecuting the abuse. That approach reflects the belief that every woman deserves to live free of violence and abuse.

Astoundingly, that’s NOT what the authors recommend.

They understand what they observed:

The main finding in our study was that exposure to past and recent abuse was strongly associated with early cessation of any breast feeding. The strongest effect was seen for women exposed to three types of abuse (sexual, physical and emotional), with nearly 50% increased adjusted ORs of any breastfeeding cessation before 4 months compared to the non-exposed women. Recent abuse and exposure from known perpetrator resulted in nearly 40% and 30% increased risk of any breastfeeding cessation before 4 months, respectively. Women who reported a history of child abuse were more likely to stop breast feeding before 4 months than women who had not experienced child abuse…

But their utterly inappropriate conclusion is chilling in its disregard for women’s well being. The authors appear to view women like dairy cows, as sources of milk, but not as individuals worthy of physical and psychological support:

… Given the convincing evidence of the beneficial effects of breast feeding both for the mother and the infant, it is crucial to promote high breastfeeding rates. Mothers with a history of past or recent abuse comprise a key group to target for extra support and breastfeeding assistance.

Actually, the authors treat women worse than cows. If farmers found that their animals produced less milk when abused, they would move with alacrity to stop the abuse.

The idea that women who stop breastfeeding because of emotional, sexual or physical abuse should be treated with breastfeeding support is unspeakably ugly. The benefits of breastfeeding for term infants in Norway is trivial, perhaps a few less infants colds and episodes of diarrhea. The harms to women from emotional, sexual or physical abuse are monstrous. The authors’ conclusion that it is more important to support abused women to breastfeed longer rather than to support them in ending the abuse is both profoundly misogynistic and utterly grotesque.

It is an indication of just how far lactivists have strayed from human decency in promoting breastfeeding. Women are not cows. Their primary value to their children is NOT as milk dispensers. Their primary value to society is NOT as milk dispensers. They should not be treated worse than cows.

When women stop breastfeeding because of emotional, sexual or physical abuse, it is the ABUSE that should be targeted, NOT the breastfeeding!

I’m very cynical when it comes to the lactivism industry, but even I would have thought that lactivists would not need to be told that a woman’s right to live unabused is more important than a baby’s need for breastmilk. I was wrong. If anything, lactivism is even uglier than I had thought.

  • Carrie Green

    Thanks for sharing this article. I have been also referring to https://www.whattoexpect.com/getting-pregnant/ for everything related to pregnancy and babies, and it is quite useful. Hope this helps your readers as well.

  • very sad

  • canaduck

    “If farmers found that their animals produced less milk when abused, they would move with alacrity to stop the abuse.”

    I know this isn’t actually the point of this (excellent) article, but I have to point out that rampant abuse IS pretty much part and parcel of the great majority of the dairy industry now. The cows’ milk output isn’t negatively affected (at least not enough to cut into the farms’ profit margins) because of the routine use of hormones, specialized feed, and lots of breeding to ensure that they lactate far more than they would normally. The cows live four or five years (out of an average 15-20 year lifespan) and are so exhausted from the cycle of constant pregnancy, birth, and milkings that they’re no longer producing at maximum output, so they’re sent to slaughter and sold for cheap meat–hamburger, for example.

    Now, back to the lactivists…!

  • I Dominguez-Urban

    18% reported child abuse!?! Did they recommend more breastfeeding then also rather than getting mom and babe to a safe place?

    Did it occur to them that breastfeeding is more likely to stop because stress affects milk production, or that a a mother in the middle of breastfeeding is physically more vulnerable because she is less mobile?

    Also, breastfeeding takes a lot out of you physically; if your body needs energy to heal, it can’t devote the needed energy to breast feed -and vice versa.

  • Gatita
    • demodocus

      That looks uncomfortable. And chilly

      • Roadstergal

        Given the amount of makeup, degree of eyebrow sculpt, and jewelry, comfort is very low on her list of priorities.

        She’d better leave a really big tip.

      • Gatita

        I keep fixating on the diamonds pressing into the back of the baby’s head. Ouch…

        • Roadstergal

          “Commit to something, even if it’s just giving your kid some bumpy red welts.”

        • Who?

          Oh I think we all know they are big, not-so-gorgeous fakes.

          Your broader point stands, though.

  • Maria Shevtsova

    You might be intrested in reading the article regarding stopping breastfeeding. Feel free to leave comments:) http://motherhow.com/breastfeeding-when-is-it-necessary-to-stop/

    • Amazed

      You should be ashamed of the untruths you’re spreading. I only glimpsed at this article since I was more interested in the one where you “debunked” breastfeeding “myths” but that second one was enough to know you’re dangerous. No wonder you’re so uninformed since a MD isn’t among the degrees you so proudly display on your page. Are you sure you aren’t a LC? Only a LC would recommend starving a child because “almost every mother” has enough milk.

    • guest

      I read enough bad writing as part of my job. Why would I want to read more?

  • Cecilia

    This paper was probably misunderstood because of cultural differences
    in Norway help for abused women is taken for granted.
    What they are saying is that breastfeeding assistance should be added to the normal help abused women get.
    Abused is looked for in every OB/ped visit and aggressively treated in Norway. They use vast resources to help women in those cases.
    The authors probably did not specify because they take it for granted.

    • Young CC Prof

      OK, great, but it still seems like the wrong question. If women with a history of abuse find breastfeeding very emotionally distressing, maybe they don’t need “support” to help them continue, maybe they need to be supported in the decision to stop. Or, maybe the woman lacks family because she’s cut off contact with an abusive partner or abusive family of origin, and quit breastfeeding because she finds the logistical demands of parenthood overwhelming. Maybe the process of leaving resulted in quitting.

      Rather than just say that women with a history of abuse need breastfeeding support, you’ve got to look at WHY that group is more likely to quit, IF they should be encouraged to continue, and WHAT would actually be helpful. Nursing cheerleading is rarely helpful.

