P62 Resilient Despite Poor Support: Breastfeeding Among Maltreated Young Mothers


      In the US, young mothers are the least likely to breastfeed their children. Mothers who have a history of child abuse and neglect also face barriers when trying to breastfeed their children and are less likely to do so. Little is known about the experiences that young mothers who have a history of maltreatment face when making decisions around infant feeding.


      To determine what challenges young maltreated mothers face when trying to breastfeed their children.

      Study Design, Settings, Participants

      In-depth semi-structured interviews (N = 23) were conducted with young maltreated mothers (ages 18-25), their caregivers, and the professionals that work with them. Mothers were on average 17.8 when they gave birth and most were African American (78%) followed by Latina (22%). All of the young mothers received WIC and 78% initiated breastfeeding. The median length of breastfeeding was 2.5 months (range: 3 days to 2 years). Professionals (mean age: 33.9) had worked with an average of over 40 parenting youth.

      Measurable Outcome/Analysis

      Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a 5-step thematic analysis approach: familiarization with the data, initial coding, generation and refinement of themes and subthemes, and finalized themes.


      Participants discussed the lack of support both from health professionals and the mothers’ communities. Main sources of support and information included obstetricians, WIC, and the internet, but resources were often insufficient. Reasons for breastfeeding cessation included lack of support, difficulties with breastfeeding, discomfort with feeding in public, and substance use.


      Young mothers with a history of maltreatment face significant barriers yet show resilience in attempting to breastfeed their children. Many experienced a systemic lack of support and low expectations for continued breastfeeding. Initial findings suggest optimum opportunities for improving systemic support may be among medical professionals and WIC staff.
      Funding University of Maryland.

      Appendix. Supplementary data