The Cycle of Postpartum Depression and Baby’s Sleep

I was reading a study the other day that correlated a mother’s depression with how she responds to her child during the night. What I read, was not what I expected. According to a study published by the journal Child Development, researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that if a mom is depressed, she is more likely to wake her baby in the night. A study of 45 families, with children ranging from 1 month to 2 years, found that mom’s emotional state had a direct relation to her child’s sleep patterns.

The study found that moms who had higher levels or symptoms of depression we more likely to respond to minor sounds or rustling of the child, than moms with lower levels. They were even more likely to nurse the child, even if the child was not hungry. Doing this once in a while is probably not an issue, but when it happens on a regular basis, it can lead to poor sleep habits and developmental issues. Studies also show that the less sleep a mom gets, the more depressed she is likely to feel. “The more sleep you lose, the more likely you are to feel depressed,” says┬álead author Douglas M. Teti, a┬áprofessor at Pennsylvania State University. This is when a mom can inadvertently start a cycle that can be hard to break.

What you can do:

The best place to start is with excellent postpartum support. Most moms are now in what we call a nuclear family, meaning that it is just them and their partner raising a new baby. This is can be challenging since often times a new family needs the extra support and encouragement during the first few weeks to months after birth. It can be helpful to check local resources that provide postpartum doula support, newborn care specialist support, or postpartum mother and partner counseling. All of these are great resources to help the transition to motherhood go smoothly. Since now one knows what the postpartum period will be like, and since each birth brings a new experience, having prearranged support is essential.

How we can help:

The baby planners and consultants at The Doula House, are trained in postpartum support and sleep consulting. We can come in and help mom lessen her feelings and symptoms of depression by providing postpartum support and wellness support. We also come in and work with infant sleep support, so that mom and her partner, are more likely to get a good nights sleep. Our goal is to make the transition into parenthood as easy as possible. Our years of training and experience bring a feeling of peace to a new family.

The postpartum period can be one of empowerment and awe, when a new family has the proper support lined up. If you, or a loved one, are experiencing feelings of extended baby blues or postpartum depression, please contact your pregnancy care provider or a local postpartum support group.

We support families all over the world, and can support you in-person, via Skype or telephone.

*image compliments of