    • Amazed

      Even so, the way the paper was presented doesn’t look like a study meant to help women in any way at all. It sounds a lot like my conversations with my internet/phone/whatever provider when I go to their office with the intent to terminate my contract with them. They start prodding and asking questions. I explain why I am dissatistied with their service. They try to offer me another plan. I say I am not interested and please, could we go on with the termination? Their answer is, “Yes, of course, but you should really hear that…” After a few such exchanges in ten minutes, I lose my temper and tell them, quite rudely, that I am not interested in their various suggestions to better their service for me. I want to be free of their service!

      The same here. No reason for any scientist in a first world country to suggest that women in a first world country who want to stop breastfeeding be offered advice on how to keep breastfeeding. I know it’s a shock to many but we lil’ ladies have those things called heads for a reason… and it ain’t to be patted on them and swayed away from that bizarre thing called our decision for our own good.

      • guest

        This. If a woman says she wants to stop, then the only support that should be offered is support with STOPPING.

    • Daleth

      These women are getting their children out of an abusive home, and they’re being guilt tripped for stopping breastfeeding? Holy shit, NO. Commend them for the difficult things they’re doing and let them feed their babies however best works for them. Getting the kid to safety matters 1000x more than breastfeeding.

    • KarenJJ

      The person I know that went through an abusive and controlling relationship, her husband controlled when her baby was weaned. He said the baby was taking too much of her and that the baby should now wean and sent her off on a walk while the baby screamed. It sounds so straightforward that someone might wonder why she walked and let baby wean but there was a lot of manipulation leading up to that about “his (husband’s) needs” and “it’s for the best” and how he is a “good father” etc etc.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        Note the gaslighting “concern” about how the baby was “taking too much of her”.

    • Linden

      There is no guarantee in *any* country on this good earth that an abused mother is going to be given the help she needs.

    • Roadstergal

      Norway is a very affluent country with universal health care and low poverty. If there is any country where the kids are going to have good outcomes no matter how you feed them, that one is definitely near the top.

  • Deborah

    If he picks a fight with you while you are breastfeeding, tell him to go away. If that doesn’t work and he tries to punch you, offer the side you are not breastfeeding on. If that still doesn’t work get up and leave the room while trying to keep baby attached if you can. If he follows you, go outside. If he chases you, scream and try and make a run for it taking careful steps to ensure baby remains latched. When you get further enough away, sit down comfortably, sing a soft lullaby to your child and resume breastfeeding where you left off. Easy peasy.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Okay, this creeps me out because it sounds exactly like the sort of advice that a lactivist would give to an abused mother. Except that they’d probably advise appeasing a bit more and imply that if you fight with your husband while breastfeeding it’s your own fault because you didn’t keep him calm enough.

      • Roadstergal

        “Angry voices during nursing raise a baby’s cortisol and lead to an increased risk of obesity, asthma, and diabetes. We recognize that sometimes it’s difficult, but if you love your baby enough to put in that extra effort, they’ll love you in return.”

      • Deborah

        I don’t really think that anyone, even the staunchest breastfeeding advocate would give this kind of advice. I certainly hope not anyway! But my jaded mind was trying to picture just what form this “breastfeeding support and assistance” would take.
        I wanted to show the absolute vulnerability of the breastfeeding mother, how oppressive domestic violence is, how difficult it is for the mother of a newborn to protect herself, and how easy it is for researchers, from the lofty heights of academia, to completely lose sight of the main issue and focus on the minor one – that successful breastfeeding is the goal and not a life free of abuse.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          Oh, I know it’s satire. It’s just uncomfortably good satire. You got the feel exactly right.

  • sdsures

    @AmyTuteur:disqus

    “The idea that women who stop breastfeeding because of emotional, sexual or physical abuse should be treated with breastfeeding support is unspeakably ugly.”

    Could you please explain this sentence a bit more? I’m having trouble understanding it (migraine meds, brain fog). Thanks in advance.

    • Eater of Worlds

      My understanding is that last these women need is breastfeeding support while they are being raped, beaten, and psychologically abused. They have far more pressing needs than to be told they need to breastfeed.

    • Blue Chocobo

      The treatment for abuse is not breastfeeding support.

      It’s intervention, protection, stabilization, recovery, and addressing addressable risk factors.

      To look at an abused person and see them first for the value of their mammary gland function is, indeed, unspeakably ugly.

    • swbarnes2

      Abused women are probably more likely to drop their hobbies as well. But if Michael’s put out a memo telling salespeople to approach women with black eyes with fliers about local knitting circles and upcoming crafting classes, I think people would think that pretty callous…and Michael’s employees are supposed to be selling things, LC’s are supposed to be quasi-health care workers, which means thinking of the welfare of women beyond their need to consume the service that the LC specializes in providing.

  • Tosca

    I first thought someone was saying women were more likely to be abused if they stopped breastfeeding “early”. Sad that I can think the lactivists are that crazy and it’s not even unrealistic.

  • It is interesting that this study comes from Norway, a country of barely 4 million, with little or no poverty, and high education rates. Just an observation.

  • lilin

    Well. That’s awful.

  • Dr. W

    The other thing is that this paper reeks or data mining. I have a hard time believing this was the premise at the start of the study. Maybe they were studying how domestic abuses affects breastfeeding. I think they had a bunch of data, the first paper idea did not pan out, and they just started sifting through, looking for a spicy meatball of correlation. Find one weird thing, make it a title, and away we go.

    • Linden

      This was my first impression too.
      “Let’s get a paper out of this! What, our initial hypothesis didn’t pan out? Hey, there’s this correlation. Let’s suggest any old rubbish as a conclusion.”

  • fiftyfifty1

    Just what abused women need. More gaslighting dressed up as support.

  • Dr Kitty

    It is just all the wrong answers to all the wrong questions.
    WHY do these particular women have lower rates of BF?
    Is BF something that these women want to do, but stop early because of lack of support, or do they stop breastfeeding for reasons of safety, mental health preservation or wanting to exercise bodily autonomy?

    Dr T, I know you know that the BMJ has a rapid response feature…I’m hoping you sent a nice one.

