Some new research (and an old joke)

Here’s the joke:

“A blonde is walking down the street with her blouse open and her right breast hanging out. A policeman approaches her and says,”Ma’am, are you aware that I could cite you for indecent exposure?” She says, “Why officer?” “Because your breast is hanging out.” he says. She looks down and says, “OH MY GOD, I left the baby on the bus again!”

Well, new research published in Pediatrics this month addresses this (not actually funny) topic of the relationship between breastfeeding and maternal neglect and abuse. A 15-year study based in Australia followed children from before birth into their teens. Data collected for the study was linked with a government child protection agency data base. The study analysis found

… the odds of maternal maltreatment for nonbreastfed children being 4.8 times the odds for children breastfed for ≥4 months. After adjustment for confounding, the odds for nonbreastfed infants remained 2.6 times higher…Among other factors, breastfeeding may help to protect against maternally perpetrated child maltreatment, particularly child neglect

This relationship was long-term — not just when the babies were being breastfed. Something to think about…


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jennifer says:

    Did they control for the risk factors of poverty?

    Because the stress of poverty is a major risk factor for abuse, and unfortunately poor women are less likely to breastfeed.

    I’m not saying the bonding of breastfeeding has no effect, only that controlling all contributing factors would be important in a study like this.

    1. Jennifer,
      This study lists many confounding variables that the authors tried to control for in the analysis. They don’t appear to use income data but they measure many things related to poverty like education, age, and employment status. Also, as always with this kind of study, we can’t say for sure that breastfeeding prevents neglect — only that breastfeeding is associated with lower rates of neglect.

      Of course you should read the study yourself since you can get all the details there. If you don’t have access already, Pediatrics is free on-line after a month or so. I’m not an expert in this kind of complicated statistical model so I’d encourage everyone to take a look for themselves.

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