Maltreatment and NICU Infants

Social Work’s Role in Promoting Breastfeeding as a Protective Factor




Maltreatment, Breastfeeding, Attachment, NICU Infants


Child maltreatment is a concern for NICU infants who have special care needs at discharge. Improving mother-infant attachment through breastfeeding in a NICU environment may reduce maltreatment for this high-risk, vulnerable population. Breastfeeding an infant in the NICU is a complicated caretaking task yet provides an opportunity to overcome parenting challenges associated with a medically fragile infant by promoting the development of the maternal-infant attachment bond. Breastfeeding can serve as a prevention strategy for child maltreatment by improving attachment and bonding that is oftentimes disrupted between the NICU infant and mother due to the hospitalization. Social workers serve a pivotal role in preventing child maltreatment through education, promotion, and support of breastfeeding policies. This article highlights the role of social work in enhancing mother-infant attachment and advocating for NICU policies that support attachment therefore preventing maltreatment.


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