  • theadequatemother

    FFS. That’s all I can manage in response to this study.

  • SarahSD

    Eye roll. How about
    “Given the evidence of the small beneficial effects of breast
    feeding both for the mother and the infant, it is not crucial to promote
    high breastfeeding rates. Instead, mothers with a history of past or recent abuse who wish to breastfeed may need extra support and breastfeeding
    assistance.”

  • Dr. W

    Congratulations, you found poverty…. again, one of the great confounders. Poor women are less likely to be able to have the time for breast feeding AND are more likely to be the victims of violence. You found a group that has two, otherwise unrelated issues. Coffee drinkers have higher rates of lung cancer, because coffee drinkers are a little more likely to smoke. Coffee does not cause lung cancer, cigs are a confounder. Some people are crappy at science.

    • swbarnes2

      They don’t seem to have included income in the questions they asked. They did ask about education, they report that abuse is more common when the mother has >4 years of college (25.7%) than is shes has 0-4 years of college (16.6%). Does that make sense?

      • Dr. W

        Education and money often correlate. Any medical study that does take income into account is generally cruising for a bruising. One of the first rules of medicine: poverty is bad for you.

        • Inmara

          I suspect that income as a confounding factor would show different patterns in Norway than in US where correlation “low income->formula feeding” is quite straightforward. I’m not familiar with Norwegian social welfare system in particular but it could very well be that for low income women it’s more feasible to stay at home with children and receive social benefits than to return into workforce. Leaving income outside of analysis is a sloppy approach, of course.

          • Blue Chocobo

            Excellent point. We shouldn’t unthinkingly assume the US correlation between breastfeeding rates and particular environmental stressors exists elsewhere.

          • Sarah

            Although they do in several other developed societies.

    • guest

      I don’t know if we can immediately say these are confounding factors. I’ve read stories from a number of women who say that their past sexual abuse is the very reason they *do not* want to breast feed, often due to PTSD flashback experiences.

      That’s not to say that poverty doesn’t also have an affect on breastfeeding rates, and likely a larger effect, but I don’t think this information is irrelevant. My response to someone who tells me they get flashbacks to their abuse when they breastfeed isn’t going to be “Here, let me help you put that boob in the baby’s mouth,” though.

  • Anne Catherine

    Ii have read quite a few studies a breastfeeding and this is pretty much standard. Any study that finds that women have trouble breastfeeding for any reason (latch/pain/supply emotional/physical problems/etc), the conclusion almost always is more ‘support is needed’.
    As we all know, those in the BF community refuse to think that there can be
    any legitimate reason to feed formula.
    Ugh..this drives me crazy!!

    • Young CC Prof

      Someone is going to get a letter about that inanity. “Breastfeeding takes nothing from the environment.” Really? Let me introduce you to the first law of thermodynamics…

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Someone needs a lesson in the difference between correlation and causation.

    • PrimaryCareDoc

      That document is insane. And so wrong.

  • mostlyclueless

    Are you fucking kidding me? Any other academics here feel motivated to write a letter to the editor on this one?

  • CharlotteB

    I haven’t read the study, but:

    Playing devil’s advocate: IF they are talking about women who were abused in the past (but who are away from their abuser) and who WANT to breastfeed, but who aren’t starting or who are stopping because breastfeeding is triggering in some way, then sure, emotional/breastfeeding support could be helpful.
    I can see where an abuse survivor, even knowing that the benefits of breastfeeding are trivial, *could* have the attitude that their abuser wasn’t going to take one more choice away from them or continue to dictate their behavior. For this woman, if an LC or doctor was dismissive of her desire, I can see where that would be upsetting.

    Otherwise:

    I was in an emotionally abusive relationship in my early 20s, and one of the things I worked on in therapy was creating boundaries, learning to be assertive, learning I had value and worth, etc. One side effect of that is that I will cling pretty tightly to boundaries, so I can see where an abuse survivor *might* be better able to cease breastfeeding if it wasn’t working for her due to her increased ability to identify feelings, emotions, etc. etc.

    But yeah, Women are not cows, and this idea that everything can be gotten over with ‘support’ is such BS, plus the dismissal of women’s experiences of abuse??? It’s rage-inducing.

    • swbarnes2

      I think women who are triggered by breastfeeding would probably need specialized counseling, and the article should have concluded “we need to train LCs to look for and recognize special cases like that, and train them in techniques in dealing with those women, and train LCs in refering women to other resources which can help them” if that was the intent. As written, it sounds like the authors are recommending that LCs troll women’s shelters and abuse support groups looking for clients.

      • Roadstergal

        I can’t help but see a parallel in sexual relationships – women who have been abused can struggle more with those. But this paper’s approach… it’s like saying that instead of giving counseling focusing on their abuse and as a part of that, helping women to achieve their relationship goals, whether it’s with different approaches to penetrative sex, enjoying non-penetrative sex, or pursuing non-sexual relationships – they say the goal is to get every abused woman to have penetrative sex.

        I could see “abused women struggle with breastfeeding, so new/expecting mothers with a history of abuse should have counseling which includes support in achieving the goal of a healthy infant, with whatever feeding practices work best for them.” But that’s not gonna happen.

    • Erin

      I found breastfeeding really triggering, I managed 3 months of exclusive breastfeeding and it almost killed me. I was told by health professional after health professional that if I kept at it, I’d desensitize and didn’t I want to do the best for my baby… plus and this was the main one.. they said it would help me bond which I felt I desperately needed to do.

      It didn’t, I just got even more emotional and resentful but my driving motivation to breastfeed in the first place despite having had flashbacks to being raped during my son’s arrival was definitely the burning desire not to let that bastard effect any more of my life than he already had. Then of course the realization that I couldn’t change how I felt about my breasts or breastfeeding and that he had essentially won definitely helped my mental disintegration.

      From my experience with support groups etc, I think we all deal differently and this is another case where women need to be viewed as individuals. I don’t know about you, but if someone sat me down and said I needed more support because I’d been a victim and thus was more likely to make bad choices (which seems to be pretty much what the study is saying), I’d probably resort to some choice Anglo-Saxon and walk out.

