Depressed moms can disturb baby’s sleep

By Shayna Brouker • Published: July 10th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s a well-known mandate of motherhood that you will sacrifice sleep when baby arrives. But what happens when the tables are turned? Sometimes moms with a case of the baby blues can disturb their baby’s sleep, too.

New research published online in Child Development found that moms with more symptoms of depression were more likely to pick up and cuddle their little one, often waking them without need. Researchers videotaped moms putting their babies to bed and saw that those with more depressive symptoms were also more likely to respond to any sounds, even the ones that didn’t need attention. Compared with new moms who didn’t feel depressed, these women were less apt to perform soothing bedtime rituals, like reading and singing lullabies, and in some cases left the T-V blaring. Depressed moms also found it difficult to set limits during bedtime.

But a newborn’s sleep is even more important than mom’s. Newborns need to snooze at least 16 hours a day, requiring less as they get older. Sufficient sleep is critical for development.

The experts said they think a melancholy mom’s restlessness arises from anxiety about her little one’s needs, as well as from her own emotional needs. Sad moms may seek out their infants to soothe themselves. And the more depressive symptoms the moms reported, the more anxious they felt at night.

The solution, say docs, is simple: Women experiencing postpartum depression should seek help from therapy, not their baby. Counseling and medication can help get hormones and emotions back on track.

As for getting baby to bed, pediatricians offer a few secrets for success as well. Set a routine with the same nap time every day and avoid late afternoon naps. And know that sneezing, sighs, hiccups, whimpers and even squeaks are normal baby sleep noises, so let a sleeping baby lie.