Domestic violence and childhood abuse affects more than just the victim. New research on breastfeeding reveals that abuse and violence can leave lasting marks on future generations.

Norwegian researchers found that female victims of sexual and physical abuse were less likely to breastfeed their children. This is worrying because breastfeeding is important for physical and emotional development in both mothers and babies.

The latest study used data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, which involved 95,200 women. After looking at responses from 53,934 participants from the study, researchers found that 19 percent of women had experienced physical abuse as adults and 18 percent had experienced physical abuse as children.

After comparing breastfeeding rates, researchers found that women exposed to sexual abuse as children were significantly more likely to stop breastfeeding before their babies reach 4 months old.

Forty percent of women exposed to violence in the past 12 months were likely to stop breastfeeding before four months, and women exposed to several types of abuse were 50 percent more likely to stop breastfeeding compared to women who have not been exposed to abuse.

The latest findings are important because they come from one of the largest studies ever to be conducted that examined the relationship between violence and breastfeeding.

"It's important to be aware of the factors that promote breastfeeding, and what causes some women to choose to stop breastfeeding early," co-study author Marie Flem Sørbø of Norwegian University of Science and Technology Department of Public Health and General Practice, said in a university release.

Researchers also looked at how childhood abuse affected breastfeeding rates. They found that women who were sexually abused as children were 22 percent more likely to stop breastfeeding before the baby reaches four months of ages and those exposed to more than one type of abuse as children were 41 percent more likely to stop breastfeeding earlier than four months compared to those who've never been exposed to childhood abuse.

"It's important for people in general to understand what can influence mothers to stop breastfeeding. But it's especially important for primary physicians, midwives, nurses and gynaecologists who work with pregnant women and mothers. Then they can be more aware and provide better support, so that more women abuse survivors continue to breastfeed," added Flem Sørbø.

The latest study was published in the journal BMJ Open.