      When I was discharged from hospital they asked me if I was a victim of domestic violence in front of both my husband and my Mother-in-Law. Guess that’s what they call “going through the motions”.

      • AllieFoyle

        I worry about the real world implications of this kind of research. Does it just become another check box on a form? Once you’ve identified that someone has experienced abuse, then what? What does “support” actually look like? I’m afraid that it just becomes a way to identify and stigmatize women who’ve been unlucky enough to have had these bad experiences, and that “support” will be defined as more frequent or fervent admonitions to breastfeed.

        • Erin

          That was my feeling too. I got asked after my son’s delivery why I hadn’t been more forthcoming about the rape during the ante-natal period and the primary reason was the fact that I felt I’d dealt with it (until of course it turned out I hadn’t). However a secondary reason was definitely the fact that I hate what happens when I do tell people. There is a brief moment as they digest it, then their faces change and they tell you how sorry they are and suddenly they don’t see YOU, they see what happened to you and I refuse to let the world see me through his eyes. I’m not a victim, I don’t even like the word “survivor”, I’m me, yes I have scars but they do not define me.

          Support needs to be individually tailored and certainly in my case (and probably in many others), it’s support from a psychologist I needed not a midwife or a lactation consultant. If I have another baby, I would like with the proper support to try breastfeeding again but I won’t be making my mind up until I’m holding the baby, nor will I be discussing my feeding intentions and being in the UK, I’ll have formula in my bags just in case.

          • Blue Chocobo

            Sick of “You’re doing so great for all you’ve been through!” ?

            I know I am. For me, it comes across as patronizing, dismissive, infantilizing, insincere, disrespectful, and a real slap in the face. And I’m “supposed” to be grateful for the “compliment” or risk being the bitter bitch.

            I am more than a summary of events. The past may throw shadows into the present, but those are far from the only feature in the landscape.

          • BeatriceC

            I know the feeling on that one. My life is, um, complicated. That’s the word I’ll use. I could never really put my finger on why I disliked that “compliment”. I think you’ve nailed it.

          • demodocus

            My husband gets a variation of this fairly regularly, less about his sexual assault (which doesn’t often come up) as about his blindness. “You do so much with so little” Ugh. His maternal grandmother was *always* saying this. I thought she was off her gourd.
            My variation to make him laugh adds “common sense” to the end. (he’s one of those really bright guys who is a little clueless.)

          • Eater of Worlds

            I just came to post this! In my case it’s deafness, but the inspiration porn is the same.

          • demodocus

            Oh, yes, the inspiration porn. Ughh. Helen Keller was a remarkable person, yes, but all you ever hear about is “The Miracle Worker”.
            And then there’s all the “You should meet Jane Doe. She’s also blind.” Why?

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            Yeah, if you just look at the basic popular narrative of Helen Keller’s life you’d never guess that she was a political activist and author. She’s always presented as just a handicapped child who “overcame” her disabilities, not as a person with her own thoughts and actions.

          • Tiffany Aching

            I’ve listened to many, many sexual abuse victims (for a documentary I did) and A LOT of them feel exactly the same way. One told me that she felt completely trapped in a “victim” identity, and at the same time found it difficult to be recognized as a victim of this precise act. When she said “I was raped, it was horrible and very traumatizing, but now I’m ok, I have a romantic partner, I’m finishing my PhD”, people automatically assumed that it couldn’t have been so bad (it was, believe me) because she was doing fine now. Or they assumed that she was lying to herself and was really completely shattered inside. Another told me “People see me as damaged goods, and think it is compassionate”. We still have to work hard collectively to remove the shame that is attached to sexual abuse victims.

          • Dr Kitty

            More than 10% of people have experienced some form of abuse.
            Most are functional and living their lives because they have found a way to cope.
            That isn’t to say that their experiences aren’t horrific and traumatic and awful, but the narrative that someone *must* be forever broken is pervasive and wrong.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            More than 10% of people have experienced some form of abuse.

            That low?

          • Erin

            100 percent yes! The Midwife who did my debrief told me I “was amazing and so brave and strong” for coming back to the hospital let alone contemplating another child. I asked if she said that to all women who had emergency sections she said no, so I asked if she said to that all women who had traumatic births and she said no so I asked why say it to me… she stuttered for a bit and then changed the subject. It gave me a childish moment of pleasure then I felt guilty :/

          • Charybdis

            That’s why precious few people know the depths and breadth of my abuse. Because, looking back, I wonder myself how the bloody hell I wound up in my situation. He never actually hauled off and hit me, physically, because I’m pretty sure he knew I would not put up with that. So that makes the mental, emotional, financial and sexual abuse he did perpetrate. When filling out the paperwork for my annulment, I had to go into great detail about everything and reliving/rehashing everything was both re-traumatizing and cathartic at the same time. A good deal of therapy and medication helped as well.
            I take a bit of comfort in the fact that it started when I was pretty young (17 years old), he was older and had a background in military intelligence, so he was well versed in psychological manipulation. He sucked 11 years out of my life and left a lot of scars and tatters to my psyche.. But that was one part of my life and I don’t define myself by it. It happened, it sucked on ice, I got out and got better. It does not define me. It affects me some, still to this day, but you don’t get to be a grown-up without collecting some scars.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            That’s what a lot of people don’t understand about abuse, especially the kind of controlling, emotional and psychological abuse that doesn’t involve hitting. My older sister married young(21) and married on the rebound. He seemed at 27 like the “adult, stable settled” option after she broke up with her boyfriend of several years.
            I learned from her after the divorce (ten years later) that he slowly took control of every aspect of her life, from what she wore,who she could be friends with, to getting her to wear contacts(she has dry eyes , contacts are painful), to expecting her to keep the house completely spotless even though she worked full time and they had 2 kids under 3. Unfortunately I was stationed a long way away and almost never came home, I gradually understood something was wrong because she looked miserable in every photo I saw of her from that time….
            However when she finally just took the kids and left him and filled for a divorce my mother took his side and berated my sister to go back to him because he was such a good catch…scary when the people who are supposed to help you turn on you. But these types of controlling men are very good at gas-lighting you until no one believes you…

          • Who?

