Dependence, Anxiety, Insomnia: Why Depressed Moms Disturb Baby’s Sleep

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sleep trainingDepressed mothers are more likely to needlessly wake up their babies at night than mothers who are not depressed, according to a new study out of Penn State. What’s interesting is that these babies were not in need of anything – they were sleeping, after all – which made researchers wonder what it is exactly that would cause women to unnecessarily disrupt their baby’s sleep (especially when most people know never to wake a sleeping baby!).

Their theories are pretty disturbing despite making a lot of sense. One is that depressed mothers are more prone to anxiety in the first place, which means they’re more likely to worry about their babies and check on them at night even when they’re sound asleep. Another is that women who suffer from depression are often awake anyway during the night – and so it would only make sense that they’d pop in to see how their little ones are doing. But the most surprising theory is that some depressed moms may be seeking out their babies for their own emotional security.

In the past, researchers concluded that babies who are poor sleepers have a negative effect on their mothers’ mental health. Of course, we’ve all been in that sleep-deprived haze at one point or another, but this new study shows that it’s often the mother’s behavior that influences poor sleep patterns and not the other way around.

“This is important because it helps explain the long-standing link between maternal depression and increased infant night waking,” explained lead author Douglas Teti. “If mothers are needlessly waking their babies up at night that has potential negative consequences for the mother-child relationship over time

Teti and his team also found that moms who have marital problems soon after giving birth are more likely to be bed-sharing and co-sleeping by the time their baby is 6 years old – another finding that’s not all that shocking but still rather depressing.

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