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Notre Dame researchers looking into breastfeeding's impact on domestic violence effects

NOW: Notre Dame researchers looking into breastfeeding’s impact on domestic violence effects

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Researchers at Notre Dame say in a new study there could be a simple, natural way to negate the effects intimate partner violence during pregnancy can have on babies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 1 in 4 women in the U.S. will experience partner violence during their life.

That risk increases during pregnancy.

“Women who experience violence in pregnancy, the effects of that violence can show up for their children as well,” said Notre Dame Associate Professor of Psychology and Peace Studies Laura Miller-Graff.

Miller-Graff led the study. She says when a mother experiences domestic violence while pregnant, babies are more likely to have temperament issues which can be an indicator of adjustment and behavior issues later in a child’s life.

“We see that violence during pregnancy can affect children’s adjustments and behavioral problems but also their temperaments,” said Miller-Graff.

With these impacts in mind, Miller-Graff’s team wanted to know how women and children exposed to violence can capitalize on natural ways to protect themselves.

They interviewed more than 100 pregnant women. Early results found breastfeeding may be a natural protective mechanism.

Miller-Graff says these early results make sense.

“Breastfeeding is one of the earliest mother child relationship interactions,” said Miller-Graff. “Most women breastfeed within the first hour of giving birth. What we found was that for women who were breastfeeding at six weeks postpartum, and that the relationship between partner violence and infant temperament was weaker than for women who were not breastfeeding”

Mille-Graff says this early research suggests a reason for more breastfeeding support and intervention services.

She and researchers at the University of Memphis are working on a program that would provide support to pregnant women who have experienced domestic violence.

“Women will be randomized to receive group therapy services or another type of service and we’ll be comparing the effectiveness of those two services to see if targeting some of these protective mechanisms and working with them and reducing violence exposure supporting their parenting skills can have a positive effect over other kinds of services women might receive,” said Miller-Graff.

To learn more about the study, click here.

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