            Because I’ve had an easy life and I honestly don’t know how some people get out of bed in the morning, I have told people that I really admire the life they are leading considering what they have gone through.

            Not intended as a compliment, but a bald statement of fact from my perspective.

            I will mind my comments in future.

          • Blue Chocobo

            You are a fantastic human being. Not because you always say just the right thing (see: HUMAN being), but because you care about people for their own sake and want to avoid causing needless pain. Because your impulse in response to information about a potential impact you may have on others is to consider it without bias, to aim consciously and conscientiously do right by people.

            Thank you for doing your part to #normalizedecency.

      • CharlotteB

        Wow, asking in front of your husband and mother in law???

        I’ve had mixed experiences–once I went to an OB/GYN’s office where every woman was taken back behind closed doors and asked about abuse, and only then were any partners or family members allowed back with her. I thought that was good.

        Conversely, I ended up in the ER once because I’d cut my face open. I mentioned to my husband that he should be prepared to be asked to wait outside the room and that he and/or I were likely to be questioned about abuse. But no–never mind that my story–that I’d cut my face because I’d fainted while on the toilet, fallen off, and my broken glasses had cut my face–IS a little weird.

        • Roadstergal

          I once ACTUALLY DID get a black eye from walking into a door (well, winging a doorjamb) in the middle of the night.

    • Young CC Prof

      “Support” is some sort of magic word in breastfeeding circles. Any obstacle can be overcome with the right support, and any breastfeeding relationship that didn’t work out lacked support. In practice, this support mostly seems to involve cheerleading.

      • fiftyfifty1

        “Cheerleeding” ? Is this the new word for hectoring?

        • Young CC Prof

          “Nursing! Nursing! That’s our plan! If boobs won’t do it, nothing can! Woo, nursing!”

          • fiftyfifty1

            Give us an F, give us an A, give us an I, give us an L, give us a U, give us an R, give us an E. Give us a T, give us an O. Give us a T, give us an H, give us an R, give us an I, give us a V, give us an E!

            What does that spell?!:

            IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD! YAY! YAY! IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD!

          • Nick Sanders

            Fai luret othri ve?

    • RMY

      Part of my issue with this is what does “support” even look like? Is it counselling to deal with triggers? I’d be all for that. If it’s saying that lactation consultants should nag all abuse victims, I have a problem. It sounds like it lumps in past victims of abuse who want to breast feed with useful tools to help them achieve their goals with potentially current victims of abuse who may be transitioning to formula as part of a bigger scheme to gain independence and escape the abuse.

    • SF Mom & Psychologist

      By “emotional support,” I assume you mean effective treatment for PTSD/trauma symptoms. This has nothing to do with “breastfeeding support,” which in itself increase traumatic symptoms in the absence of effective treatment. We should not confuse these kinds of “support” for being equivalents.

      • CharlotteB

        Absolutely. I meant emotional support in the sense of appropriate mental health care.

      • SporkParade

        Yeah, but then we’re in a very icky area where we believe in providing mental health care to female abuse victims solely because we want to get them in shape to breastfeed as opposed to, y’know, because they are people are deserve to be in good mental health.

  • Taysha

    Sigh.
    Abused women don’t breastfeed.

    My immediate reaction: offer support to abused mothers. Remove them from abuse situation (if applicable). Poor women must be suffering horribly. Has anyone asked these women about PPD? Are they looking after them?
    Lactivism: moar breastfeeding!

    Excuse me while I bang my head against a wall and see if it makes sense.

    • Sean Jungian

      Don’t lactivists claim that EBF wards off PPD? So…yeah, more breastfeeding! This whole thing is nauseating.

  • swbarnes2

    Don’t you think that some number of women going to an LC are doing so because breastfeeding is not working for them, and they would like to stop, but their abusive partner is insisting that they are a worthless mother and worthless woman if they don’t MAKE MORE MILK! Seems like a paper about breastfeeding and abuse ought to be highlighting THAT possibility. And it might be a little out of the scope of this particular paper, but it has to occasionally happen that it’s the lactating partner doing the abusing, and the other one who needs to be told that formula + getting out of an abusive situation is FAR better than breastmilk in an abusive household.

    • CharlotteB

      Although normally I’m of the opinion that parents should have an equal say in how they raise children, this is one area where I’m…not. Mom doesn’t want to breastfeed? Partner wants her too? Too bad. They’re her boobs. He/she doesn’t actually have a say.

      • BeatriceC

        I think that Dad has the right to have an opinion, and should be given the respect of an honest discussion (assuming he’s not pressuring or otherwise being a douche bag), but I do agree that the final decision belongs to the person who’s boobs are about to become a milk bar.

        • Haelmoon

          My husband and I had the opposite. I wanted to keep breastfeeding (actually pumping because I was working and he is the stay at home parent). He hid my pump to get me to stop. We had to new of milk in the fridge and he thought it was silly to waste time pumping when I could be playing with the kids (number three at the time) or sleeping (medical resident at the time). Nicest thing he has ever done for me. It was so freeing and he completely removed any possible guilt I might have by taking responsibility for the decision.

        • Sarah

          I suppose that depends on what you mean by an honest discussion.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          Agreed!
          The way I see it is this: Mom has the first and final say, but Dad can offer input. For example, Mom might not want to breastfeed because that generally implies that she’ll have all the nighttime duty–not fun or fair. Dad might say, “Okay, I can definitely see your concern there. How would you feel about it if I did all the nighttime stuff except actually nursing: got baby, brought him to you, took him afterwards, changed him and got him back to sleep?” Now, that shouldn’t force Mom to change her mind, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong at all with Dad making the offer or Mom reconsidering BFing in light of that offer.
          (Hell, I loathed nursing kiddo #1 and don’t plan on even trying with kiddo #2, but if DH made that offer, I’d at least think about giving it a shot.)

