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  • Research Finds That Moms of Fussy Babies are More Likely to Experience Symptoms of Depression

    The results are similar for moms of babies who were born full-term and those who were born prematurely.
    by Kate Borbon .
Research Finds That Moms of Fussy Babies are More Likely to Experience Symptoms of Depression
PHOTO BY Pixabay
  • Moms who have experienced taking care of babies who seem to cry constantly are aware that a little one's fussiness can be draining. Guess what? A recent study published in March this year in the Academic Pediatrics journal found that mothers of fussy babies are more likely to experience moderate to severe symptoms of depression than mothers of “easier” babies.

    Findings were similar for moms of fussy babies born moderate-late preterm (32 to 36 weeks), while moms of fussy babies born very preterm (24 to 31 weeks) reported a higher likelihood of experiencing mild depressive symptoms.

    Developmental and behavioral pediatrician Dr. Prachi Shah, who served as senior author of the study, shared that one factor she suspected as the reason behind why moms of very preterm babies were at risk of mild symptoms of depression is the fact that they encountered health care providers more often than other moms, since they often stay in hospitals for longer periods of time. 

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    The results of the study, which was led by researchers from the University of Michigan, were gleaned from data collected from 8,200 mothers and their new babies. 

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    What the study means

    Dr. Shah cited two main learnings to take from the study. The first may already be obvious: That fussiness in babies is to be taken seriously.

    “These findings reinforce that all mothers caring for babies with more difficult temperaments may need extra help managing the emotional toll,” she said, further stating that early screening for infant fussiness can be a way to identify moms who need support, especially those whose babies were born prematurely.

    Fussiness in babies is quite common, but there is no one thing known to be the cause behind it. It could be that she is hungry, experiencing tummy troubles, feeling some sort of discomfort, or has colic, which is itself something that has no one root cause. When a baby cries ceaselessly and it seems that nothing their parent does can calm them, it might lead to the mom experiencing lower levels of self-confidence and efficacy, and possibly depression.

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    Another important takeaway to get from the findings of the study is that health care providers should be actively making an effort to help out parents who have difficult babies, said Dr. Shah.

    “Pediatricians and providers should pay close attention to mothers who describe difficulty soothing their babies,” she stated. “Early interventions may help reduce the risk of maternal depression that negatively impacts a child-parent relationship and that may be harmful to both the health of a mother and child.”

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    What you can do

    More often than not, babies’ fussiness is a phase that will eventually go away, though, in the moment, most parents might feel like it is a lot more permanent. However, this doesn’t mean that moms still don’t have a difficult time coping with it, just like what the study’s findings state. It is therefore beneficial for moms to be given the resources they need to be able to handle the situation, and to receive appropriate intervention if it is needed.

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    During the Smart Parenting Baby Shower on April 13, 2019, Noelle Polack, a birth and postpartum doula affiliated with Pinay Doulas Collective, gave a talk on how moms can recover postpartum, not just in the physical sense, but even in terms of their mental and emotional health.

    Polack touched upon postpartum depression, and how moms who go through it can cope with and, eventually, recover from it. She started by pointing out one thing that, according to her, is part of the reason why so many mothers experience postpartum depression. This is “the lack of ability to recognize the mother’s feelings.”

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    “Mothers are often told, ‘As long as the baby is healthy,’” she began. “Oo naman. Who doesn’t want a healthy baby? That is the goal of everybody… pero, pwede namang happy ka na healthy ‘yung baby mo, pero unhappy ka kasi may nangyari during your birth that you were not comfortable with, or that you were unhappy about.

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    “You can be grateful about the baby, and at the same time be upset about the baby’s birth. And that’s okay. Recognizing that is the first [step] to healing and getting closure.”

    If you feel that you might be experiencing postpartum depression or any other type of mood disorder after having your baby, it is recommended that you seek help, first and foremost. Professionals, as well as members of your family and even your friends, can be incredibly valuable in helping you recover and move forward.

    “Don’t dismiss your feelings, get help if you need to,” Polack reminded the attendees. “Nobody expects you to be the best after having a baby.”

    If you are a new mom struggling to care for your fussy baby, remember that you are not alone, and that there are things you can do to not only look after your child, but also yourself. You, too, deserve to be cared for!

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