Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Science




Jackson, Kimberley


Background: Women experiencing intimate partner violence are at a heightened risk of negative perinatal and breastfeeding outcomes. This study explored the experiences of accessing breastfeeding support for women who endorse a history of intimate partner violence. A study of five in-depth semi-structured interviews were completed at 12-weeks postpartum with breastfeeding mothers with a history of intimate partner violence. Findings: Women expressed difficulties in accessing a healthcare provider who had specialized skill in breastfeeding support. Trust in their healthcare provider, built through displays of compassion and competence, was important to mitigate obstacles experienced during care access for this population. Trauma-and-violence-informed care principles were beneficial to the development of the therapeutic relationship in perinatal care. Women placed value on breastfeeding support received from both healthcare providers and social supports, which impacted mothers’ perceived breastfeeding support and self-efficacy. Further, mothers described increased levels of breastfeeding self-efficacy after engaging in a trauma-and-violence-informed care program aimed at supporting breastfeeding. Conclusions: Trauma-informed care may aid in the development of trust in the therapeutic relationship, which in turn impacts access to breastfeeding support and breastfeeding self-efficacy. The inclusion of trauma-and-violence informed principles in perinatal care may be effective at mitigating barriers to access for women who endorse a history of intimate partner violence. health care on how to employ trauma-informed breastfeeding care to may lead to better support for this population.

Summary for Lay Audience

In Canada, roughly 35% of women experience intimate partner violence (IPV) at some point in their lifetime, costing the Canadian economy roughly $10.6 billion dollars in victim, health care, legal, and criminal costs. For mothers and pregnant women, their risk of experiencing IPV can increase, leading to many health and wellness consequences for both the mother and the infant. Despite having similar desires to breastfeed as women who do not experience violence, women who experience violence perinatally are less likely to breastfeed their infants, breastfeed for a shorter duration, and report more difficulties with breastfeeding. It is unclear how IPV impacts women’s decisions or experiences with breastfeeding. Receiving healthcare during pregnancy and breastfeeding education has been shown to help women who have experienced IPV meet their breastfeeding goals, but women are less likely to access this type of care if they are experiencing violence. Women who experience violence are less likely to receive health care during their pregnancy and go to fewer health care appointments overall. It is poorly understood why women who experience violence have a more difficult time accessing health care and breastfeeding supports, as limited research is available that has explored this. Through this study, we spoke to women who experience IPV about their experiences of receiving health care and breastfeeding support in order to better understand their experiences. By increasing access to health care services that are trauma and violence informed, we can assist women who experience IPV in obtaining the breastfeeding support they need to achieve their breastfeeding goals.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.