    • Anne Catherine

      I’ve seen this pressure to breastfeed (not necessarily abusive)…from husbands/grandparents etc…. And it is heartbreaking…

      But…if the husband, boyfriend/mother-in-law thinks that the BF problems are in the mothers head and great harm will befall the baby if she/he has a bottle,(which is the lactivists fault)–I guess I can see where this comes from.

      • demodocus

        to paraphrase Dumbledore, just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean it’s not real

    • Gatita

      Another possibility is the man demanding breastfeeding stop because he wants exclusive access to his wife’s body. The book A Social History of Breastfeeding in America describes women sending their children to wet nurses because their husbands want to resume sexual relations, which was forbidden to nursing women.

      • Or the men are anxious that their wives should be encumbered with another pregnancy as soon as possible in order to keep them dependent on their husbands, in the house, and more easily controlled. I’ve seen it in my career. In certain cultures it is the husband’s mother who eggs her son on to make sure her daughter-in-law has no reason to go “gallivanting around”. Not infrequently the MIL deliberately assumes care for the newest baby so the mother can become the always accessible, unpaid house slave. The MIL makes it clear that she, having raised children before, is more “experienced ” and the daughter-in-law can do the scrubbing. The son (husband) almost always agrees with his mother, even in societies where the males are technically in complete charge.
        It happened to my own Iraqi MIL, and the result was 14 pregnancies in 17 years (4 miscarriages). She actually never raised any of her own children until they arrived in Israel.

        • Gatita

          That’s awful. Your poor MIL.

          • Two of her pregnancies resulted in two sets of twins, one fraternal, one identical. My husband is one of the identical twins.

            But within the culture, it was very common: betrothed at puberty, married after menarche, first baby a year later…only death or menopause stopped the cycle. Even today, in Israel, it is common for Arab women to have “completed” their families [average number of children is about 5, although, the number is dropping as the girls are staying in school longer] by age 25. And, in both Arab and haredi societies, childlessness is regarded as a terribly tragic fate for a woman. I’ve seen it in other cultures, too.

            We take a lot for granted in our Western, developed world.

          • SporkParade

            True story: When I went to the Rabbinate to pick up my marriage certificate after my wedding, there was a middle-aged man there yelling at the marriage registrars. He had brought his mother’s ketubah (marriage license) as proof of Judaism so he could have a Jewish wedding, and they wouldn’t accept it as valid. The reason? His mother had gotten married illegally at age 14.

          • Depends on the background and when. In the Fifties, especially, Jewish families were arriving from Islamic countries where child, and multiple, marriage was still common. Laws were passed, making marriage of a second or third wife in Israel while the first marriage was still valid, illegal. (Except for Muslims) The age of consent was declared to be 17; girls married outside of Israel at a younger age were recognized as legal, however.

            It is rare to come across this problem in the Jewish sector today, although I think “arrangements ” still occur in some Arab families.

            Apparently, “kidnapping” the bide is a time-honored Georgian Custom. Some years ago there was a scandal when the groom “kidnapped” his willing but underage bride, but her parents were unhappy with the symbolic bride price he offered them, and had him charged with statutory rape. In some Haredi communities, especially when the children of prominent rabbis are involved, the “betrothal ” happens in childhood but the marriage only takes place when the girl is of age.

  • swbarnes2

    Some of the data in that paper seemed weird, they claimed a significant difference in abuse between vaginal births and C-sections?

    • Roadstergal

      I’d sure hope that women who want C-sections because of abuse are having their wishes honored…

  • MaineJen

    I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they meant “given support for breastfeeding ONLY AFTER they and their children are removed from the abusive situation.” Not that I think breastfeeding support would come very high on the list of priorities for a woman in that situation. But they couldn’t possibly mean to ignore the abuse and just continue to support/encourage breastfeeding? Could they? Or did I miss a line?

    • Mattie

      I figured they meant this, it’s still gross but I don’t think they mean ‘provide breastfeeding support’ instead of abuse support =/

  • Madtowngirl

    Holy crap. This is another terrible example if how publishing a study doesn’t mean it’s based in sound reasoning. Utterly disgusting.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I can’t say anything special about this case, but I can tell you that Open-Access journals are a serious crapshoot. With the emphasis on crap.

      I have very little trust in them. I see stuff on occasion that can be considered trustworthy, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to be skimming them looking for garbage. It’s just low-hanging fruit.

      • Anne Catherine

        Yes –Lots of crap out there. I’ve been looking at BF research for a while and quite a bit of it is very poorly done.

        I disagree that its a bad idea to point out the problems with the research, though… I think that those publishing this kind of ‘garbage’ should be alerted to the fact that it is garbage.
        A lot of this stuff makes the headlines..

  • Lena

    I know a few women who didn’t breastfeed specifically because they were sexually abused as children, and just the thought of nursing was triggering to them. Guess the reactions from the breastfeeding woo crowd?

    • Madtowngirl

      I was not sexually abused, but due to my breastfeeding experience with my daughter, the thought of trying it again sends me into a bad place. I can’t even begin to imagine what it feels like if you have a history of abuse. Pardon the language, but the breastfeeding woo crowd can go fuck themselves.

    • AirPlant

      Let me guess: You seem like your against child abuse. Did you know that formula is child abuse? You wouldn’t want to abuse your child would you? You should be an inspiration to us all and overcome your abuse through breastfeeding.

    • Gatita

      “If you’re too traumatized to breastfeed you’re not fit to raise a child.”

      • Lena

        Ding ding ding! One friend was told by multiple people that if she refused to breastfed then she shouldn’t be having children.

        • Roadstergal

          Were they then told that if they were incapable of basic human decency, they shouldn’t be having children?

          • sdsures

            My guess is, no.

