Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Mantler, Tara

2nd Supervisor

Irwin, Jennifer D.



Mothers who are at-risk (lack breastfeeding social support, young, of low socioeconomic status, and experienced intimate partner violence) are less likely to maintain breastfeeding practices, compared to mothers who are not at-risk. This study explored at-risk mother’s experiences of participating in a trauma-and-violence informed breastfeeding intervention on perceived formal and informal breastfeeding social support, and breastfeeding practices. This cross-sectional study of nine in-depth interviews used interpretive description at 12-weeks postpartum with mothers who are at-risk. Results found formal support including emphasis on safety and trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and connection, and skill building to support resilience enabled mothers to continue their breastfeeding practices. Formal and informal (i.e., partners, friends, and extended family) breastfeeding social supports provided mothers with tangible, verbal, informational, and/or emotional support which they found beneficial in maintaining their breastfeeding goals. This trauma-and-violence informed care breastfeeding intervention shows promise in alleviating an array of breastfeeding challenges for mothers who are at-risk.

Summary for Lay Audience

Breastmilk is known around the world to be best for an infant’s diet, with health benefits for both mother and infant. The World Health Organization suggests infants should be fed to six months of age with only breastmilk, but only 33% of Canadian mothers do this. Mothers who are at-risk (have no breastfeeding social support, are young, of low socioeconomic status, and have been and/or still abused by someone with whom they are or were in a relationship with) are likely to not breastfeed. The Postnatal Wellness Clinic in London, Ontario is a team of family doctors who provide trauma-and-violence informed care to breastfeeding mothers, meaning they provide care by teaching mothers breastfeeding skills in a safe place where they can talk about their breastfeeding challenges. Trauma-and-violence informed care has not been studied before in women who are at-risk, when looking at both breastfeeding practices (how long and when a mother breastfeeds) and social support. This study will look at the use of formal (e.g., doctors, nurses) and informal (e.g., family, friends) breastfeeding social support of breastfeeding mothers who are at-risk. This study used interpretive description and had nine mothers who completed one 60-to-90-minute semi-structured interview at 12-weeks postpartum. Participants reported that formal breastfeeding support promoted safety and trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and connection, and skill building to support resilience, which helped mothers to continue their breastfeeding practices. Additionally, mothers who are at-risk enjoyed having their formal breastfeeding social support give them tangible support, meaning showing them how to hold their baby in a comfortable spot to feed, verbal support, such as giving them lots of encouraging words to continue breastfeeding, and information support, referring to tips to make breastfeeding easier. Also, mothers benefited from having their informal social supports there for them. Their partners helped most when they were present during infant feedings, friends when they also breastfeed their own infant by showing mothers tips to make breastfeeding easier, and extended family members who did not tell them how they should be breastfeeding their infant. All mothers who used the program were found to overcome their breastfeeding challenges and continued breastfeeding to meet their goals.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License