    • sdsures

      This makes me really sad and pissed off because I’m an incest survivor, and I dealt with PTSD in the early years of my marriage. I’ve also been told, by people who need to STFU, that because both hubby and I are physically disabled, we are not fit to have kids. Nice, eh? 🙁

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        I am so sorry that you’ve heard that. Talk about totally and utterly inappropriate–not to mention just plain wrong!

  • RMY

    Was there any research as to why amused women weaned early? Was it to make themselves more independent so they could leave? Was it to placate their abuser in some way? Was it because human bodies don’t work very well when being abused? This is very important. If abused women would actually benefit from more support with breastfeeding or not in a question that should be asked before a solution is proposed.

    • Amy M

      I totally agree with your last statement. I also guess that in many cases, the decision to formula/combo feed had nothing to do with the abuse.

    • crazy grad mama

      This. I can see breastfeeding support being one part of a comprehensive program of support for abused mothers. But it would have to actually address the issues they face, rather than being the “nurse more! here’s more reasons why formula is bad!” approach that usually passes for “breastfeeding support.”

  • Roadstergal

    “Mothers with a history of past or recent abuse comprise a key group to target for extra support and breastfeeding assistance.”

    “Oh, you’re being abused? We really need to increase your pumping schedule.”

    • sdsures

      “Yes, let’s stress you out EVEN MORE.”

  • Brooke

    Wow. Talk about jumping to conclusions.

    • Megan

      I know. These researchers’ conclusions really don’t follow, do they?

  • Here’s what happened – paper got passed around to those who are in “Breastfeeding Science”, and as a result all agreed with the conclusion. Paper was not reviewed by those outside of “Breastfeeding Science” – or even those in the business of helping women recover from abuse. As a result, stupid things were said without being appropriately filtered. Imagine for a moment, if instead of saying “more breastfeeding support” – if they had said those who cease breastfeeding early may be doing so as a result of abuse and should be screened and offered support to leave abusive relationships. Then all of a sudden their work treats women as humans and not mere sources of nutrition for babies…same work, but actually with tangible value to women’s health…

    • guest231

      Exactly. This reeks of confirmation bias. They read into the study whatever they wanted.
      But: Correlation does not imply causation.
      It’s not just horrendous to suggest that these women are to blame for their abuse, it’s also statistically and scientifically incorrect.

    • namaste863

      Treat women as humans? FSM forbid!

  • namaste863

    Isn’t it nice to know that we as women are valued less than motherfucking DAIRY COWS?!!! Their answer to a woman being used as a human punching bag is to breastfeed more?! Are they serious?! How much more clear could they be that women don’t matter one jot beyond their ability to produce, feed, and sexually satisfy males?

    • RMY

      Battered women with small children do not need to be further dehumanized. I grew up in a house with abuse, that she needed to breastfeed longer wasn’t the message she needed to hear.

      • AllieFoyle

        Exactly. You have people who’ve been physically, emotionally, and/or sexually abused, betrayed, violated….and your concern is how to manipulate them into doing what you want them to do with their bodies? Someone with a little insight and compassion might want to think this one through a little more.

  • Young CC Prof

    Another side effect of the major glaring blind spot in breastfeeding junk science. We know that breastfeeding is strongly correlated with family socioeconomic status and other variables, including, apparently, current or past abuse of the mother. We know that breastfeeding is correlated to better health and life outcomes. People who examine the data without bias tend to conclude that the better health and life outcomes are mostly caused by the confounding variables, not the breastfeeding, and thus that, to improve children’s outcomes, we should address things like poverty and abusive households, improve the educational system, etc.

    People who start their logic with the grounding assumption that breastfeeding is very important tend to come to idiotic conclusions like this.

  • Inmara

    Talk about the proverbial cart before the horse…

  • RMY

    One more thing– I don’t have the time to verify this but I believe I’ve heard that the effects of growing up in a house where your father abuses your mother are worse than the effects formula feeding.

    • Elizabeth A

      Given that the benefits of breast feeding are trivial in first world countries, while the affects of witnessing spousal abuse between your parents are pervasive and huge, that’s a pretty logically supportable statement.

    • Angharad

      But have you considered that formula may be a confounding factor that’s actually causing the abuse cycle? Just putting that out there. /sarcasm

      • Anne Catherine

        Good point !! Breastfeeding DOES prevent child abuse.
        New Jersey DOH says so!!

        http://www.state.nj.us/health/fhs/wic/breastfeedingbenefits.shtml#family

        • Roadstergal

          OMFG.

        • Amy M

          Wow. yeah, it’s definitely the breastmilk. If only abusive husbands would drink breastmilk, incidence of domestic violence would be waaaay down. ;P

          • sdsures

            LOL

        • Gatita

          It’s that correlation/causation thing again. Abusive parents are probably less likely to BF. You’d think the public health department would understand that. But then again, BF is the perfect “intervention” because it costs the state almost nothing and it gets them off the hook for doing something meaningful to promote children’s health.

          • Roadstergal

            And it lets them blame evil FF moms – not socioeconomic issues that would actually require public investment of money and time – for child abuse.

        • Angharad

          Is this really a real document? Breastfeeding is good for moms because you can feel superior if you breastfeed? Breastfeeding saves time because only formula feeders have to go to the grocery store?? The sugars in breastmilk don’t cause tooth decay???

          • Young CC Prof

            Elsewhere on the same page, we have the obligatory low supply denial and frank encouragement to both mothers and fathers to deny their instincts and avoid supplementing even when they think it’s necessary.

          • Angharad

            If I wanted to write a parody of lactivist “logic” I still wouldn’t have thought to include everything they said on their page. I have no words.

          • crazy grad mama

            “No energy is used”?!? I guess women’s bodies just make milk out of air?

          • Angharad

            But also they get extra WIC benefits, not that they need them.

        • Erin

          “Human milk contains taurine, an amino acid that is essential for brain growth.”

          Now I know why my husband, “Mr Always Right” (in his imagination) drinks so many energy drinks.

          “A breastfed baby learns to eat to hunger and control his own intake from the start.”

          My little darling would happily suck for six hours at a time and I had no supply issues whatsoever plus a geyser like letdown. Either he had an appetite like Garfield, my milk tastes amazing or he had no idea whatsoever that he was meant to be “controlling” anything and just liked the sensation/feeling.

          Another page linked off that article had this gem:

          “Milk is made whenever milk is removed from the breast. The more effectively the baby feeds, the more milk the mother will make. Mothers can exclusively breastfed twins and even triplets. Mothers naturally produce milk after babies are born and they need confidence in their own bodies. They also need information and support to manage breastfeeding in the early days. Small breasts can make enough milk for the baby. Supply comes from the demand. There are only two medical circumstances that may result in a woman having a low milk supply (physical anomaly and hormone imbalance).”

          Their advice for Dad page is also full of cringe-worthy tips:

          “Be a breastfeeding advocate. Tell all of your friends and relatives how wonderful breastfeeding is and how wonderful mom is to care for your child in such a special way.”

          Agenda driven much?

          • Megan

            I can name way more than two medical conditions that lead to low milk supply. FFS, what jackass wrote this??

          • demodocus

            Ugh. I nursed our first and if my husband was telling all our friends about it I’d have told him off for *days*.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            More advice for Dads: “Take lots of pictures and video of your wife enjoying breastfeeding and share them with as many peogle as possible!”

          • Roadstergal

            We all know that formula has no amino acids at all. Who wrote this steaming turd?

            Does the Advice For Dads also have a bit where they’re supposed to tell everyone how horrible their wife is for feeding their kid in an un-special way if she’s formula or combo feeding?

        • Megan

          Gotta love the unspoken implication that FF moms are more likely to abuse their kids because they don’t “bond” as well. What pure BS.

          • crazy grad mama

            I think that’s actually a very spoken implication…

      • Anne Catherine

        I borrowed your hypotheses and posted something earlier in the blog with the NJ website –it was just too juicy of an idea to be stuck way back here! I hope you don’t mind!!

    • SF Mom & Psychologist

      The law in California would agree. Exposure to domestic violence is a form of reportable child abuse. Formula feeding is not.
      I just have to say that as mental health provider, I am disgusted by the conclusions from this study. Any medical or mental health provider’s absolute first priority is to establish safety. Even once that is established, there are finances/employment, safe housing, childcare, a support system, and mental health treatment to contend with. I think it’s safe to say that optimizing breastfeeding is going to fall pretty low on the hierarchy of needs.

  • demodocus

    oh good lord.

  • Azuran

    And what about the risk of the abuse itself to the child? Surely, whatever benefits breaskmilk might have is going to be dwarfed by the long term effect seeing their mother being abused (and maybe eventually be abused themselves) is going to have on the child.

  • RMY

    Who cares if your husband is abusing you and traumatizing your children for life, what’s most important isn’t that you do what you need to in order to survive, what’s important is that you always keep a baby on your breasts. / sarcasm

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Huh?

  • CodeWench

    I kind of get where they are going with this…that women who are being abused are probably going to have a harder time sustaining breastfeeding. However, the “extra support” provided should in no way be related to breastfeeding!

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Yeah, because, you know, abuse is one thing, but when it starts threatening breastfeeding? Then you know it’s a problem.

      • denise

        Must.rescue.breastfeeding.first. After all gotta make the abuse baby friendly.

      • Roadstergal

        It’s just so vile. If past abuse is still affecting current behavior, that points to unresolved issues, and OMG make sure these women are getting counseling and treatment and aren’t still screaming silently inside… but oh, breastmilk. I can’t even.

    • Sarah

      It’s logical that women who are being abused would be more likely to stop breastfeeding before 4 months. Because those early weeks are the time when the breastfeeding mother is more likely to need most support. An abusive partner probably won’t provide that, although having said that some abusive partners insist the mother breastfeed. I know there’s at least one commenter here whose attempt to formula feed was sabotaged.

  • LizzieSt

    Wow. Major compassion fail here.

    Lactivism seems to get uglier by the day. Oh, you’re being abused? The solution is more breastfeeding! Your car broke down? Don’t worry, just keep breastfeeding! Landlord trying to evict you? The answer is breastfeeding! Don’t have enough money to buy food for your other kids? Well, don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself, just breastfeed all of them, even the seven year old!

    Breastfeeding: The only thing that matters on this earth.

  • denise

    I am shocked that this has come out of Norway of all places. Why don’t they just go ahead and say “if you hadn’t stopped breastfeeding, he wouldn’t have hit you!”

    • LaMont

      That’s what I was thinking!! Though honestly, what they are saying is really not much better – if someone proposed giving out cookbooks and cute fast-recipe ideas because abuse keeps women from properly cooking dinner for their older kids, people would be horrified.

    • Mattie

      I think that the wording of the article title here is a bit confusing. It’s not that women who stop BFing are more likely to be abused in the future, but more likely to have experienced abuse. The abuse is not a response to the end of the breastfeeding. Saying that, it’s still ridiculous to suggest that the response to abuse is ‘breastfeeding support’. Support, yes, but not to get these women breastfeeding as the primary focus.

      • denise

        Yes, Mattie I had actually gotten that. Please see Lamont’s comment below….

    • Amy M

      Yes, this is the aspect that jumped out at me. I did recognize they weren’t suggesting that the women were abused BECAUSE they stopped breastfeeding, however, with their suggestion being “more breastfeeding,” some lactivist, somewhere is going to take it the wrong way, and decide that breastfeeding is protective against abuse. Poverty is associated with domestic violence. Poverty is also associated with higher rates of formula feeding. Failing to address those issues, in favor of “more breastfeeding support,” is just sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and going la-la-la.

    • summer

      That is EXACTLY the first thought that came into my head. Let’s blame the victim. Fuck you “researchers.”

  • Mel

    I can’t even wrap my head around that.

    Current abuse puts everyone in the household at risk. FULL STOP.

    The important thing is to get the abuser out of the house or the rest of the family to a safe environment.

    Breastfeeding doesn’t even…..it’s not……get the family to safety and feed the baby however damn way that works.